Reflection on Electricity’s Importance in a Pandemic
When it was first suggested that one of us do a piece for the newsletter on the impact of the current pandemic on anything battery related; I will be honest I did not see a lot of connection. That changed at 3:30 on a recent morning when I was awakened by a rather nasty thunderstorm. As I lay there, I wondered if our electrical service would survive, and had I remembered to put my phone and tablet on charge just in case? It would be kind of embarrassing considering what I do, if I could not communicate because of a dead battery!
Then as one does, you start to think and worry about other things like, did the storm extend as far as New York, and how would our daughter cope if the power failed there, while trying to work from her apartment due to the pandemic. Knowing her as well as we do, I realized she would cope, but what about the rest of New York?
Consider the hospitals, they are coping with more patients the majority of whom are seriously ill, than they were ever designed for. They are also using consumables faster than they can be replenished. One consumable that has not been identified as a problem until now, is electricity but that would change rapidly with a power outage. While all hospitals have some form of standby power system to support critical services, can they support the level of critical services required today, and ultimately will the batteries even support the designed load?
At my age, the problem with waking at 3:30 is, it’s very difficult to get back to sleep especially when you start thinking like this, and I started to wonder if I could turn my concerns into this article that was wanted by the marketing department.
We need to put what we are going through into context; we are at war, but not in a conventional sense. In previous wars the soldiers left to fight, and those left behind had to go to work, and life continued, if somewhat more stressful. If the troops were injured the medical personnel were at least protected from the war by the Geneva Convention. Today it is different; at this moment in time we have no real defense against this virus, and it has no respect for the Geneva Convention. We put ourselves and ultimately all those medical staff at risk, every time we go out to try and work or simply find the basic necessities for life.
We will get over this immediate attack, of that I am sure, but what will the future look like? The initial recovery will be slow and work at home for many will continue and may become permanent. Work practices will change to minimize the person to person contact required. Maintenance tasks that have traditionally been carried out through travel and human interaction will be replaced where possible by monitoring and automation to minimize the risk to staff in any future situation like this. This will require change to almost all conventional operational and management processes. To achieve that level of change, we will need a generational change in leadership thinking to get us there.
One thing that has become very clear during the current pandemic, is the total dependence on both the Communications and Electrical networks to maintain any basic semblance of everyday life. Which brings us back to where this started, my concerns about “what happens if the power goes out”? Unfortunately, that battery which I worried about is typically the final defense against the failure at any point in either network. Unfortunately, batteries can fail with little warning as you know only too well if you own a car. But established battery maintenance practices have for many years been based on physical inspections on a quarterly basis. When the country can go from normal to lockdown in less than six weeks, are calendar-based inspections of such a critical component appropriate?
But even with that increased level of worry I was able to go back to sleep. It was the realization that on the previous Monday the company had just launched a new logo and web site to jump start our next ten years, plus we introduced Vigilant to the world, the most radical reinvention of battery management hardware and analysis software in the last 20 years. These changes were the result of an in-depth analysis of future market trends over an extended period, without knowledge of the current pandemic and the changes that will certainly happen. With that type of insight, we clearly have the leadership that will keep us ahead of the game for at least the next ten years, and that was all I needed to know.