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August 15, 2014

Seattle Outage Highlights the Need for Backup Power

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

At least it was the weekend.

For roughly 3,400 residents of the Capital Hill area in Seattle, it was lights out last weekend.

Traffic lights and residential electricity were downed Saturday, August 9, with power out for much of the day.

The cause of the power outage was at least one downed distribution wire in the area, according to the Capital Hill Seattle Blog.

For most people affected by the outage, it took half a day to get the power back. The blog said that residents began reporting the outage on social media around 4:30 p.m. (PDT), and it wasn’t until nearly 10 p.m. before most had power again.

For 400 unlucky electrical customers, it was even longer; power wasn’t restored until past 1 a.m. due to the discovery of more electrical damage than originally supposed.

At least the outage was on Saturday, when many are off work. Had it been during the weekday, the loss of power for half a day could have deeply affected the businesses and telecommuting workers in the area.

Outages like that in the Capital Hill district last week highlight how dependent on reliable power we have all become. For most people and businesses, there is hardly the thought of what might happen if the power goes out. But electricity does go down, and it can cause havoc for businesses and anyone trying to be productive.

While it is unrealistic to go off the grid or stop using our computers, we can take steps to minimize disruption in the face of a power outage.

First, we can make sure that the batteries for our laptops and cell phones are kept charged, and we know how to tether our laptop to our cell phone in case the power and thereby the Internet goes down.

Second, it pays to invest in an uninterruptible power supply. Companies such as Minuteman Power offer a range of power supplies that both individuals and businesses can install to keep power flowing even when the electricity has been cut. While an uninterruptible power supply will not be able to keep you working all day in the face of a long power outage, it will ensure that no work is lost and computer equipment can be shut down properly. It also can ensure that power spikes and electrical underages don’t hurt electrical equipment.

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