Congratulations, your new emergency power supply system (EPSS) has finally been commissioned. The design, factory witness testing, installation, and site benchmarking are complete. This state-of-the-art power plant is ready and awaiting a power outage to prove its worth and protect the facility. The intellectual property (or as we used to call it, documentation) is also new, complete, and correct. You may indeed still have hard copy O&M manuals, program disks, and manufacturer’s cut sheets, but you probably also have duplicate soft versions of this material safely tucked away on a network hard drive.

Just as paper is subject to loss, due to time or damage, the security of intellectual property is susceptible to new hazards. Servers fail, data corrupts, and humans err. The challenge is to leverage technology while mastering best practices to protect, preserve, and control these vital records.

Here are some suggestions.

Throughout the useable lifetime of the system, many changes will occur. Programs will be modified to reflect changes in operating philosophy, capacity may be increased, control set points may need adjustment, and features may be added. Organizations must establish a strict revision control policy, and all changes must be documented and all media updated accordingly. Establish a staff position responsible for this process.

Data center operators maintain mirrored operating systems, data files, and facilities. Intellectual property related to the EPSS should be treated no differently. Redundant architecture to maintain intellectual property can be established in house or off site. For example, web-based services such as M.C. Access from Power Management Concepts can manage an organization’s facility assets and provide a secure repository for the operational knowledge, history, documentation, maintenance records, and current configurations necessary to protect and maintain mission critical operations. Access is a virtual building reference depository residing on a secure server accessible from anywhere in the world via the Internet. Such systems allow you and your staff to see virtual representations of equipment physical location, nameplate, and specification data, systems interconnections, emergency call lists, drawings, service reports, and much more. Most importantly, these systems allow staff members to collaborate on line regardless of time or their geographic location.

As the need for data continues to grow, data centers and their EPSS are becoming very large and complex. Many mission critical operations include simulators as part of essential systems. This tool is invaluable for training and allows personnel to simulate scenarios that may affect the facility. Given the enhanced importance of data and the increased complexity of systems, a simulator is becoming a necessity rather than a convenient option. Fire departments pre-plan their response to major properties to enhance efficiency and response. Data center staff should run simulations of maintenance and emergency scenarios for the same reason.

In order to keep the EPSS available, facility owners need to maintain contact with vendors, contractors, and the consulting team. The team that designed, engineered, manufactured, and commissioned the EPSS remains a powerful resource and is an essential element of system reliability. When the maintenance vendor shows up to service or repair the EPSS, it should have the technical information of record. Relegating this responsibility to any outside entity is a mistake. It’s your facility, your system, and the lifeblood of your company.

In addition, spare parts should be available in an inventory that is audited. The maintenance vendor may be responsible for supplying these parts, but maintaining a spare parts inventory on site assures control and availability when needed. You can restock the spare inventory as parts are used to maintain fresh inventory. As systems age, components may become obsolete or scarce. Understand the availability of critical spares and the options available. A spare parts inventory list containing the part description, application, manufacturer, manufacturer’s part number, and sources is as important as any other element of documentation.

Necessary documentation includes an easily available graphic one-line diagram of the entire emergency power supply system. The diagram should be kept  at the system controls or building operations office and kept up to date.

Documentation takes many forms and is key to reliability. Maintaining information is essential. Make the management and maintenance of intellectual property a top priority. As with many other aspects of system design, selection, application, installation, benchmarking maintenance, the integrity of key information greatly affects the life expectancy of the emergency power supply system.

Failure to documentation change often becomes clear only when a service provider arrives and finds the program on file is missing some undocumented changes or there have been undocumented wiring changes. The net result could well be system/facility failure. In a large data center, health-care facility, or any other data management system, power is essential, especially emergency power. Failure to maintain accurate system information will absolutely lead to system failure. The resultant collateral damage will be expensive and might be catastrophic.