Today marks the 17th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States and at the same time a Category 4 hurricane is headed directly for the East Coast of the U.S. We’ve had storms, floods, and all sorts of events that put our information and even our lives at risk. There is no better time to consider how you prepare for disaster than before it happens so here are my five recommendations to be ready just in case when it comes to your information.
Use the cloud
Protecting your information by posting it to a cloud based system such as OneDrive, Dropbox, or Google Drive means you have a much better chance of not losing that information should something terrible happen to your possessions. Take a few minutes and make sure your files AND your phone are backed up to the cloud.
Pro TIP: Use a tool such as OneNote or Google Docs that allow you to store your information online as well as offline. There is no guarantee you will have connectivity when you need it so make sure your information is accessible from as many places as possible.
Photos of everything
Take photos of all your valuables, including the tags electronic devices indicating model numbers and serial numbers. Insurance companies need that information to process claims quickly and after a loss is not the time you want to be struggling with an insurance agency over preventable missing proof and information.
Don't trust a fireproof safe
Fireproof safes are excellent for valuables and some documents depending on the manufacture of the safe, but they're not watertight and water is one of the worst enemies of paper. Take 15 minutes and take photos of all the key documents in your firebox using a tool like Office Lens. The process is quick, the information stores to the cloud, and if you're concerned about privacy you can delete the images after the hazard passes.
Take photos of all your prescription bottles and any prescription paperwork you may have. After a disaster, medication can be in short supply and being able to prove you need what you're asking for can make all the difference.
Pro TIP: Create a medical quick reference note listing all allergies, special medications, and relevant medical history information you might need in an emergency. Save that quick reference online as well as offline (this may be something you want to print and put in a sealed baggie just to be extra sure.)
Make a charging bag
Take a Zip-Loc freezer bag and put in it a car charger, extra charging cable, wall charger, and second zip-loc bag for your device. You may have to leave quickly and having this as part of your go-bag can make all the difference in the coming days.
If you have external batteries for your devices make sure they are fully charged. Keep them plugged in until charged and then into the bag with them to protect them.
Text, don't call
During a disaster calling can become almost impossible due to downed cell towers and limited power. Using a messaging application that can work over cellular data or wifi is your best chance to get messages out and back. Applications such as Facebook Messenger, Hangouts, or WhatsApp are your best choice but direct messaging using Twitter will also work.
If you can get access to the internet posting updates about your status can be reassuring to your loved ones. Don't just post about how hard it's raining. If you need help, ask. If you can provide help, respond.
Natural and man-made disasters can be the most devastating things we ever face. Taking time to prepare yourself and your information means it is one less thing you need to worry about when things go wrong. Be safe and be prepared.
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