New Zealandís capital city in the dark about power protection
New Zealand has had its share of disaster this year. An earthquake rocked the South Island in September 2010, damaging buildings and flattening parked cars. In November, a lone contractor accidentally dug through two major power lines in the capital city of Wellington plunging its business district into darkness and leaving 4000 utility customers without power.
Traffic lights were out and many major websites down, including Kiwibank, New Zealand Post and Trade Me (an online auction business).
What’s interesting (and reported concisely in the NZherald.co.nz) is how various businesses were affected. Aside from the major bank’s website being down, retailers were forced to shut up shop and turn customers away for fear that they would steal stock from their darkened shops – even though, in many, computers and cash registers were still operating (presumably because they had UPS protection). Cafes too were forced to close on their busiest day of the week with no means of heating water to make drinks. A bakery lost the equivalent of £800 worth of baking that was in the oven at the time. The Trade Me online auction had 14,000 listings with 3,500 sellers due to close during the duration of the power failure.
Newly elected Mayor Celia Wade-Brown immediately called an investigation into how this could possibly happen in a capital city and is quoted as saying that she would “investigate whether the city needed an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to provide constant emergency power.”
Unfortunately, disaster cannot be avoided but unnecessary downtime can. Shops, for example, that have UPS power protection for tills and computers, should also have emergency lighting. There’s little point protecting point-of-sale equipment if people can’t try on clothes if the mains power goes down. Without emergency lighting, you might as well shut up shop.
Lastly, the question should not be “whether” UPS protection is required but rather “what sort of UPS protection do we need in the business district of our capital city”.