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What 38 Years Dispatching Emergency Power Teams has Taught Me About Being Prepared

Are you ready? Road sign.
Are You Ready? road sign

I’ve been with Duthie Power for 38 years — so long that it wasn’t a generator servicer, but an electric motor shop when I started!

Since then I’ve managed the Duthie service department throughout many of Southern California’s emergencies: earthquakes, fires, rain, mudslides, and more. Whatever was thrown at us weather-wise, I was in charge of getting the technicians where they needed to be ASAP. I currently work as a Sales Engineer guiding our customers from start to finish through the process of shoring up their backup power systems.


The Meaning of Being Prepared


Throughout those years of dispatching the service people who restored power to homes and businesses in extreme circumstances, I’ve realized something. Of course you get kudos for having emergency equipment such as a generator, but being truly prepared means more than that.

Because without regular maintenance, will that equipment deliver what you expect it to in an emergency? Over the years, I’ve found that the only way to be sure the answer is “yes,” is to have it regularly serviced.

For example, I remember working through the Northridge earthquake in 1994. It devastated Southern California; people were without power for days.

Fortunately, the generators that were under regular contract maintenance with us worked fine. But a lot of others didn’t, because they hadn’t been properly serviced for years. So our Duthie team spent weeks performing emergency service calls. The technicians were working 10-12 hours a day, every day.


The Cost of Skipping Maintenance


Now, due to the reliable condition of our regular clients’ generators, they didn’t need emergency services – even though their generators were on full-time those two weeks. So thankfully, we had a customer base which was able to put their maintenance on hold while we serviced everyone else’s. And restoring power is fulfilling — you can’t explain the great feeling knowing that you’re able to get someone back online, whether it’s a single home or a high-rise apartment building.

But those two weeks, and the contrast in the emergency performance of regularly serviced generators vs. not-maintained ones, really brought home to us the need for regular preventative maintenance.

Sure, it means you’ll pay for semiannual service visits. But you’ll save a lot of money in the long run. For instance, we’ve gotten contracts with big companies that had neglected their generator maintenance for years; they just didn’t want to spend the money. All that means is that the entire first year, we were doing major repairs like there’s no tomorrow, just to keep the generators functional.

And yes, the clients asked why every quote was so expensive! The answer: “There were never any eyes on the equipment.” They hadn’t done that routine maintenance, so they racked up those big repairs and big costs instead.


Don’t Skip Preventative Maintenance


So what I’d recommend everyone who has emergency equipment? Have it serviced as often as it’s recommended. For generators, this is twice a year. Professional technicians will catch smaller issues and repair them before they turn into big ones. Just like a car, the sooner you catch a small problem, the more easily it’s fixed. And you’ll be confident that when the next power outage happens, you’ll be good to go.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Mike Goodman

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