By Mariah Smith Extension Center for Technology Outreach
With Isaac charting a course in the Gulf of Mexico, now is the time to make sure your house or business is ready to weather any storm.
Before the storm
Take steps to prepare for you and your loved ones to be safe in the event of a disaster or evacuation. You want to be ready to grab important items and head for a safer location. Checklists for emergency supply kits are available on many websites, such as http://www.ready.gov.
If there is time to evacuate personal belongings during an emergency, take back-up devices, laptops or desktop computer. Take digital cameras as well as chargers for cameras and phones. Computer equipment, including monitors, keyboards and mice, are easier to replace and can be left for last.
One of the quickest, simplest methods to protect important documents or photos is to email files to yourself as soon as they become irreplaceable. Some people use external hard drives or storage devices like thumb drives or compact discs to save duplicate copies of photos or work.
A growing trend, especially for larger files, is cloud storage, where data is stored remotely and available to users over the Internet. Cloud storage is available through websites such as https://www.dropbox.com/. One advantage of a cloud storage system is that you will be able to retrieve your data from any location that has Internet access. Read the terms of service for the cloud storage system you use. Make sure you understand who owns that data once it is posted to the company¹s server and what measures will be taken if the company goes out of business or if something happens to you.
Another option is to take a photograph of important documents (insurance, banking, personal) with your cellphone so that you have them in the palm of your hand should you need them.
Backing up your data will reduce headaches and heartaches after a disaster and enable a quicker return to normalcy, especially when there could be so many other issues demanding attention. Be sure to charge cellphones and cameras before the electricity goes out. Here are some quick tips for safeguarding your documents and equipment:
Back up your documents to a jump drive or cloud storage system.
If it is portable and you have room for it, take it with you.
If it is too big to take with you, put it in a heavy-duty plastic bag. Secure the bag tightly. Be sure to place it up off of the ground. Normally, it is the floodwaters following a hurricane that cause most damage to electronics.
Take all paper out of printers.
Unplug everything from power before you leave the building.
During the storm
Keep up with news and information about approaching storms and other disasters. Weather radios, television and radio reports are good sources for warnings before storms arrive and to let you know when the danger has passed. Several storm-tracking apps also are available for Smartphones. Twitter feeds from local news and weather sources can help. The key is finding the best source for your area and one or two alternatives in case your preferred devices fail.
After the storm
Texting short messages is the best way to communicate with loved ones in to or out of a disaster area. If cellphone towers are overloaded, a short text has a better chance of getting through than a phone call. Four letters ³IMOK²– will tell people the most important message, that you are OK.
Most devices require electricity to recharge batteries, so be sure to invest in either a solar charger or a battery-operated charger to keep your devices powered up. If your devices do get water logged, open them up as much as you can and let them dry out for at least 72 hours. Turning electronic equipment on after it has gotten wet is a sure way to ruin it permanently. The No. 1 mistake people make is turning equipment on too soon after it has gotten wet. If the equipment has gotten salt water in it, then the data on it is most likely irretrievable.
This hurricane season, make sure you and your electronics are ready for evacuation and recovery.