When a natural disaster strikes, facilities need to be prepared, especially since hurricanes, tornados, flash floods, and wildfires are increasing in frequency across the country. For hospitals and other mission critical locations especially, losing power amidst these disasters is simply not an option. Vital equipment and the safety of occupants are at stake. That’s why it’s imperative to plan ahead — and rental equipment providers can help.
From site surveys to equipment solutions and more, rental partners can ensure that facilities adapt to the crisis at hand, whether it’s recovering power quickly or preventing its loss in the first place. Business continuity and safety are the goals.
Emergency response preparedness
As part of a facility’s general emergency response preparedness (ERP) plan, a rental equipment provider can help assess risk tolerance, identify logistical challenges, and establish a plan and budget for renting backup power — typically diesel generators. They can also help establish safety protocols and determine if contingency planning or a standby rental plan is most appropriate.
Contingency planning is ideal for hurricane season or other natural disasters, as it provides guaranteed availability of power generation equipment for rent. For a low upfront rental fee, facilities can have access to a predetermined size and quantity of generators. Distribution depends on the facility manager or owner authorizing deployment due to the issuance of a storm watch or other trigger for a disaster. Mobilization of the equipment occurs within 48 hours of authorization.
A standby rental plan is an attractive option for facilities seeking seasonal or year-round assurance. This is a fixed-cost option that guarantees specific power generation equipment on standby, either at the rental partner’s location or at the facility itself. When the equipment is at the facility, it is subject to regular maintenance by the rental partner. It can also be used for a specified number of hours per month for other power outage events, such as planned shutdowns or rolling blackouts.
Some rental partners are trained to work side by side with stakeholders to customize power generation solutions as part of their ERP. This is done with a thorough site visit to a facility and ongoing communication with facility managers. The aim is to address critical details to decide which plan will meet the building’s needs and the business’s budget.
Deciding on a power generation solution
There are several factors to consider when deciding on a power generation solution. Each must be thoroughly vetted by the rental equipment provider and the facility manager or owner to ensure all details are in order when a disaster occurs.
- Power usage and requirements. It’s important to understand how much power a facility uses, as well as the actual load — or the total amount of power that the facility can provide. Temporary power generation requirements should be based on the amount of power that will be used, as opposed to the total potential usage. Facility managers or owners can understand actual power consumption by reviewing recent utility bills and the amounts accrued across various seasons during peak loads and times of day. The voltage and amperage available are necessary information, as they determine the size of generator that needs to be specified, as well as whether a transformer is necessary to step voltage up or down.
- Location for temporary power generation equipment. It is critical to find a safe location to place equipment — away from the building, air intakes, and windows. This helps make sure that fumes from the diesel generator do not enter the facility. For additional safety reasons, it’s also important to minimize access to the equipment and the cables. A rental partner can help determine the safest yet most effective location, since the electrical load through longer cables — those over 1,000 feet — causes a drop in amperage, and they are more expensive to rent.
- Electrical connections and tie-ins. Knowing the location to connect the generators will simplify setup when the rental partner delivers the equipment. In some cases, a facility may have ready-built camlock connections that allow the provider to simply plug in a generator. Other times, it’s necessary to tie into the breaker box to connect the equipment. If this is the case, a qualified electrician (whether employed at the facility or subcontracted) will need to complete the job.
- Generator sizes and options. Rental equipment providers typically have an inventory of diesel generators in a range of sizes — from as small as 20 kW up to 2,000 kW — that can be used as stand-alone equipment or run in parallel. Today’s diesel generators must be Tier 4-compliant and include diesel emissions fluid (DEF) to minimize particulate matter and nitrogen oxides that cause pollution. Operating this equipment at a lower percentage of its capacity uses more DEF, resulting in wet stacking (or unburned fuel in the exhaust) that shuts down the generator. For that reason, it’s imperative not to oversize a diesel generator and to operate it at higher loads.
For facilities with lower electrical load requirements, renting a hybrid configuration of a generator in conjunction with an energy storage system (ESS) may be a favorable and sustainable, yet effective, solution. These batteries are roughly equivalent to a 20-kW generator and reduce generator size, runtime, and fuel costs. Paired with a running generator, the ESS battery is charged until full and supplies the load when the generator shuts off. When the load exceeds the hybrid configuration’s capacity or the battery is depleted, the generator will turn back on. The transition between the two is seamless.
Making rental work
Communication is the key to making rental work as part of an ERP. The rental equipment provider and facility manager or owner work together to determine the best type of rental plan based on thorough discussion. Aligning on the appropriate approach and keeping all aspects of the power generation solution in mind will help them identify and implement the best options for facing a natural disaster with minimal to no disruption to business.
Additional rental equipment for ERP planning
In addition to power generation solutions, rental equipment providers offer other resources to support relief efforts during a natural disaster. These include, but are not limited to:
- Dewatering pumps to remove water from the facility.
- Light towers for 24/7 recovery efforts.
- Dehumidifiers to protect interior spaces in the event of flooding.
- Air movers to supplement dehumidifiers and speed drying.
- Air scrubbers to clean contaminated air.
- Air conditioners to supplement interior cooling.
- Cooling towers that are available in 8 to 1,000 tons.