How Hotels Should Prepare for Power Outages
Posted by Kristopher Schwind
For hoteliers, unexpected power outages can be devastating. Hospitality standards in the United States are high—and when guests encounter trouble with their stay, hotel staff need to find creative solutions to keep their guests comfortable, safe, and satisfied.
It may seem hard to believe, but the historic Northeast Blackout of 2003 that affected roughly 45 million people and cost the state of New York roughly $3 billion in losses had at least one positive impact: It led the hospitality industry to reevaluate how prepared—more accurately, unprepared—hotels are for power outages.
A study conducted after the 2003 blackout showed that nearly half of the hotels affected by the outage lacked emergency back-up power. Those that did have an emergency power system relied on either batteries or generators. Only 16% of the battery backup systems lasted, while an astounding 85% of generator systems stayed up and running.
When your business relies entirely on guest service and experience, any hotelier will tell you that the facilities and amenities are a must in order to maintain brand reputation and customer retention. That’s why the outage of 2003 was so devastating for the hospitality industry.
Hotels lost a long list of facilities and amenities for the duration of the 2003 blackout, including—but not limited to—the following, in order from most to least affected:
- Air Conditioning (98%)
- Guest Room Lights (96%)
- Computers (89%)
- Cooking Systems (89%)
- Elevators (88%)
- Refrigeration (87%)
- Telephones (79%)
- Hot Water (74%)
- Bathrooms (69%)
- Automatic Doors (65%)
- Emergency Lights (56%)
- Potable Water (45%)
- Two-Way Radios (39%)
- Guest Room Locks (24%)
For the few hoteliers who managed to keep at least their core facilities up and running, guests took notice. One such hotel manager shared this story when their hotel was hit by Hurricane Isabel, which caused major widespread outages (but didn’t quite rank as one of the worst power outages in history):
“We missed the blackout, but we lost power for 10 hours during hurricane Isabel. Fortunately, our generators and backup systems allowed us to operate during a nearly sold-out night, without a dime of revenue lost. Although we do not provide backup power for every guest room, other than lighting, nearly all the guests complimented us on the ability to run the public and food-service areas.”
After the 2003 blackout, industry leaders realized that the impact of potential outages were extreme—and generally, hoteliers were vastly unprepared.
“It’s eye-opening just how unprepared some hoteliers were for dealing with the blackout but also how remarkably well others did in responding to the challenge,” said Tom Riegelman, Vice President of Engineering at Hyatt Hotels Corp.
So, how can you turn a potential outage into an opportunity? Here’s an 11-step plan to prepare your hotel for the next power outage:
1. Update your Emergency Response Plan (ERP) and review it with staff.
2. Buy a case of light sticks for affordable, consistent back-up lighting.
3. Purchase heavy duty flashlights and batteries for staff use.
4. Make a set of emergency room keys ASAP.
5. Create a list of areas you want your backup power source to keep running during an outage.
6. Create an action plan in case guests are trapped in elevators.
7. Ensure that the fire alarm system is live and will work during an outage.
8. Come up with a plan to prevent food spoilage. (See our recent blog: How Food & Beverage Industry Leaders Can Prepare for Power Outages)
9. Train the appropriate staff to “power down” the hotel during an outage to prevent surges.
10. Create a master sheet of every staff member’s cell phone numbers (text messaging is typically the only form of communication available in the event of an outage).
11. Install a new standby generator that will keep your hotel up and running.
We can take care of that last one. We will happily provide a free on-site assessment to explore what standby generator will work best for your building to ensure your guests stay comfortable, safe, and satisfied in the event of an outage.
Kristopher Schwind is the proud owner of National Standby Repair.