Counting on Power
In the minutes before a weather disaster, few people, I suspect, consider the reliability of their power supplies. Most, I am sure, gather their most precious possessions as quickly as they can and run to safe shelter. Disastrous tornadoes in the Midwest and Southeast and historic flooding along the Mississippi have given too many people cause to consider these priorities and rue their lack of planning.
As everyone doubtless knows, EF4 storms have destroyed entire towns, including Joplin, MO, and Tuscaloosa, AL. Thousands more were endangered when a tornado touched down near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on April 22nd. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had to destroy levees protecting millions of acres of farmland and numerous small towns in order to protect larger populations downstream.
Of course, after the storm breaks and the floodwaters crest and recede, power becomes a big priority. As Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans proved decisively, the aftermath of a disaster can quickly cause as much loss of life as the natural disaster itself.
Recognized the urgency of providing power to stricken areas, the NFPA made several changes to the National Electric Code in its Article 708.
According to Syska Hennessy’s Bob Arno (writing in IAEI Magazine), “NFPA Standards Council created Code-Making Panel 20 in October 2005. The general direction was to look at the broad picture of issues that could impact the COPS (critical operating power systems), along the lines of NFPA 1600-2007, Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs….”
He wrote, “The genus of COPS was to address hardening emergency and standby power systems as part of homeland security. The recent terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina brought to light the need to reassess the electrical infrastructure protection and reliability.”
Brian Phelan, then of ASCO, first brought the significance of this issue to my attention and soon after ASCO and Mission Critical jointly conducted a roundtable examining the issue. Our panelists include several members of the code-writing panel. I’d like to call attention to the two-part series that resulted because they remain timely. The articles can be found at http://bit.ly/lLiurD and http://bit.ly/mIlIys.
At present, Mission Critical is planning a webinar on the topic, not only because the topic is timely but also because it is urgent that everyone understands its provision.