July 30, 2013

The Power Just Went Out…Now What?

By Paul Bieber

First thing you do is curse.  The louder and more obscene the curse the better.  After all, that is what has been done when the fires went out in the caves of the earliest humans.  Step two:  blame the power company for your problems in not being able to finish the job you are working on.  Blaming the power company started around 1900 and has continued right up until yesterday.  Third, blame your partner, or your foreman, or your office manager for not getting the job done, or the bank deposit entered into the computer earlier.

It’s a good thing you don’t have any mirrors in your office, bcause then, you would see who really to blame for not having preparations in place for this common problem.  If it’s just your building without power, call your electrictian.  If the street is out, call your local utility.  Most will have a recorded announcement listing power outages and expected time for restoring.

You should have a gasoline powered generator in your shop.  A quick look at Home Depot’s web site shows a 3500 watt unit at $124 and a 5500 watt generator at $599.  A can of gas and some extention cords and your basic tools and computer are turned on.

Check your emergency lights at least once a month.  Power outages occur at night, when you are catching up on paperwork.  Always keep a rechargable flaslight plugged in next to your desk and near your main entry/exit door.  Sounds so simple, do it!  Mrs. Hastings came in to pick up her repaired screens.  You can give them to her, but she wants to pay with her debit card.  Do you give her he screens and ask her to come back later to pay you?  Do you hold back the screens since you can’t get paid?  Call your credit card processing company and get one of the small swipe tools to plug into your smart phone.  They are free, easy to use and solve this problem.  Also, these readers are great for collecting deposits or final payments at a customer’s job site. 

Your phone system is down.  But your competitor in the next town over has has power and gets phone calls when your phone is not answered.  Always keep an old style phone that plugs into a standard phone jack and does not need to get plugged in to a power source.  Nine times out of ten, this phone will work.  Also, know how to switch your phone number to your cell phone number so you can answer calls.

What about employee safety?  You have a piece of storefront metal in your saw when the power goes off.  Clear that out of the saw quickly or it will become a missle when the power turns on.  What about any equipment that runs on air pressure…what will happen when your compressor kicks back on?

The power is off for an hour.  Your team has swept the floor twice and the storeroom is organized.  Do you send employees home?  If it’s in the morning, send them to an early lunch and hope it comes back on.  If it is in the afternoon, send them home.  Do you pay them for the rest of the day? Probably not for your hourly folks.

This problem will impact you and your business.  Spend a few bucks and a couple of hours now.  You’ll be glad you did.