Welcome to Emergency Essentials!

Catalog Request

Power & Cyber Security

  • 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

  • How is Your Cyber Security this Cyber Monday?

    It’s Cyber Monday. Your e-mail inbox is probably flooded with announcements of one-day deals. (Especially if you haven’t checked it since before Thanksgiving; you may also have gotten announcements about Black Friday sales, Thanksgiving sales, weekend sales, Early Bird sales, Early Access sales…the list goes on, and on, and on.

    If you’re shopping, or browsing, be careful. Here are some tips to help keep you safe, from staysafeonline.org and the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team.

    First, be careful where you shop. Make sure the vendor you’re dealing with is a reputable one. If you haven’t heard of the vendor, look it up and look for reviews.

    Check the site’s privacy policy. Some vendors share your information with partners and allow others to add your e-mail address to their mailing lists.

    Secure Internet with Cyber SecurityWhen you’re at a site, look at the URL. Fake websites may look identical to real ones, but the URL may use a different spelling or domain, like .com rather than .org. If you’re submitting personal information, make sure the address reads https:// or that it has a closed padlock icon. (The padlock icon may also be in the bottom right corner of the browser window.) This means the information you submit is encrypted while it’s being transmitted. The website Understanding Web Site Certificates tells more about what to consider.

    Also, be aware that some online stores and resellers on sites like eBay are selling toys recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC), according to a report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (PIRG). For example, PIRG was able to buy a $15 Disney Gadget Pencil Case that was recalled in August 2015.

    The CSPC lists tips for toy safety here, and provides a searchable database for recalled products here.

    Cyber Security Computer Crime: Internet Phishing a login and password

    Second, don’t click on an e-mail link or a link from a social media site to go to a vendor. It could be a phishing attack. Phishing attackers send e-mails or use links to pretend to be trustworthy vendors, like a credit card company. But their links will take you to a malicious site that sometimes looks like the real one, where they can steal your personal information. Instead, type in the vendor’s name or perform an internet search for the vendor.

    Third, keep your internet security software and apps up to date.

    “Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system is the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats,” according to staysafeonline.org.

    Finally, follow these other online safety tips.

    Online shopping with Cyber Security

    Use a credit card, preferably one with a low credit limit, for online purchases. Credit card laws that limit your liability in case of fraud may not apply to debit cards.

    Check your bank statements and credit reports regularly. Everyone is allowed one free credit report per credit bureau per year, and some states allow more.

    Use a separate e-mail address just for shopping, and be careful about any information you give online. Treat your personal information like you treat your bank information.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner Cyber Security

  • Majority of Puerto Rico Without Power Following Electrical Plant Fire

    puerto-rico-blackout-via-nbc - Puerto Rico Most of the island was without power - image via NBC

    On Wednesday, September 21, a huge fire at a southern Puerto Rico power plant caused a blackout in 1.5 million homes and businesses.

    "The entire island is without power," Angel Crespo, director of Puerto Rico's fire department, told the Associated Press.

    As of Thursday afternoon, more than a million were still without power, including my mother-in-law, Ruth Lezcano.

    She told her son Jimmy that her main concerns were lack of water and uncomfortable heat and humidity.

    The blackout knocked out pumps at water plants, leaving her and many others without water.

    Fortunately, she had water storage. She keeps five five-gallon buckets (like the “Homer” buckets from Home Depot) full of water in case of hurricanes. She’s been using a bucket for each activity that uses water, like washing dishes, bathing, and flushing the toilet.

    “She hasn’t been able to do laundry for a bit, other than light stuff she can wash in the sink,” her son said.

    The blackout left islanders uncomfortably hot. The temperature on Wednesday and Thursday in the suburb of San Juan where she lives was 87 degrees, according to Weather.com. At night, it fell to 77 degrees.

    The power loss created more problems than just temperature discomfort.

    During the blackout, Jimmy was worried because he couldn’t contact his mother via her cell phone.

    “She probably had it turned off to save power,” he said.

    We sell small generators and other emergency power equipment that are excellent during this type of emergency.

    Ready.gov recommends keeping cell phones charged and having an alternate power source. Also, have an emergency contact outside the immediate area that all family members can use to pass information about their safety.

    buying-ice-via-fox-news - Puerto Rico Locals had to buy ice to keep their food at a safe temperature - image via Fox News

    Lezcano, who is diabetic, also had to worry about her insulin. Insulin manufacturers recommend storing it in the refrigerator. Insulin supplies in use may be kept at room temperature (between 56°F and 80°F). High temperatures could cause her insulin supply to go bad.

    Ready.gov recommends that people with special medical needs make backup power plans and contact their power company before an outage so it can prioritize getting power to their home.

    Although one Twitter user jokingly compared the blackout to “The Purge,” a movie in which crime is legalized for 12 hours and emergency services are suspended, Lezcano said there didn’t seem to be any more crime than usual. She was concerned about running low on supplies: traffic was snarled, and lines were long at supermarkets and gas stations, according to USA Today.

    Police officers directed traffic at major intersections all day Thursday. Four were hit by cars.  One person was hospitalized after being trapped in an elevator overnight, according to USA Today. Another was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from a leaking generator. Broken generators also caused 15 fires around the island. All the fires were extinguished, and no one was injured in the blazes.

    Lezcano was hoping the power would return Friday. In the meantime, she sat outside and people-watched, her son Jimmy said.

    “She was bored because she couldn’t have her Netflix,” he joked.


    February - Power Banner - Puerto Rico

1-3 of 14

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
Back to Top