Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bad Weather and Other Computer Disasters

Are you, as a writer, ready for bad weather or emergencies?

Preparing for bad weather can be as simple as having a storm alert radio that will cut on, if dangerous weather approaches, so you can shut down that computer before lightning fries it, then you can seek shelter. The storm alert radio also doesn't interfere with writing like a regular radio for those of us who like to work in quiet.

Is your computer plugged into an alternate power source (APS) so it won't be damaged or your current work lost if the power goes out?

Most alternate power source makers claim an APS with a surge protector will protect your computer and peripherals from lightning, but nothing will protect electronics from a close lightning hit. A good friend lost everything when lightning hit a transformer over a block away, and he had high-end surge protectors and an APS system.

The safest thing to do is unplug everything, including the APS.

Also remember to unplug your modem from the electricity and your computer. Dial-up modems are particularly prone to lightning. A cable modem is supposed to be much safer, but I err on the side of paranoia and unplug mine.

If you have a laptop as well as a desktop, you need to keep it charged then unplug it, as well, when a storm comes. If you want to keep working through bad weather, remember to save a copy of your work to a flash disk, floppy, or whatever to move your work to your laptop so you can continue to work.

Weather preparation isn't just for a short summer or winter storm. It's for major disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and wild fires. Always have a back-up copy of all your works in another location, or, better yet, several locations.

In the days before I wrote by computer, I had paper copies of my books at my home, my mom's beach house and my brother's house near Charlotte. Despite being in different parts of the state, all three homes were damaged by Hurricane Hugo, but the manuscripts stayed safe. That experience has reaffirmed my determination to keep copies of my manuscripts and important papers elsewhere.

These days, I also keep a flash disk copy of my books in my safety deposit box at the bank so I can keep my updates recent. A flash disk or drive, if you're not familiar with the term, is one of those storage units you plug directly into your USB or Firewire connection on your computer or iPod.

It's always a good idea to have an emergency bag or briefcase for your writing partially packed and ready to go in case you need to get out fast because of an approaching hurricane or wild fire. Things to keep in this bag include a power plug for your laptop and an updated flash drive. Also include copies of current book contracts as well as notes, etc., of what you are working with at the time.

This bag is also a good place to store that copy of your house and car insurance, pictures of your valuables, etc., in case disaster strikes. Also include a CD with copies of your favorite family pictures, etc., in case the worst happens, and there's no home to return to.

Make a list of the last minute things you will need to pack and stick that in the front of the bag. When emergencies happen, we tend to forget the most basic things so that list will be well worth the time.

NOTE: Do you have emergency suggestions for other writers? Please let us know.

1 comment:

Suzique said...

Good ideas! After being exiled away from my home for two months following Hurricane Katrina, I have begun daily backing my current writing up on Google documents. I can then access and download them from any computer, and they make a reliable backup to my traditional CD backups. Enjoy your blog!