Home Features Are you prepared for power cuts?

Are you prepared for power cuts?

by Andy Clutton

The head of the National Grid has recently warned the UK of blackouts during ‘deepest, darkest’ winter evenings. Due to extremely low gas supplies, power could go out between 4pm and 7pm on some ‘really, really cold’ evenings in January and February if Europe faces further cuts from Russia. How could this affect security services?

The National Grid has said the Russian invasion on Ukraine has caused ‘unforeseen turmoil and volatility’ throughout the energy markets, which has led to a number of countries critically looking for alternative supplies as gas flows from Russia to Europe have been cut off.

The number of people being cut off from electricity will depend on how many gas-power stations are forced to shut down because of a shortage of gas.

Britain does not rely on Russia for gas but normally draws on European supplies to keep its power stations running in the coldest months. However, the energy crisis in Europe would result in Britain not being able to import electricity from France, Belgium or the Netherlands, but power would still flow from Norway.

If action is not taken, this could lead to shortages impacting millions of Britons. The National Grid boss has said there was a ‘‘huge amount of work” being done by energy suppliers to ensure vulnerable households in particular received support should it become necessary to impose blackouts.

Although Liz Truss, our former Prime Minister at the time the power cuts topic became public, reassured that the UK has a good supply of energy, will Rishi Sunak still think the same? We could still suffer the collateral damage from any shortfalls in supplies in mainland Europe, who rely on Russian gas.

The Government’s Electricity Supply Emergency Code which provides a plethora of information on where and when blackouts may occur in the UK suggests that a coordinated approach means power cuts will be staggered throughout the day and vary in length depending on the severity of shortages.

The impact on Europe

Due to Russia turning off the taps to Europe, France has exported gas to Germany for the first time in ‘European solidarity’ due to the increased energy pressures. Although this new flow is less than 2% of the daily needs in Germany, it is a welcome help towards their energy crisis.

In this energy solidarity deal, Germany declared they would provide additional electricity to France when needed, in agreeance, France pledged to support Germany with gas supplies.

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 55% of German gas was originally imported from Russia. Since then, it reduced to 35% and looks set to reduce to zero. To tackle this crisis, the German government have announced they are looking to ‘reduce gas by 2% this winter’ by limiting lighting and heating usage in public buildings.

Although Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has said that gas taps to Europe could still be turned on, their largest gas pipeline to Europe, Nord Stream 1, which travelled from Vyborg in Russia to Greifswald in Germany, was closed indefinitely in August this year and the project for Nord Stream 2, which was due to operate this year, was denied an operating licence by Germany in February, due to the invasion.

Gas leaks were found on the pipelines of both Nord Stream 1 and 2, with many suggesting they could have been sabotaged in an explosion. A 50m hole was found to have been blown into the pipeline at 80m below the Baltic Sea level.

What affect will this have?

National statistics state a single hour of downtime is said to cost a small business an average of £800 and a large commercial organisation £8,500. If the power cuts do occur for three hours a day, you can already imagine the catastrophic costs this can have for businesses.

It’s not just huge costs businesses will lose; it is interrupted production runs, no website access, no contact with customers, missed deadlines and many more challenges.

There is also another scenario not many have thought about and it can have a huge impact on homes and businesses. When was the last time the on-site alarm was serviced? This is an important question all homeowners and business owners should ask themselves as, if there is a power cut, and the alarm system is not up-to-date, the batteries are dead. If this happens, the alarm will automatically sound and go off. But, even if the alarm does go off, who will come to check if there are so many going off at the same time?

Although this sounds like the right scenario, it is in fact a calling card for burglars. If there are dozens, or hundreds of alarms going off simultaneously, police and other authorities cannot attend each residence at the same time. Many will even think it’s a false alarm. Burglars and criminals will know this, increasing the risks of potential crime, especially if it occurs during the dark hours of 4pm and 7pm; this is a prime time for robberies.

QED believe that UPS back-up systems are needed to avoid this as these systems can protect individuals, employees, businesses and homes.

“We recently did a quick review of our UPS systems here at QED,” says Matt Philp, QED Managing Director. “The results showed all our servers and phones are covered with UPS, but the roller shutters, doors and lighting were not. This could leave some people with more questions than answers, as even if they are covered with backups, what if the telephone exchange or mobile masts don’t have any power?”

This increased risk has struck fear for many facing the dark months, and as distributors of security and uninterrupted power supplies, QED knows how important it is to create back-up systems for homes and businesses, to enable people to prepare for the worst-case scenario if the main source of power fails.

“While some essential businesses, including transport and NHS hospitals, would be exempt from power cuts, other businesses should start thinking about their emergency management protocol now,’’ says Matt. “We work with a lot of retailers who rely on surveillance systems which need an uninterrupted power supply to keep running. Access control is also a main priority for these businesses using CCTV surveillance for sensitive areas. A constant power supply is essential for the critical protection, safety and security of people and systems.’’

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