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May 08, 2017   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Are you ready for the start of hurricane season?

Diesel machines, engines and equipment are a tested and proven partner in America's emergency preparedness and response systems.

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season will begin on June 1. In order to develop a nation that is prepared for and responds effectively to weather-dependent events, May 7-13, 2017 has been designated Hurricane Preparedness Week by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It only takes one storm to change your life and community. Hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes, severe thunderstorms and other extreme weather occurrences can devastate a community. Before, during and after the storms hit, resources must be put in place to preserve public health and safety, to render aid and help restore communities. 

Diesel machines, engines and equipment are a tested and proven partner in America's emergency preparedness and response systems. From powering the backup generators that give hospitals and operating rooms electricity within 10 seconds of a blackout to powering disaster-relief vehicles, diesel is a key player in protecting our public health and safety.

Maintaining Electrical Supply when Grid Power Goes Out

Frequent weather-related disasters call attention to the vulnerability of the nation's electrical grid and the importance of continuous electrical power. Weather events and disasters, both large and small, cut off power to hundreds of thousands of people and businesses for days exposing the importance of emergency backup power as part of local, state and federal emergency preparedness, response and recovery. It should come as no surprise that the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that weather related events that knock out power cost the U.S. economy anywhere from $18 to $33 billion a year. Interruptions of electrical power, even of short duration, create situations that could imperil public health and safety. Emergency backup electrical generators can save lives during an emergency.

Emergency generators must be able to provide reliable, immediate and full strength electric power when there is a failure of the primary power supply system. Diesel-powered emergency generators provide the most reliable form of emergency backup power. Many international building codes and standards effectively require diesel generators for code compliance because of the need for rapid response time, load carrying capacity, fuel supply and availability, and reliability. Diesel generators have their own self-contained fuel supply, making them less vulnerable to supply disruptions or shortages during and after natural disasters. Natural gas is often eliminated as a source of power for generators in these settings because during a disaster, such as an earthquake, gas lines are immediately turned off to avoid the risk of fire and explosion during a rupture.

Emergency Response Vehicles and Equipment

Because of its unique combination of power, performance, reliability and availability, no other technology or fuel can meet the full range of needs in responding to national weather emergencies. Rescue and recovery efforts after natural disasters have demonstrated the vital role of diesel power first-hand, powering National Guard rescue vehicles, providing backup electrical power, supplemental water pumps and portable refrigeration. In the recovery phase, it is diesel technology that powers the construction machines and equipment to clear debris and rebuild communities. In communities across America, first responders, emergency planners and elected officials have a full array of capabilities at hand to prepare for, prevent and respond to natural and man-made disasters.

Protecting Public Health and Safety:  Drinking and Waste Water

Hospitals, data centers, water and sewage facilities, fueling stations, and communication and transportation systems require continuous power to protect public health and safety. The most critical applications such as keeping lifesaving equipment operating and climate control systems functioning at hospitals and ensuring drinking water, sewage treatment facility and stormwater pumping stations stay in operation, depend on clean diesel power to provide reliable, immediate and full strength electric power when there is a failure of the primary power supply system, minimizing losses from these events.

Evacuation & Public Transportation

Diesel generators are also providing much more value in storm preparedness and resiliency. Many states susceptible to severe weather are now requiring or encouraging retail fuel locations to install emergency backup power capabilities to keep motorists along evacuation routes and also allow first responders to refuel in the event of a widespread power outage. In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maryland adopted programs to better enable fuel retailers to keep fuel flowing to motorists and first responders by installing the necessary electrical switchgear to accept a mobile generator. 

The After... Recovery and Rebuilding

In the aftermath of hurricanes and other natural disasters, diesel-powered equipment immediately goes to work, aiding in rescue operations and clean up processes.  And powerful diesel equipment and machines are the top-of mind resources to quickly and safety restore neighborhoods and communities, open roads, restore power and the clean-up of the devastated areas. Diesel's work continues as a partner in the rebuilding efforts.

For decades, stationary and mobile diesel standby generators have proved their value during severe weather events. Diesel remains a technology of choice as it is the only technology to provide full electrical load within ten seconds of grid failure and diesel fuel is widely available. For these reasons, diesel generators are frequently seen on roof tops of large buildings, as well as data centers, water and sewage facilities, fueling stations, communication centers, and other mission-critical facilities. Thanks to many unique features of diesel mobile and stationary generators, and even energy-dense and widely available diesel fuel, the diesel platform is a technology of choice to provide mission critical power when the grid goes down.

The top 10 costliest United States hurricanes:











Bahamas U.S. Gulf Coast

$108 Billion





Caribbean U.S.  East Coast Eastern Canada

$75 Billion





Greater Antilles Texas Louisiana Midwestern U.S.

$37.5 Billion





Greater Antilles Central America Florida

$29.4 Billion





Bahamas Florida U.S.  Gulf Coast

$26.5 Billion





Caribbean Venezuela U.S. Gulf Coast

$23.3 Billion





Caribbean U.S. East Coast Eastern Canada

$16.6 Billion





Jamaica Cayman Islands Cuba Florida Carolinas

$16.3 Billion





Colombia Venezuela Caribbean U.S. East Coast

$15 Billion





Cuba U.S. Gulf Coast

$12 Billion


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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