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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

How to Protect Your Tech During a Hurricane

 By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay

You wouldn't know that we're well into hurricane season by looking at the weather in the Atlantic.  This year's Atlantic hurricanes have been few and far between so far.  While that may make everyone who lives on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts breathe a sigh of relief, remember we're not out of the woods yet.  We still have a long way to go between now and November 30.  Since prime time for hurricane season starts in just a couple of weeks, I thought I'd take the time to give you a few tips on how to protect your tech.  Since we live in a wired world, most of us have lots of technology that is all too vulnerable to things like lightning strikes and power outages.  What can be especially problematic to both homeowners and business owners is if the power remains out for more than a day or so.  With that in mind, I've come up with ten ways you can bolster your connectivity and protect your expensive technology from the wrath of Mother Nature.

#1: Make sure all your devices are protected against a bolt from the blue. - Since a lightning bolt can unleash 300 million volts, anything plugged in can wind up fried should your home take a direct hit.  This means you should make sure you unplug your expensive electronics as soon as the lightning starts flashing and your windows start rattling from the first thunderclaps.  You'd be surprised at how quickly a homes power grid can be fried from a lightning strike.  Even if your home's wiring survives a bolt from the blue, odds are anything plugged into it will be ruined beyond repair.  What I do when a named storm is heading my way is unplug all my electronics with the exception of one TV that I hook up to a quality surge suppressor/uninterrupted power source.  I do the same with my home's router as well.  When it comes to charging my cellphone and laptop, instead of plugging them into their chargers which are vulnerable to power spikes, I instead rely on a rechargeable universal battery pack that only costs around $25 to replace if it gets fried.  

#2: Don't wait until the last minute to stock up on batteries. - If you intend on using battery powered lights, radios, fans, or any other electronics during a power outage, you should stock up on batteries now.  Wait until a named storm is predicted to hit your area and store shelves will be stripped of batteries faster than they are of bottled water.  Even better, buy yourself a solar or hand-cranked radio or light system that offers an alternative power source that can help you get through a few days in the dark.  I personally recommend a solar charging station that can recharge cellphones, laptops, rechargeable lights, and more.  They only cost around $20 and can be a godsend should the lights go out for more than a couple days.

#3: When was the last time you tested your emergency generator? - If you own an emergency generator, chances are it's been in the garage or shed for quite some time.  Should a hurricane warning be issued for your area, will it fire up when you need it most?  Not if it hasn't been run or serviced for more than a year.  Like any other kind of gas-powered device, routine maintenance is needed to keep generators ready to operate in an emergency.  The last thing you want is to have the lights go out only to find out that your generator won't start.  Take the time to fuel and test fire your generator while there's still time to take it to a small engine repair facility should it fail to operate.  While you're at it, take the time to test out all your other emergency gear to make sure they're good to go as well.

#4: Weatherproof your devices before they go down with the ship. - Should you plan on evacuating your home if a hurricane is forecast for your area, you should make sure all your electronics are waterproofed.  Should a window blow out or a tree limb poke a hole in the roof to let water into your home, it won't take long for the rain to destroy your UHD TV or laptop computer.  Even more vulnerable are cellphones which you may or may not remember to take out of your pocket prior to stepping out into the elements.  While you can buy weatherproof cellphone and laptop cases, you can also craft them yourself from plastic bags or plastic wrap.  I find a zip lock sandwich bag is a great way to waterproof a cellphone.  For larger items like wall-mounted TVs, computers, and printers, I recommend using anything from plastic tarps to shower curtains.  Just make sure whatever you use to keep the rain at bay is tied, taped, or in some other way anchored down so wind and water can't undermine your efforts to keep your electronics dry.

#5: How low can you go? - Should the water in your area begin to rise, there's a chance that your expensive electronics could wind up submerged.  To prevent that from happening, what I recommend is storing them either on the second floor or in the attic until the storm has passed.  At the very least store your devices as high off the ground as you can to keep them out of rising water.  I usually put all my devices on top of my bookshelf then wrap them with a tarp if I need to evacuate or the water starts to rise.

#6: Backup all your data while you still have time. - Whenever a major storm is forecast, people have a lot on their mind.  Do I have enough food and water?  Is the car gassed up and ready to go?  Is my home battened down and ready to face the worst that Mother Nature can throw at it.  The last thing most people think about is, "Have I backed up all my data?" Should one or more of your devices be damaged beyond repair by the elements or a power surge, will you be able to recover all your data or will it take you days or weeks to get your life or business back n order.  If you have a hurricane checklist like I do, you need to put "Backup all your data" in the top-5 since it only takes minutes to do and many hours to replicate if you don't.

#7: Create a technology recovery plan. - Unless you want your technology to wind up back in the 19th Century for days or weeks once a major storm has passed through your area, you need to anticipate possible tech failures and create contingencies to overcome them.  This should take into consideration what to do if your home or business faces a lengthy interruption in power or cellular service.  Is there some other location you can move to temporarily get back in business if it's obvious that the lights are going to be out for several days?  During Hurricane Irma, I moved myself from my home to my place of business for three days since the power was out at home and on in my office.  I did just the opposite when COVID-19 hit and I was forced to move my business from my office to my home.  If you plan for failure you won't fail to prevail should the worst come to worst.

#8: Don't broadcast your situation online if you're forced to evacuate. - That last thing you want to do is survive the storm only to come home back to a home or office that's been ransacked or picked clean.  While social networks are a great resource to use before, during, and after a hurricane, if you value your valuables don't post that you and yours have evacuated during a hurricane.  If you need to inform family and friends, do so via phone or text instead of relying on the social nets.

#9: You can use Wi-Fi to communicate. - That's right, if cellular service is unavailable during a natural disaster, you can use Wi-Fi to do everything from updating family and friends to calling for help.  If you find that you can't call out on your cellphone you can use apps like WhatsApp, Google Duo, Viber, and TextNow to make free phone calls.  Skype can also be used to make calls for free to other Skype users or for a few cents a call to cellphones or landlines.  If you own an Echo, you can ask Alexa to place calls for you free of charge as long as you have an available source of Wi-Fi.  Conversely, if your router is dead as a door nail but you have a cellphone signal, you can spawn a Wi-Fi hotspot that will enable you to check on the weather, send emails, and more.

#10: Use your cellphone as an electronic bugout bag. - Before you run for the hills, take the time to upload all your important contact information and documents onto your cellphone.  Then use your phone's camera to take photos of all your valuables.  This way if you come home to the worst case scenario you'll have proof positive of the condition of your belongings before the storm that you can use to file a claim.  Last but not least, email yourself a digital copy of your homeowner's policy so you can put your hands on it if you need it following a hurricane.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com

2 comments:

  1. I don't know why everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a big storm. I rely on the Boy Scout motto, "Always be prepared."

    ReplyDelete
  2. These tips are perfect to help protect my home because I live in the heart of the Hurricane active zone.

    ReplyDelete

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