Zap! Power Outage at Your Office -- How to Prepare

Gregory A. Hood, MD

Disclosures

December 28, 2016

In This Article

When 'Acts of God' Strike

Hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Irene. Hurricane Katrina. Each one memorable, each one devastating. Excluding the heartbreaking loss of life, to which a price can never be attached, there was damage to property, widespread blackouts, and disruptions in communications that left millions of people literally in the dark and cost billions of dollars.

During each of these natural disasters, most businesses, including medical offices, had to remain closed until the power was restored. Yours may have been one of them.

Of course, many years ago, power outages weren't a big deal in the practice of medicine. An assistant was sent out for more lamp oil, or to get another bag of feed for the horse, so that the doctor could get to his next house call. Now, with electronic health records, modern building design, and the power requirements of diagnostic medical equipment, a power outage is a major event in a medical practice. Given the volume and pace of work in medical offices today, it can take physicians two to three times longer than normal to make up for the lost time.

Over the years, we've lost power many times in our office, usually without warning. Sometimes it has been because a car smashed into a utility pole. Other times, we've lost power because of downed tree limbs or other causes. In some cases, such as the potent springtime storms common to our area, the power outages can be anticipated.

When I was younger, our family would go around the home and unplug TVs and other sensitive electronics when a storm was coming. Today, we've become both complacent, with the availability of surge protectors, and overwhelmed, with the prospect of disconnecting all the devices that could be affected. Indeed, two of the episodes of equipment damage we suffered in 2016 didn't come through the power lines at all, but rather through the cable/Internet and the phone lines.

Naturally, there's a cost to replacing damaged equipment, but at least the equipment can be replaced. Sometimes the need to replace damaged equipment, and even the ability to power certain fundamental processes, can be mitigated by the use of battery backup products offered by such companies as APC. We've found these to be very helpful when power is either intermittent or shuts down completely for long periods.

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