Moving operations among plans for California businesses during fire-safety outages

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Technology companies absolutely need electricity to function, but are also among the most flexible when it comes to moving operations and workers in the event of a planned power cut.

Some tech companies said with enough notice the cuts could be treated much like other occurrences that threaten their operations and are covered by existing business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

“A scheduled power outage is really not that different from … a natural occurrence or a sprinkler issue or somebody actually sabotaging your building or business,” said Allen Jaffe, vice president of technology at Top Speed Data in Petaluma.

The company helps customers migrate data to cloud servers and works with clients on computer security and disaster recovery, among other services.

“With respect to your employees, the most important things to consider aside from their safety is where are they going to be able to work in the event of a power outage?” Jaffe added. He said for a company is like Top Speed, much of its information is located on cloud servers in a separate location that can be accessed remotely.

He said a planned outage would also give a business time to properly shut down computers and telephones.

Having a written disaster recovery plan that everyone in the company is well aware of is also critical to continuing to operate when the lights go out, Jaffe added.

“[It’s about] not just having a plan written down but making sure its communicated, making sure people understand what’s happening in the office and where they need to go.”

To that end, San Rafael-based software maker Autodesk said in an email they met directly with PG&E to discuss the power cuts and how they could impact their business.

“Autodesk has met directly with our PG&E account representatives and established an internal Public Safety Power Shutoff management team to plan for and manage any potential power cuts that may impact our California offices” wrote the company’s Regional Facilities Manager Heather Gass.

Moving employees to other, less vulnerable locations and having them work remotely are also strategies the company, like Top Speed, is keeping in mind, Gass added.

“Some of these strategies include redeploying critical functions to other states; having affected employees work remotely; redeploying essential functions to our San Francisco offices, which according to PG&E are less likely to lose power; and verifying essential system functions are cloud-based or covered by data centers.“

Gass said the company is also adopting the strategy of proactively communicating with employees.

“Finally, we sent a communication to employees with an emphasis on awareness, how to be prepared at home, the importance of updating customer contact information with PG&E, as well as referring employees to PG&E’s wildfire safety website.”

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