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Electrical Disaster Recovery – The Value of Documentation

This Technical Brief summarizes actions that should be taken to document post-disaster conditions so that impacted electrical equipment and systems can be safely and quickly returned to service.

Background Information

Many professionals know ASCO Power Technologies is a leading manufacturer of critical power equipment. Because ASCO services the products it sells, it has also supported customers in recovering from floods, fires, and other types of natural or man-made events that have damaged electrical equipment. Our experiences have shown the value of properly documenting normal and post-event conditions.

In 1968, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) established a committee "… to develop suitable texts relating to preventive maintenance of electrical systems and equipment … with the view of reducing loss of life and property. The purpose is to correlate generally applicable procedures … without duplicating or superseding instructions that manufacturers normally provide."i Many professionals know the committee's resulting work as NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance. This Technical Brief summarizes the post-disaster documentation guidance presented in the code’s Article 32 – Electrical Disaster Recovery.

Pre-Disaster Planning

When disasters occur, organizations must conduct a Damage Assessment as soon as possible. Doing so normally requires, at a minimum:

• securing the facility to limit damage
• mobilizing recovery personnel, including:
    o a facility’s or organization’s own personnel
    o vendors and contractors
    o insurance personnel
• implementing a safety plan
• providing and managing temporary power

All of these aspects and more are elements of a well-prepared disaster recovery plan that is put in place before a disaster occurs. The following sections of this article focus particularly on the tasks necessary to properly document post-disaster equipment conditions so that service can be restored and costs recovered in an orderly and efficient manner.

Initial Damage Assessment

Reference Material

An initial damage assessment involves a walkthrough and inspection of the facility and its affected electrical equipment when it becomes safe to do so. Beforehand, all relevant and accessible documentation should be accessible at a central location, including instruction books, operating manuals and procedures, and facility and equipment drawings. The capability to reference this material will greatly aid the assessment of site conditions and the selection and execution of restorative measures.

Prioritization of Systems and Equipment

The most essential electrical equipment show be evaluated first. Article specifies the following order:ii

• Category 1: medium-voltage equipment including distribution transformers
• Category 2: low-voltage distribution equipment
• Category 3: electric motors
• Category 4: balance of equipment

Documentation of Assessment

If equipment is to be moved for service or repair, it must be identified, tracked, and properly restored or replaced. Failing to do so can lead to lost equipment, longer recovery times, and unnecessary expenses. Necessary steps include:

• Tagging each piece of equipment. For motors, this includes:
    o Recording motor nameplate data and location
    o Tagging the motor and its base with a unique identifier
    o Marking and recording electrical connections
    o Recording coupling information and the condition of couplings
    o Marking shims and recording shim information
    o Collecting all mounting hardware, couplings, and shims in labeled containers for onsite storage
• Labeling all control and power wires or cables
• Photographing each device
• Indicating the location of the device on a field sketch
• Completing a tracking form for each device
• Creating a master tracking document
• Creating shipping documents for each device
• Maintaining all forms, photos, and drawings in a central file or database.

Sections through provide specific recommendations for completing each of these actions.

Repair vs. Replace Decisions

Where damages are obvious or profound, decisions to repair or replace may be readily made during the initial equipment inspection. Often, the advice of manufacturers or subject matter experts will be required, possibly after thorough diagnostic testing is performed, to determine whether electrical devices can be used without further action, serviced onsite, repaired offsite, or replaced entirely. Factors affecting these decisions include:

• The age, reliability, and value of the equipment
• Whether the equipment is currently manufactured or otherwise supported by its maker
• Lead times needed to obtain parts or replacement devices
• The repairability of equipment and its subsequent fitness for use
• Availability of qualified personnel
• Whether codes and authorities permit repair or require replacement
• Total expected downtime for each option
• Total costs of each option, including its impacts on revenues

Article 32.2.8 identifies ten industry standards and guidelines that can aid in assessment. These are included in the reference list at the end of this article.

Post-Restoration Activities

After new or restored equipment is installed, its re-energization, operation, and performance must be verified and documented. When recovery is complete, the activities described here should enable facilities to document:

• As-found conditions in the electrical infrastructure
• List of, and justification for, equipment repaired or replaced
• Results of all equipment testing
• Assessment of individual equipment condition
• Any long-term equipment replacement plan


In ASCO’s experience, facility and cost recovery efforts can be streamlined by ensuring that assessment and restoration are conducted and documented in an orderly way. This occurs most successfully when executed according to a pre-existing disaster recovery plan. While the characteristics of each facility and event will vary, inventorying equipment, recording impacts, and documenting restoration as described will help facilities recover more quickly. Section 32 of NFPA 70B provides basic guidance. For further specifics, consult the following sources:

• Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA), ANSI/EASA AR100, Recommended Practice for the Repair of Rotating Electrical Apparatus
• Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), FEMA P-348, Protecting Building Utilities From Flood Damage: Principles and Practices for the Design and Construction of Flood Resistant Building Utility Systems
• Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), IEEE 3007.1, Recommended Practice for the Operation and Management of Industrial and Commercial Power Systems
• Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), IEEE 3007.2, Recommended Practice for the Maintenance of Industrial and Commercial Power Systems
• National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) NEMA, Evaluating Water-Damaged Electrical Equipment
• International Electrical Testing Association (NETA) ANSI/NETA ATS, Standard for Acceptance Testing Specifications for Electrical Power Distribution Equipment and Systems
• ANSI/NETA MTS, Standard for Maintenance Testing Specifications for Electrical Power Distribution Equipment and Systems
• National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, and NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace
• PowerTest Annual Technical Conference, 2009, Flood Repair of Electrical Equipment; March 12, 2009, Pat Beisert, Shermco Industries
• National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Evaluating Fire- and Heat-Damaged Electrical Equipment


Further reading:

    ASCO Power Technologies:

        Technical Briefs

            Power Outages Should be an Expected Operating Condition
            Ensuring Service Personnel Access for Backup Power
            Temporary Connections for Generators and Load Banks
            NEC® Requirements For Reconditioned Power Equipment

        White Paper

            Protecting Transfer Switches from Water-Related Damages

        National Fire Protection Agency

            NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance

For additional information, contact ASCO Customer Care.


i National Fire Protection Association. NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance. 2019. https://link.nfpa.org/publications/70B/2019/metadata/origins, accessed December 3, 2021.
ii Ibid. Article

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