Prep your tech for a weather emergency

Earlier this week, many of us here on the Eastern Coast of the USA endured hurricane Sandy’s assault. As a resident of coastal Massachusetts, I spent last weekend preparing for the storm. There’s a lot to be done, and you’ll find an excellent overview from the American Red Cross here. Now that the worst seems to be behind us in my particular neighborhood (I know it’s not this way for all those affected by the storm), I’ll share some simple tips I picked up from this event to ensure that your tech gadgets are ready to go the next time emergency strikes. Getting things organized ahead of time can lessen the stress of dealing with the event itself.

Charge Up

It’s likely that you’ll lose power during a major storm, so charge all of your devices ahead of time. When power does go out, unplug your devices, as it could be restored with a jolt. Also, if you’ve got a generator, it’s best not to run electronics like phones, laptops, and tablets off of it.

Keep it Charged

I live in a small town, so we lost power at the drop of a hat. Once it’s gone, it stays gone. A good backup battery is great to have on hand. iPhone owners should check out the Mophie Juice Pack. It starts at $80 and provides several hours of additional life to your iPhone 4 or 4S (an iPhone 5 version is under development). It’s a case that charges separately from your phone, and features an on/off switch so you needn’t use it until you need it. If that’s not enough, consider the Mophie Powerstation Pro, an external battery that provides even more power to your iPhone.

There are several options for Android phone owners, too, like the Samsung Galaxy S III Power Bank External Battery Case.

You can also extend your phone’s battery life by disabling certain features, like Wi-Fi (your router’s probably out anyway) and Bluetooth. Also, dim the screen brightness and avoid playing audio at a high volume. If your phone is set to check email automatically at regular intervals, turn that off, too. All of those processes drain battery life.

Store Important Documents

If you’re forced to evacuate your home, it’s helpful to have important documents with you, but not always practical. One solution is to store copies in the cloud. Evernote lets you store digital files remotely and access them from nearly any Internet-connected phone, tablet, or computer. Simply scan your documents or take photos of them. Create a new notebook in Evernote (I suggest the name “Emergency Documents”) and add the digital copies.

Find Some Useful Apps

The American Red Cross has released several great apps for both the iPhone and Android devices. For this storm, I installed one called Hurricane App. This free, full-featured app provides tips on preparedness, push alerts for your area and so much more. You’ll even get location-based NOAA weather alerts and can monitor alerts for far away regions of the country where loved ones are. There’s even a flashlight, strobe and alarm included.

iPhone owners who are interested in NOAA weather radio should check out NOAA weather radio app for iPhone. It provides live NOAA weather broadcasts for a huge variety of locations across the USA. A crank radio is best, as there’s no battery to exhaust, but this works if you have power on your phone.

Back It Up

Back up your computers, tablets, and smart phones before the storm hits (you’re doing this anyway, right?). It’s nice to have a backup in your house, but inadequate if that’s all you’ve got. Create remote backups with a service like Crashplan, Dolly Drive or Carbonite.

Go Social

Finally, keep an eye on social media. It’s amazing how significantly these services affect our lives. You can follow The American Red Cross on Twitter for up -to-the-minute information. Also, look for relevant hashtags, like #Sandy.

Of course, the best advice is to follow the instructions of emergency personnel in your area. Be safe, be careful and be prepared. And our thoughts continue to be with those most affected by this horrible storm.

14 Comments for “Prep your tech for a weather emergency”

  1. posted by Brian on

    I prefer the battery packs that simply have a USB port. That way you can plug in an iDevice, or Android one, or an e-reader for reading, etc. And then it isn’t a unitasker like the device specific batter backups are. Of course if one is solely motivated by style and how they are perceived by Apple snobs, then the Mophie is the way to go. 🙂 Just search USB battery backup on Amazon. I would get one with replaceable (or backup) batteries, and I tend to like the idea of ones that use AA batteries.

  2. posted by Gypsy Packer on

    Yes, battery operated routers exist. Amazon is nearly out, and I suspect that other suppliers will sell out soon.
    Love to all y’all who have firsthand experience with Sandy. Don’t believe the rumor that we arranged this as payback for General Sherman.

  3. posted by Dede on

    We have an emergency radio that is solar powered and has a hand crank. It also has an adapter to charge our cellphones. For computer backups, we put all the important stuff on a flashdrive and send that to a relative in another state.

  4. posted by chacha1 on

    I had a thought on important-document storage. Scanned copies in the cloud are great – they will help a person to get started on recovery. But original documents are, in some cases, irreplaceable; and in others, very difficult and time-consuming and stressful to replace. Especially in case of disaster where the public offices are likely to have suffered damage as well as homes.

    So my added advice would be, determine which documents really are in that category, put them in a big Zip plastic bag, and put *that* in the water-resistant safe I hope everybody has.

    I would consider birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates, original stock certificates, and a complete
    list of the household’s accounts, with account numbers, passwords, telephone numbers etc., to be the bare minimum receiving this extra layer of protection.

    If you have a computer backup on an external drive and not via cloud, that drive should go in a bag in the safe, too.

  5. posted by Tab on

    Dropbox is an awesome cloud backup, because it’s backing up constantly. You never have to remember to backup (reality: not many people remember). And you can access it from another computer or your phone. I make sure to have important documents backed up, like passports, insurance policies, etc.

  6. posted by squibby on

    Identity fraud is a danger that’s increased by natural diasters. It’s best, if you can, to keep originals of documents with you (preferably on you) and triple plastic bagged if its a watery disaster.

    Always keepnsome original photo ID with you as most authorities don’t accept duplicates – unless they’re noterised by a Justice of thr Peace etc.

    I agree with everything Chacha1 said. I’d add that there are lots of clever solar powered and crank-wound powered devices out there.

  7. posted by Shalin on

    If you happened to throw things together last minute, as you unpack it’s a great idea to write down those items so that you have a list of items to grab for the next emergency.
    Also, you’ll want to check it against an emergency pack list like these and modify your list:

    1) Well, this blog post by David for starters!

  8. posted by Jeannette on

    Maybe it’s the fatigue from dealing with all that is going on (I’m in NYC.) but I don’t understand the value of a battery operated router.

    Because if the power is out, it’s almost certain that the broadband service (We have Time Warner Cable) will also be out. In fact, when we’ve been lucky enough to have power, we’ve lost broadband.

    So, please, educate me as to how this works.

    What I’d like to find is a battery operated heating element for when the power is out. We don’t have gas as a cooking option anymore.

    No, we don’t want any kind of gas, propane, etc. options. I live in an apartment building. I don’t need something that would put others at risk.

  9. posted by Damian on

    I also recommend keeping DC car chargers for each cell phone in all vehicles and, if you want to take it a step further, a pre-paid phone in the glove box too.

  10. posted by Mike on

    This may be verboten to speak about…. but the greatest way to save battery life is to turn the devices OFF when you don’t need them. Turn it on every few hours if you need to check for updates, contact family etc. but then turn it back off… especially when you go to sleep. leaving it on all night and then waking up to a dead battery doesn’t help anything.

  11. posted by Grammie Linda on

    Another way to save battery power on an iPhone is to turn off the apps still running in the background. Think you got out of an app? Double-click the home button while in an app. A list of apps still running appears at the bottom. Hold down one until it wiggles and you can click the minus sign that appears next to any of the apps to remove them from the background. Watch out–there are more as you scroll to the right! You can save a lot of power this way.

  12. posted by Izzy on

    Re turning off apps…Advanced Task Killer App once installed will show you all of the apps running. You can select any or all of the active apps and with one touch at the top of the screen ‘Kill’ those apps to save your battery use.

  13. posted by Izzy on

    P.S. Advanced Task Killer App is FREE to download on your phone.

  14. posted by Denise on

    In addition to the above, I have an adaptor that plugs into the cigarette lighter of my car. It has a regular outlet and a USB port in it, so you can charge or power many different items. The stronger convertors can even power a coffee pot (excellent when you are desperate for a cup and there is no power). They come in different amounts of power converted, so check before you buy. Mine cost about $30 – money very well spent. I have had it for a few years now, and I use it on a regular basis. I keep it in the car so it won’t get lost.

    Camping suppliers have a variety of battery-operated items. There are many options for those in apartments where you can not have a generator.

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