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  • No Rain in the Cloud: Protecting Your Digital Documents and Keepsakes

    USB Digital Documents Backup

    I recently got a new computer. I stored the contents of my old computer – years’ worth of work – on a flash drive. That flash drive also contained a backup copy of my new computer’s hard drive and two years’ worth of photos that I’d deleted from my phone to free up phone and cloud storage space. The information on this thing was arguably irreplaceable.

    I normally keep the flash drive in a fireproof safe with important documents. Last week, however, I threw that drive in my pocket and took it with me on some errands because I needed one document from it. Somewhere between then and now, the flash drive vanished.

    This story has a happy ending. I’d given my kids my old computer but forgotten to delete my files. So I was able to recover them. I’d also copied my phone’s photos onto my new computer, intending to delete them when I was done. I forgot to do that, too.

    Because I’m forgetful, I was able to recover almost everything on the missing flash drive. Have you thought about what you’d lose if your computer got lost, destroyed or stolen? What about your wallet? Or your smartphone? Where do you keep vital information? If you had to quickly evacuate, what would you lose?

    Here are some ways to protect yourself from information loss.

    First, get a backup external hard drive or set up an online backup.

    Alex Fitzpatrick, a contributor to Time magazine, said he monthly backs up his computer to two hard drives and uses two cloud services to save his photos.

    That seems a bit excessive, he admitted.

    “But I'm confident I'll never lose a file again, and that's a good feeling,” he wrote.

    hacker gives key to victim to restore the personal data on laptop computer digital documents

    A while ago, my game-obsessed son was careless about his downloads, and ransomware got on our family’s computer. Ransomware is software that locks up a computer until a ransom is paid. Rather than pay anything, my husband wiped the computer. Fortunately, he kept an external backup hard drive. We lost almost nothing.

    Fitzpatrick suggested when you look for a backup drive, get one that has more storage than your computer, so you can completely back up the computer.

    He also mentioned cloud backup plans like iDrive and CrashPlan for those who prefer to keep backups offsite. My kids now submit much of their school work on Google Docs, so their work is stored online.

    Second, make copies of important documents and store them somewhere that’s readily accessible if you have to evacuate.

    On average, people have two minutes to escape from a burning house, said Rich Woodruff Red Cross Communications Director for the Utah Region of the American Red Cross.

    On March 30, 2016, a fire ripped through a block of apartment buildings in Brooklyn, N.Y. Though no one lost their lives, at least 35 families were displaced. Three buildings burned and two others were damaged.

    The New York Times said one of the greatest struggles for people displaced in the Brooklyn fire was finding and recreating vital records.

    One family needed their son’s birth certificate and proof of residence to get into temporary housing. They got a letter from their son’s pediatrician since they didn’t have a birth certificate. They had to get a form signed by their landlord and notarized since they had no lease on hand. A few days later, demolition workers recovered their battered file cabinet that contained birth certificates and other important papers.

    The Red Cross has emergency preparedness apps like first aid, emergency alerts and preparedness for kids.

    It also tells where to go to replace important documents.

    But wouldn’t it be easier to just have that information backed up? The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “Emergency Financial First Aid Kit”  is a 44-page booklet that identifies what information to collect, like social security cards, insurance policies, prescriptions and emergency contact information.

    In case of emergency, said Ann House, coordinator of the Personal Money Management Center at the University of Utah, “Most of us run for family pictures or a kid’s favorite toys. If we knew where [vital information] all was, if it was organized into folders and files and boxes, we could just grab it.”


    Disaster_Blog_Banner digital documents

  • Preparing for Your Super Bowl Party is Just Like Preparing for an Emergency

    Hosting a Super Bowl party this Sunday? There’s lot to prepare for, so if you haven’t started preparing, you’d best get on that! Speaking of preparing (like that segue?), getting ready for emergencies is a lot like hosting a great party.


    Step One: Planning

    Super Bowl Party

    First of all, do you even want to host a Super Bowl party? Personally, I’ve never even a Super Bowl before (the travesty!), so I don’t think I’d be too interested in hosting a shin dig for it. However, what if I told you the guests were coming anyway, whether you like it or not? Welp, might as well make the best of things!

    I’m no party planner, but I do know a thing or two about preparing for emergencies. And in this scenario, it is most certainly an emergency. So here’s what you do:

    Make a list of everything you need.

    Got it? Good.

    This list should include food, drinks, and other necessary supplies. Football props? You betcha. Red party cups? Better believe it. A backup power generator? Hey. If the Super Bowl venue can lose power, then so can yours.

    Living through an emergency situation is very similar to living through a party. You need food, drinks (preferably water in this case), and other gear to help keep you comfortable. If you’re stuck without power in the winter, how will you stay warm? Make sure these are some of the things you think about.


    Step Two: Acquire

    Empty Shelves Super Bowl This guy didn't make it to the store in time and now can't have his favorite disaster snack: milk sandwiches.

    Making a plan to feed your guests is all fine and good, but if you forget to do the shopping, there will be a lot of people wondering where the seven-layered dip is hiding (not to mention the chips). In order to avoid any potential embarrassments, make sure you get to the store before the day of the event. Better yet, go a week early. Otherwise, all the other party planners will scoop up the best snacks, leaving you with a tray full of chocolate chips (which are delicious, unless that’s all there is to eat for the duration of the game).

    The same thing applies for emergencies. Get the food, water, and gear you need well before the first warning signs of an imminent disaster. Leaving it too long may lead to not just empty shelves, but empty stomachs as well.

    Of course, most emergencies don’t give warning before they come. Without the proper preparations n place, any day could spell disaster. Just like that one guy who’s always more than a little early to the party, disasters can also show up well before you expect them. This is why preparing as early as possible is one of the best things you can do.


    Step Three: Practice

    Nothing kills a party quite like not knowing what channel the big game is on. Likewise, if you don’t know how to prepare your freeze-dried meals, work your generator, or know how you other gear functions, you might be in for a rough first night during an emergency. Get to know your gear. Learn how to prepare those freeze-dried and dehydrated meals. Walk through your home evacuations so you’ll know what to do when the time comes. And, perhaps most importantly, make sure you practice your best touchdown dance for maximum approval.


    Step Four: Enjoy the Show

    Sure, disasters and emergencies aren’t always the most pleasant of experiences, but the enjoyability of them can be increased through proper preparations. Ice storm knock out your power for three days? At least you’ll have emergency lights, heat, and the ability to prepare delicious meals. Car break down on a back road? Fortunately, you have blankets, food, and water to get you through until help finds you.

    Football game dragging on? At least there’s good food to keep you occupied.


    Written by Steven M.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner Super Bowl

  • Lavish Bunkers and Laser Eye Surgery: Even Millionaires are Preparing for the Worst

    Bunkers that cost more than $100 million and have amenities like a bowling alley, movie theater, a pizzeria, or a swimming pool. Secret doors that can only be opened by playing a certain set of notes on a keyboard, a la “Goonies,” or by dialing a certain phone number. Executives who use “buying property in New Zealand” as a code for an apocalypse shelter.

    Hollywood Shelter - Illustration by Mario Wagner via Hollywood Reporter Lavish Bunker Nice and normal up top, secret and lavish down below - Illustration by Mario Wagner via Hollywood Reporter

    Many of the most wealthy people in the U.S. – one tech executive estimated as many as half of Silicon Valley billionaires, for example – are investing in lavish doomsday prepping.

    Companies are catering to them, offering bomb-proof, climate change-proof bunkers with air and water filters, underground greenhouses, off the grid power and water systems and armed guards. Oh, and interior designers to make sure they’ve got the best -looking shelters, with all the amenities.

    It’s not just shelters, either. Some are getting laser eye surgery, buying firearms and taking survival training

    “It's really just the newest form of insurance,” Robert Vicino, founder of a company that builds communities of bunkers in Indiana, told The Hollywood Reporter.

    Most of us will never have access to these kinds of resources. (One bunker community costs $5 million per “chamber,” and residence is by invitation only.)  However, we may apply many of their principles of preparation.

    Steve Huffman, the thirty-three-year-old co-founder and C.E.O. of Reddit, spoke in-depth to The New Yorker about his preparations. He told the magazine if disaster hit, he would look for a community.

    Knowing neighbors and friends is not only sociable but also valuable if there’s a disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Its “Listen, Protect, and Connect” brochure offers ways to prepare so you can help those around you during a disaster.

    Even if you can’t afford a bunker or secret room, you should have a safe place for your most important personal information and an emergency fund.

    Larry Hall, the C.E.O. of the Survival Condo Project, told The New Yorker that two technology companies wanted him to design “a secure facility for their data center and a safe haven for their key personnel.” The same story said wealthy individuals are also buying Bitcoin and gold coins.

    And Steve Humble, president of Arizona-based Creative Home Engineering told The Hollywood Reporter, “There are a lot of Oscars and Emmys tucked away safely behind my secret doors."

    “If there’s a natural disaster like a fire, do you know where your birth certificates are?” asked Ann House, coordinator of the Personal Money Management Center at the University of Utah.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “Emergency Financial First Aid Kit” is a great organizational resource, she said.

    The 44-page booklet includes four sections that identify what information to collect, like social security cards, insurance policies, prescriptions and emergency contact information.

    She also recommends keeping a few hundred dollars in small bills with an emergency kit. That way, if you need to buy water, you don’t have to find an ATM or pay $50.

    Medical preparation is necessary too.

    Yishan Wong ,the C.E.O. of Reddit from 2012 to 2014, had laser eye surgery. He told The New Yorker it was to do away with his dependence on a “nonsustainable external aid for perfect vision.”

    Everyone else can keep glasses and copies of prescriptions with emergency supplies or important documents. If your insurance will let you, get a few days’ worth of medication.

    Trident Lakes - via Business Insider Lavish Bunker Trident Lakes - via Business Insider

    At Trident Lakes, a planned luxury condominium development that includes in its amenities fortified shelters, the cost of a condo could be above the mid-six figures, according to a story in Business Insider. However, the community will offer discount rates for police, teachers and other civil servants.

    Learning useful skills can help anyone prepare for disasters, both natural and events like job loss.

    “Learn new skills that could be turned into a small job such as a piano teacher,” Kayleen Chen, a peer mentor at the University of Utah’s Personal Money Management Center, wrote in an e-mail.

    Preparedness is also about ability to evacuate quickly. One Percenters can do that in style.

    In a piece for GQ,  author Michael McGrath described how Goop’s 2016 “Ridiculous, But Awesome Gift Guide” included the Jetpack Bag, an “all-in-one, 72-hour survival pack,” for $399.

    For the rest of us, this FEMA brochure is more apropos.

    And there is another commonality between these super-wealthy preppers and the rest of us: Everyone’s eating canned food.

    Or, as The Hollywood Reporter put it, “The rations are grim, ranging from beef Stroganoff to chili.”


    Disaster_Blog_Banner Lavish Bunker

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