Monday, July 27, 2009

Storm Safety for Your Data

If you plan to evacuate, be ready to take all your important papers -- such as mortgage, insurance, identification and documents. If your home is flooded or washed away, those documents could be damaged or lost. Having them with you will help expedite filing claims and receiving benefits.

If you have a camera or camcorder, take photos of your home before the storm. Show your prep work, like how your windows are protected, so you can prove you took steps to protect your property. Also take photos of the home's contents to help prove loss or damage. Be sure to take the photos and video with you.

If you have a lot of important data on your computer, anything from your family photos to that novel you've been working on for three years, consider an offsite back up. Companies like Carbonite will let you store unlimited amounts of data for about $55 a year, and it's encrypted for security. That's not something to do at the last minute, because it could take hours or even days, depending on your connection speed, for your entire hard drive to upload. Until midnight on July 28, 2009, you can enter for a free year of Carbonite service over at MommyPR.

Another option is to buy an external hard drive that's large enough to back up everything on your computer. Don't forget to pack it before you leave.

The time to think about what you'll take with you is before you're panicked with a storm bearing down on you. Make your list today. Tack it up to a bulletin board or tape it to the fridge and add to it every time you think of something important. Wedding photos. Heirloom jewelry. The irreplaceable mementos of life and family. You may have to pare down your list to fit everything in the car, but maybe you can avoid the thought, 200 miles down the road, that you've left something valuable behind because you just didn't think of it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Easy Survival Kit

If you're in a hurry to get everything you need for a disaster (not too big a hurry, because it has to be shipped to you), check out this website: ICE-QUBE Preparedness Kits. This company does the shopping, so you don't have to. They have small, basic kits for about $20 all the way up to the deluxe $950 kit that has supplies for four people in a sturdy trunk.

Can't spend that kind of money? Take a look at ICE-QUBE's Luxe Kit and print out the supplies that are included. Take it to the store with you. You can be sure you're not forgetting anything, but you may not need to buy everything on the list. Hopefully, you already have pliers, a shovel, flashlight and some of the other basic supplies.

A great idea to keep from having to shell out big bucks at the last minute is to buy a few items along every month. Escambia County's emergency preparedness site at one time had a printable list broken down by weeks. Week 1, you buy these items. Week 2 is a different list and so forth, for 11 weeks. You started at the beginning of hurricane season or maybe a couple of weeks before. The bad storms usually don't hit until later in the summer and by then, you'll have everything you need. Unfortunately, they took that list down, and I didn't save a copy. The idea is still valid, you just have to consider everything you'd need in the event of an emergency and buy a few items along. As you buy, check them off the list until you have everything you need.

Remember, whether you buy a ready-made kit or assemble your own:

  • Food and water will go bad. Check your supplies at least once a year and make sure the food is not past the sell-by date on the label.
  • Batteries will go dead just sitting in the package. Replace with fresh batteries at least once a year. Sometimes they have use-by dates on the label as well.
  • Some plastics will deteriorate just sitting in storage, especially if you keep the kit in an attic or garage that isn't temperature controlled. It's good to pull out your emergency kit once or twice a year and go through everything to make sure it's still in usable condition, the flashlights and radios work, the food is fresh, the plastic sheeting isn't starting to tear, mice didn't eat into any of the packaging, etc.
  • Your needs may change. Last year, maybe you didn't have a baby or a pet or a special health consideration. Always consider whether you need to update your kit.
It's never too soon to start planning for a disaster, because one day, it will be too late.