Posted on October 10, 2017 by Dan Quick
We’ve been humbled to serve thousands of businesses in the wake of natural disasters ranging from hurricanes to earthquakes, and everything in between. But today we are facing a far more immediate threat to some of our closets friends and families right there in the Bay Area. The Napa and Sonoma fires have exploded into such a violent and fast-moving regional threat that fire crews are unable to battle the flames as they are preoccupied with live-saving measures and emergency evacuations. While we’d normally take this opportunity to extoll the value of establishing a reliable automatic business failover system or installing the free VirtualPBX Softphone App, we instead want to provide some critical resources for those affected by the fires below.
Napa & Sonoma Fires: Impact and Resources
What started as a collection of a dozen or so small fires late on Sunday night has ballooned into one of the most chaotic and destructive fires in California’s history. We’re no stranger to the destructive power of forest fires here, but these fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties are effectively like having wildfires ripping through urban and commercial environments. Fuelled by wind gusts from 50-70 mph, the fires were still 0% contained as of last night and have claimed at least 10 lives, over 1,500 homes and businesses, and have left over 100 people missing. Please note the following resources and, if you or anyone you know is caught in the effects of these fires, know that we are here to help you in any way we can, as well.
- Report Missing Persons The Sonoma Country Sherriff’s Department is leading the effort to collect all missing persons information and to provide updates to the community on the fires’ status. Contact them directly at (707) 565-3856
- Free Access To Wi-Fi From Comcast Comcast is opening all of their Wi-Fi hotspots in Northern California up for free to customers and non-customers alike. The program will be open through at least this coming Friday and details on how to log in can be found here.
- Offer Shelter Support or Secure Temporary Lodging Among the many public shelters being rapidly opened for the growing thousands of displaced residents is the Petaluma People’s Services Center which is providing shelter as well as arranging host accommodations around the area. They are also accepting donations of goods to help in this effort and details on securing shelter and the list of essentials they need can be found here.
Stay Safe, Stay Smart
We want to remind everyone that, with winds expected to pick up again later this evening and overnight, these fires are still very much active, uncontrolled, and unpredictable. Therefore, we urge all people who are able to help to resign yourselves to contacting the appropriate authorities to see what it is that they need, and do not venture north to assist in person. Furthermore, all of our customers in the area should take safety as their first priority, but know that all of our servers and services are located in redundant locations and you shouldn’t experience any interruptions. If you have any challenges with your coverage whatsoever, please contact Customer Support as soon as you are in a safe place to do so and we will give your needs the attention they deserve. Also, if you have any other needs, tips, or resources you want to share, please let us know on Twitter or Facebook and we will be certain to disseminate the information as soon as possible. Thank you all for your concern as our loved ones and neighbors are in danger, and we hope that everyone remains safe through the end of these tragic fires.
Posted on August 29, 2017 by Dan Quick
Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in America, is currently being flooded by the most massively high water levels the area has ever recorded. Over the past several years we’ve been exposed to greater destructive forces from Mother Nature in the form of hundred year flooding, infrastructure failure, and increasingly unpredictable climate instability. What is happening right now in Houston and the surrounding Gulf Coast area, however, is literally in the realm of a thousand year storm. For more on the magnitude of the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey and how there is no immediate end in sight, we’ve outlined these few key aspects of the storm.
Hurricane Harvey’s Record-Breaking Floods
To begin with, the first rainfall that hit the greater Houston area was so abrupt that it caught many residents, plenty of whom were already preparing for the storm, totally off guard with the speed it moved in. By dropping a whopping 20” of rain in the first 24 hours, the stage was set for what is turning out to be some of the most destructive flooding the area, and much of the country, has ever seen.
- From Inches to Feet By now the images of families being saved from rooftops should be engrained in our minds. Many of these residents knew floods were likely, but seeing as how the total rainfall caused some areas to flood upwards of 10 feet in under 24 hours, there simply was no time to get away safely without a boat.
- No End in Sight The rainfall is continuing right now and, according to every report, will not see a break until the coming weekend. That means that an additional and unprecedented 50” of rain is expected to fall on some areas in under a week’s time. This amount of water is too much for any community to safely handle, much less an area like Houston that normally sees fewer than 50” as their total average annual rainfall.
- Rainfall Away From Houston There are some security measures in place to protect from unexpected flooding in the area, specifically two nearby overflow reservoirs. However, due to the massive rainfall that is flowing into them, the city just Monday morning was forced to open them both to avoid additional areas being affected. This means that close to the coast, already affected areas near the riverbanks where the water is released to will have more ground water added.
- Storm Surge A term that most Americans may not have been familiar with until the flooding from either Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy, but the flooding in Houston may be getting much worse yet from it as well. Now that Hurricane Harvey has returned to the water after touching down in Texas, the pressure system will once again cause ocean levels to rise as it begins its agonizingly slow journey eastward.
What To Do Now
It’s only natural to see the catastrophic effects of this flood and want to find a way to help out. We agree. That’s why we encourage you to find a way to help that works for you but remember to both protect yourself from pop-up phony charities and to never, under any circumstances, impede the work of the professionals. The last thing that anyone wants is a group of well-intentioned people to need their own rescue mission by wandering into unsafe areas. I’ve found this article with comprehensive donation and contribution strategies that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to help. But I’d also remind people that, more often than not, the best offense is a good defense. By that, I mean that, just like we all need to plan for any contingency for the safety and protection of our personal lives in the event of a tragedy, we need to do the same for our professional lives, as well. We’ve seen this before, and we’ve also seen the costs of when people forget the past with a phenomenon known as Hurricane Amnesia, and it ends poorly for those who aren’t prepared.
These waters will fall, eventually, and then the cleanup effort will be in full swing, no doubt. But as we’ve seen in the case of any number of natural disasters in the past, the lasting effects to the area will be felt for months and possibly years to come. When community infrastructure is damaged as much as it is in these situations, it can take businesses from being in the black to being irreconcilably in the red. Depending on the type of operation is it, companies that don’t have an automatic failover for their communications system in place as part of their business continuity plan risk tens of thousands of dollars a day in lost productivity. And when the recovery effort is likely to extend for as long as it is in Houston, that is more of a hit than the vast majority of businesses can safely endure.
We hope that everyone who remains in the area affected by Hurricane Harvey is safe and our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the people who have lost their lives in this terrible storm. We will be eagerly looking forward to the cessation of beating this storm is inflicting upon the Gulf Coast communities.
Posted on July 20, 2017 by Dan Quick
The majestic and expansive Yosemite National Park in California’s eastern Sierra Mountains is under attack as the Detwiler Fire blazes to enormous proportions. Now estimated to be larger than the city of Seattle, the Yosemite fire that has already claimed dozens of buildings and caused hundreds of evacuations is only 10% contained. As our 20th Anniversary timeline points out, we’re about as Californian as it gets, so when one of our greatest natural treasures is under attack like this, we pay close attention. However, unlike the destructive flooding or hurricanes in the past that we’ve covered, this Yosemite fire is uniquely important to us because we have some of our remote team members living not far from the blaze. As you can see in the photo taken by a VirtualPBX employee in a city not far from the borders of the park, the Yosemite fire’s effects are keeping everyone in surrounding towns on edge.
What the Yosemite Fire Needs is a Parachute
We’re grateful for the fact that with the cadre of business VoIP service and tools for remote working, our team members can skedaddle if the temperature gets too hot in their neck of the woods. But what about the thousands of business people in the area that need to be at their desks? For the businesses we support in the area with PBX Parachute, they’ll be just as covered in the event that the Detwiler Fire spreads as our own employees. That’s because, with PBX Parachute, the award-winning emergency telephone failover service, anytime a business experiences a telephone outage or is unable to access their facility, they can deploy a complete replica of their system in the cloud. This disaster recovery and business continuity essential is typically used like insurance where it acts as a hot standby in the event of calamity by automatically deploying when it’s needed. However, because the PBX Parachute system is constantly ready, it can also be activated at the push of a button for emergencies that come with a bit more warning.
More Phone System Than One it Replicates
For businesses in the eastern ranges of California who are threatened by evacuation warnings and need to escape the growing smoke, the PBX Parachute is the one true way to take all of your business essentials with them without even packing a thing. The brilliance of the PBX Parachute system is more than just a total continuation of business and the preservation of potentially tens of thousands of dollars a day in opportunity costs. The beauty of the deployed PBX Parachute is that it is a totally hosted telephone system. This means that for the companies that need it because they are on an older legacy system that has big constraints on call forwarding, during the period of time they have PBX Parachute deployed are free to enjoy the nearly universal flexibility of a hosted business VoIP system. Therefore, with the simple interface that allows administrators to program alternate phone numbers for call forwarding and the nearly universal device compatibility that VirtualPBX has for doing so, employees can both get to safer ground and experience the convenience of VoIP during their displacement. Of course, that’s little comfort in the face of emergencies, but it’s at least one less thing to have to worry about whenever disaster does strike.
Getting your business set up with its own PBX Parachute or with an advanced hosted phone system is simple, fast, and in most cases, far less expensive than the existing legacy phone system you’re already using. Additionally, because hosted business phone tools are all virtually managed in the cloud, they are exponentially more scalable and affordable than physical, on-site systems. To get started, this VoIP Plan Comparison tool will get you going on choosing the right plan for you. Or, you can also feel free to reach out and contact us on Twitter and Facebook. Either way, please keep the families in the path of the Yosemite fire in your thoughts and prayers and remember to stay safe whenever Mother Nature gets involved.
Posted on December 29, 2016 by Dan Quick
From the earthquakes down the Pacific coastline to the hurricanes all over the Atlantic and everywhere between, there isn’t a community that doesn’t have some risk of natural disaster. Additionally, as distressing as it is to consider, we live in uncertain times and there exist a variety of other, man-made scenarios that could disrupt or damage businesses in the blink of an eye. Sometimes, like with the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina, disasters linger for days and weeks. But for even disaster events that take only a few moments to run their courses the repairing and rebuilding period can extend for months or even years. With such a huge window of uncertainty looming over any possible natural or manmade disaster, businesses need to protect against any ensuing downtime. Using an automatic business failover system is the best way how to protect business from disaster that would otherwise grind it to a halt.
Business Continuity Planning
Building a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is the first step to making sure your business keeps running no matter what the world throws at it. A comprehensive BCP covers details that aren’t front-of-mind when disaster strikes but are critical for the safety of employees and the business as a whole. Organizational flowcharts that show succession of authority, alternate regrouping locations, safety check-in protocols, and many more are all covered in a BCP. But how to protect your business from disaster is more than just making a plan, of course, it also relies on some highly specialized tools. Specifically, businesses that have no access to their traditional telecommunications channels need to have alternate arrangements in place. Companies with the best BCP preparations know that using a hosted telephone failover system like PBX Parachute is the best way how to protect business from disaster.
PBX Parachute is the always on, hosted emergency failover system of choice for thousands of professionals all over the country. PBX Parachute can be activated manually but is automatically deployed when there is an interruption to your on-site telephone network. With multiple awards recognizing its reliability, performance, and overall technological excellence, it’s no wonder that how to protect business from disaster begins and ends with PBX Parachute. Some of the benefits of a PBX Parachute system protecting your business include-
- Create emergency toll-free numbers for your employees that have mission critical messaging prerecorded and that are only live after PBX Parachute has been deployed.
- Replicate all or just the most essential parts of your everyday telephone network to allow either for executives to stay accessible or for sales engines to keep roaring during a rebuilding phase.
- Prerecord messages to inbound callers indicating a temporary service interruption instead of having them reach a disconnected number.
- Allow for employees to remotely continue work once they are cleared of danger from anywhere they have an internet connection.
- And most importantly, never allow an isolated incident at your office location result in lost business to a competitor because your telephones are down or inaccessible.
How Else To Protect Business From Disaster?
We’re fortunate to work with a lot of different types of businesses, each with their own creative approaches to leveraging the over 99.99% reliability of PBX Parachute for disaster recovery. Also fortunately, many of them have never needed to deploy the parachute because of an emergency. For those who do need PBX Parachute in emergency situations, it’s wonderful to know we were able to help them through an ordeal. How would you build your emergency call tree? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook. Or, if you’re just ready to build your own BCP with PBX Parachute, get started today!
Posted on June 27, 2016 by Dan Quick
This past week has been disastrous for communities in West Virginia who suffered from some of the worst flooding they’ve seen in generations. With over at least 24 casualties, 500 homes damaged, and thousands of people displaced, these floods are some of the worst to hit the country in recent memory. In light of such a troubled week, and in the face of what is expected to be more flash flooding over the next two days, it’s no wonder so many are scrambling to find ways to contribute to West Virginia flood relief efforts.
Giving Back on the Ground
While there is little we can do from way out here in the Silicon Valley to help the affected people in West Virginia, we have found the people who can. Of course you can always contact the national center of the Red Cross to see what West Virginia Flood relief measures they have that need support, but we’ve also identified one of the local charities in that area, too.
The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition has established drop-offs all over the area where nearby residents can bring vital supplies including clean drinking water to be distributed to those affected by the flooding. Food, water, and shelter are all the most basic, and most critical of West Virginia flood relief efforts we can contribute to, and any inquiries on how to donate to the OVEC directly can be sent to their Relief Project Coordinator, Natalie Thompson.
Beware of Scams
It’s sad to have to make this disclaimer, but the reality is that with the outpouring of love and support that tragedies attract is also a lure for opportunistic criminals. These West Virginia flood relief efforts will not be any different. Make sure to scrutinize your contributions for any charitable donations to avoid falling victim to a phony charity. We’ve put together these guidelines that can help you protect yourself from fraudsters-
- Research any unfamiliar organization and never feel pressured to donate in cash or via wire transfer.
- Limit identity theft and avoid third-party internet links by confirming charities via Charity Navigator or GuideStar.
- If there is a familiar name to the charity, verify that the local chapter is authorized to solicit funds on behalf of its parent organization.
- Avoid charities that refuse to detail mission, use of donations, or proof of tax deductibility, and always insist on receipts for your records.
Protecting Yourself Moving Forward
Ideally we wouldn’t need to consider how we could need our own relief, but there exists an incalculable number of ways that our businesses could be rendered inaccessible or otherwise disabled. We’re proud to be supporting hundreds of businesses across the globe that have benefited from our disaster recover and emergency failover service, PBX Parachute. And while it is always difficult to think about the worst that our own companies can face, it’s times like these that the importance of doing so is most felt.
Hopefully all of these affected companies will be back and on their feet in no time at all, but until then our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all of the families in flood-damaged West Virginia.