I’m currently shoring up my little nest out here in Florida, and was invited to speak on Preparing Technology for backup by our local Entrepreneur Group (Florida Business Incubator – woot woot!) and thought, “YEP – Time to share what I am doing!”

We often get very busy preparing an escape route in times of impending disaster. I’ve been through several hurricanes, and can expect power outages for several days, and the likelihood of water damage. My technology, in my life, pretty much holds a tremendous amount; Photos, memories, writing, client projects, policies, scans of important documents, digital statements, etc. Losing my data can add to stress, make filing claims additionally stressful, and potentially cause loss of business and hours of labor.

So here are 6 Tips to Hurricane Prep your Technology (or Prep for any other crisis-related bug-out plan!)

1. Back It Up!

I lost 7 years of lesson plans once (back in the 90’s when half my peers were still handwriting them all. Yeah, yeah… perhaps if I had written them…). This also included digital recordings of my son’s 1 year old laugh! It was one of those rare moments I stopped breathing. If you don’t have a backup plan, MAKE ONE. (Below are recommendations based on experience – there are MANY options out there…)

  • (CLOUD BASED) I use SugarSync (on my 6th year! Yes that is a referral link – cause everybody wins – but also because I LOVE THIS PRODUCT) and when I changed jobs, I was able to wipe my data from the work machine, and carry over backups to a new machine when the laptop I had crashed. With this app you choose what to backup. It syncs it across all devices, and you do not have to move anything from its place on your computer! You can share folders, sub folders, and as long as the shared person keeps the files on your drive, its FREE for them. It is worth every penny (because it is not free) but I see it as data insurance!
  • (CLOUD BASED) Use DROPBOX – the difference here is that you MOVE things to your dropbox, away from the place it originated. I find this a bit disruptive to my organization scheme, BUT it works – especially if I want links to share with others (like copies of important documents for family!)
  • (CLOUD BASED) Use Google Drive to create folders of important information if you have a gmail account. I use this a lot for things I need easy access to and that clients may use as well.
  • (PHYSICAL-ON SITE) Use an external PORTABLE Hard Drive. Western Digital has remained one of the most reliable drives I have had. It also comes with great backup software. I only speak from experience when I say that I have lost at least 3 drives by Seagate. There are many capacities, but the BIGGEST you can budget for multiple backups is best! AT LEAST a 1T (1 Terabyte) can hold the standard users files and data. If you do photography or video, then you REALLY need much more! Another advantage to having a physical drive is that it can be stored in a safe, or travel with you privately.  Use your Operating Systems Backup Features (Time Machine on Mac OR File History and Backup on Win10) to at least start the backup process!

2. RECORD Your space, belongings, and information!

Use your phone for a quick walk through of your home (interior AND exterior) before a storm, and talk about the ages and models of the items you are showing. Use a scanner app on your phone, (or this great article by JoyOfAndriod.com about Scanner Apps for your Android, tried and tested!) to digitize your documents. Or, use your printer’s scanner to make copies of important documents and digitize them. Some things on the list to scan:  wills, credit cards, home/business documents you need, and important pieces of info. I do something similar when I plan on leaving the country. I also make sure to back that information up to my SugarSync or Dropbox. I just make sure that it is NOT a shared folder if critically sensitive.

3. Keep It Charged!

The one thing we really need the most is a way to stay in communication with loved ones and emergency services. YES, I could play Solitaire or Backgammon for HOURS while I wait out a storm, but once the lights go out, I will need that phone for more!

  • Purchase a block charger (that is like a big rechargeable battery you can have ready to recharge critical devices) One that has great ratings and ample load to charge a device at least two times (or multiple devices).
  • Or better, purchase a solar block charger. I have traveled with mine several times, anticipating running through a city all day and feeling safer knowing I can charge my phone anytime! I recently bought a new one, having left behind others with my family in Colombia.

4. Use Social Media

Facebook has added safety check features for users around the world who happen to be in or near disaster or crisis areas. Link a trusted friend or family member to your account so they can report for you. Keep your eyes peeled on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of local disaster recovery, state sites, and weather stations to stay up to date quickly.

5. Keep Communications CLEAR

One thing that is IMPORTANT is that cell phone lines get inundated by calls during a crisis. Help keep things clear for emergency teams, and use TEXTING as your primary means of communication. Make sure you have gathered your trusted list of contacts into a mass text feed so you can inform them all at once and keep each other posted. Also, without paying for services, 911 still works on a cell phone!  YOu can also use WiFi for calls.

6. Use An App to Stay Informed

There are several very useful apps during inclement weather, evacuations, and emergencies.

  • Haven (RapidSOS)- set up emergency notification – an instant data link from your app to 9-1-1 in an emergency which also can notify key family/friends
  • GasBuddy – lets you know where you can get gas and prices
  • Zello – Walkie Talkie app if cellular infrastructure fails
  • Shelter Apps – VisionLink OEM for iPhone
  • American Red Cross – First Aid Apps, Shelter Apps, and much more
  • FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster App
  • National Weather Service – Andriod  |  All Platforms | iPhone

6. Finally, decide what goes, what stays, and protect the rest!

Start by grabbing backups and the CPU (tower or laptop). Keyboards, mice, monitors, cables and cords (except chargers – make sure you have your laptop charger) are all easily replaceable. THE DATA is NOT!

Then Physically protect the rest:

  • Unplug all devices to protect from electrical surges
  • Put valuables at risk in your empty dishwasher (waterproof after flood!)
  • Move critical electronics to interior rooms if there is space.
  • Put things up high which will help in case of flooding.
  • Should your devices get wet, DO NOT plug it in to check! Instead, make use of all those silicone ‘dry safe bags” that show up in packages, and pack it in with those or a box of DampRid!
  • Take the batteries out of electronics if you are away! They are more likely to recover from moisture.
Harvey, Irma, Jose!?! To my Florida clients and friends! Stay Safe! 

If you need help on implementing a backup plan I am always available to help!