More than likely in the last year you have dealt with extreme weather conditions. If you are anywhere in the southern United States, you have probably dealt with some effects from the many hurricanes that came through the Gulf of Mexico.

Almost anywhere in the south or middle of the United States, you probably dealt with tornadoes as well. Extreme heat and cold are also difficult to deal with and some areas are better suited to deal with each than others.

Texas has certainly been in the news as I heard numbers of around four and a half million people were without power during the snow and ice that covered nearly every county in the state.

Most of these southern areas do not see this kind of weather and are not prepared to operate in such conditions. Most facilities do not have enough winterization in place to continue to operate, even the power companies.

In fact, this recent arctic weather affected over one hundred million or about a third of America’s population in some form or another.

Preparation for Severe Weather

It is always important, but especially important, to prepare your control systems for what may happen when inclement weather arrives.

  • Do you have system backups of everything up to date? During power loss/restart, the possibility of hardware failure increases. Make sure all systems like Servers, Workstations, Programmable Controllers, Distributed Control Systems, Network Devices and any other peripheral devices that need configuration are backed up in case recovery is necessary.
  • Staff preparation – Deciding ahead of time, of the staff available, who supports on site and who supports remotely, and these kinds of details can help a team work together to provide the needed support for a manufacturing facility.
  • Documentation – Being ready for restarting or power loss also means that documentation should be up to date and accurate as possible, drawings and needed system documentation will help tremendously when restarting a facility, so the more you have it readily available, organized and up to date, the better off you will be when it is needed.

How can a programmer help with freezing instrumentation?

Something I have found very helpful over the years is to have programming in place for important or critical control processes to detect a signal “freeze”.

This could be from instrument failure, signal line failure or control system failure, but this programming will provide notification if a signal does not change from an instrument in a certain time frame.

This alerts personnel to address the problem and try to regain the signal before equipment shutdown. Things like this can make a big difference when battling freezing temperatures.

Here is an example (ControlLogix) in bringing the signal in and comparing to itself at a later time. If the value does not change, then set an alarm:

Conclusion

It really does not matter where you live or operate, at some point, you will face some adversity when it comes to mother nature. Extreme temperatures, wind, precipitation or all the above can and will test your diligence and your systems that are in place.

Being ready is half of the battle and the other half is just picking up the pieces and recovering as quickly and safely as possible

Written by Brandon Cooper
Senior Controls Engineer and Freelance Writer

Have a question or comment on this article? Join our community to take part in the discussion! You'll also find all of our courses at TheAutomationSchool.com.