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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Power outages like those experienced in the Midwest and Northeast on August 14 may have many credit unions running out to buy generators, but facility experts advise caution. “The moral to draw from the recent blackouts is what expense a credit union wants to incur,” said James G. Caliendo, senior vice president/ COO of Pittsburgh-based design/build firm PWCampbell. “Credit unions have to balance the cost of such a contingency and actual usage and benefit. For some, considering the likelihood of disruption of service, it may be as easy as putting a sign on the door suggesting members visit other branches.” Experts agree that since statewide power outages are rare and the typical blackout is usually resolved within hours, individual branch generators are not necessary. “It is questionable for branches to go to that expense because generally back up contingency plans are done on a regional basis, so if one credit union branch has a blackout then it may be more cost efficient to refer members to another one of your branches that has power,” said Caliendo. “However, for credit union operation centers or main data centers, a diesel or natural gas powered generator that can run a facility for 24-72 hours may be worth the expense.” Attila Atar, electrical engineer for St. Louis, Missouri-based design/build firm NEWGROUND Resources, Inc. says that as soon as the system detects that a power source is gone the generator takes over, and if it is a really good system the power wattage transfer takes place within 10 seconds. “It depends on the owners’ mentality – many don’t see a need for it- and what they can afford,” said Atar. “Diesel generators can run from $175 per kilowatt to $450 per kilowatt and that is just material costs, so I usually see generators in call centers or operations centers where uninterrupted power is necessary because of the service provided.” For those facilities with generators Atar says maintenance is key to being prepared when an emergency strikes. Generators should be run at least one a month to make sure they are working and no parts need to be replaced. In addition to generators, Atar says many credit unions support critical areas with a UPS battery back-up on one or two workstations so that sensitive or vital data is not lost. Generally these batteries ensure that the voltage stays at the same level throughout the disruption and can last from five minutes to a few hours giving IT personnel just enough time to save and shut down the equipment properly. [email protected]

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