Intense heat across the U.S. this spring and summer has underscored the unusual weather events that are defining a turning point in our climate. In the Pacific Northwest, where I live, temperatures rarely rise above 90-degrees Fahrenheit. However, we recently saw 115-degree temperatures, which created problems like melting siding.
The damage heat waves induce extends to our infrastructure. In addition to evaporating water sources, this extreme weather causes fires that are challenging to put out while placing tremendous stress on an electrical grid starving for the water it needs to generate electricity.
These climate changes will force us to reconsider where we are putting data centers, employee safety, and preparedness for future anticipated weather events.
Water Generation And Data Centers
For some time, important data centers have been placed in the Pacific Northwest to take advantage of relatively cheap hydroelectric power. But as reservoirs dry up, cheap power is evaporating. While some of it can be supplanted with solar and wind, these data centers operate 24 hours a day, meaning it’s both energy generation and energy storage to worry about.
Additionally, the proliferation of fires is making reliable energy distribution problematic. This makes self-generation energy and the placement of plants in areas with low fire fuel increasingly attractive. Weather is a necessary consideration when thinking about facility placement and design, especially in the next decade. An excellent place to start is the NASA Detailed Global Climate Change Projection.
Considering Employee Safety
We’ve had several deaths due to the heat in the Pacific Northwest and, in general, violent weather events are becoming more common. The need to implement a tool like BlackBerry’s AtHoc for employee monitoring focused on safety and response is becoming more critical regardless of where the employee is located. It isn’t just global warming you have to worry about, either; failing infrastructure can put employees at risk both at the company and at home. Being able to locate employees quickly, confirm their condition, and if needed, get them help, should go a long way towards assuring you don’t lose people critical to the success of your firm.
Programs that allow employees who may be without power during a weather event to use the company site for shelter, or provide other company-approved alternatives to assure the workforce, could make the difference between a short or long company shut down during one of these events. Even just a simple car breakdown could put employees at risk of serious injury (heatstroke) or death in extreme heat conditions. Identifying and responding to an employee at risk will improve employee loyalty and prevent the kind of lousy ink that otherwise would result from a premature and avoidable loss of life connected to the firm.
Drills related to likely future weather events can mean the difference between a recoverable event and a devastating one. Regular drills help ensure that people can get to safety quickly and safely with the minimum of injuries during one of these events.
Weather Event Preparedness
Coordination and preparedness should be tested regularly and often. Where possible, you should coordinate these tests and reviews with your local first responders. Hence, they have the information they need to respond effectively and promptly if you have a significant crisis and optimize your employee training and response processes. Safe evacuation routes and responsibilities for managing employee logistics with redundancies to handle vacations, illnesses, and event-driven unavailability should be jointly tested and regularly updated for new tools, new people, and changing threats.
A lack of planning often makes a disaster far worse as employees struggling with concerns over their families’ safety cannot focus on assuring the safety of their employees. Planning can make a huge difference in stress levels and effectiveness during a disaster.
We are entering a period that requires better preparedness for events ranging from disgruntled employees to mother nature going off the rails. We should rethink the location of our energy-intensive sites, ensuring that our locations are positioned and designed to survive disasters. This readiness — including drills, planning and safety apps — will also allow quick, effective responses to employees in distress as well as ensure they and you remain safe and productive.