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The Power is out in San Francisco, but not at pMD

We’ve been anxiously awaiting the inclement weather in the Bay Area this week like children waiting for Christmas. In Northern California, rain can mean drought relief, snow in Lake Tahoe, and the chance to test how prepared you are for a natural disaster.

I got a call early this morning from my colleague Lindsay Cornwell who lives nearby. The storm had fulfilled its promise of disaster. Her power was out, she didn’t see any buses, and Uber was at 4x. That’s when I realized that my power and phone data were out too and that power was likely out in our San Francisco office.

One of our favorite quotes at pMD is from Louis Pasteur, the founder of pasteurization and hero to cautious milk drinkers. He said that “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” The best way to weather any storm is with a good plan. Here are some of the best things that we’ve done:

1. Have a phone tree and emergency response plan


We keep each other’s contact information in our phones, and I also keep a paper list in my work bag. Many of us carpool to work or live in the same neighborhoods, so we check in with our nearest colleagues first. Lindsay called me, and we then called our other colleagues in town. We keep a team calendar with our travel schedules so that we know where everyone is at any given time, and most smartphone calendar apps have some offline functionality so that our schedules are visible.

2. Maintain multiple and redundant servers


Our customers are doctors, hospitals, and medical practices who rely on our mobile charge capture and secure text messaging software to manage their patients, communication, and billing workflow. We co-locate our servers and back-up data regularly to minimize the chances that our customers are ever impacted by a natural disaster or power outage. Our servers are located in different parts of the country to protect us against different natural disasters, and our developers can quickly reconfigure our system to always give the best performance. Our app also works offline so that doctors can continue using it even if they are impacted in their immediate areas.

3. Disperse your team


Our team thrives on collaboration and good humor, but as much as we like being together, it also helps us to be apart. Because some of our team is across the country visiting customers at any given time, they were already managing our 24/7 customer support. Those of us in the Bay Area were able to focus on problems with flooding, traffic, and power outages this morning.

4. Keep a charge on all of your electronics


You never know when you may lose power, so keep a full charge on your phone and your computer whenever possible. We were able to contact each other, and even people without power have been able to get some offline work done on projects today. I use an iPhone 6, which can give up to 14 hours of talk time, and a MacBook Air, which has 12 hours of battery life. There are other great device options, and wireless chargers and external batteries can also extend your productivity.

5. Safety First


Although a lot of us planned to be in the pMD San Francisco office today, it’s always best to do what is safe. Some of our colleagues who live outside of the city and would have had to cross bridges or flood zones to get here made the decision yesterday and early this morning that they should just stay home. I’m working from another area of town today, but I will also head home early ahead of the traffic. People are our biggest asset, and they should always feel empowered to put safety first.
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