I rerun this article a lot because of the various disasters that continually plague us, and with Isaac plowing into Florida on the way to the Gulf Coast and the wild fires in the West, I thought it a good time to post this article, yet again.
Here in North Carolina, we probably will get a little rain from Isaac but little else, but emergency teams from the Red Cross, the power companies, and state emergency management are already on the road heading south to help our fellow Southerners. Good thoughts and prayers are also headed your way from those of us who have lived through disasters like this.
A bit of advice I want to emphasis here is that, even if you aren’t in the path of a storm or other disaster, your Internet provider or the company which hosts your website, blog, or whatever may be, and your content may be lost forever if you don’t back up.
Most blog sites, etc., offer a means of backup in their control sections so make use of that service NOW.
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. 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? (If you are still not sure what an APS is, go here for an example: http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/911559/APC-Back-UPS-ES-550-Battery/?cm_cat=2000000371 )
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 to use during bad weather so keep it plugged in, but remember to 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, CD, 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 home 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 tiny storage units you plug directly into your USB or Firewire connection on your computer or iPod.
You can also store your works and your computer contents online at storage sites, but as recent outages and disasters have proven, online or “in the cloud” shouldn’t be your only storage solution. I have my own personal paranoia about how hacker-proof these sites are, as well, so I’ve avoided using online as a storage solution.
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. A paper list of all your passwords is another must.
It would also be prudent to have a recent complete copy of your computer drive in case your home computer is destroyed.
If you use an external hard drive as a backup, you can pack this up very carefully. (Motion can damage desktop innards.)
This bag is also a good place to store a 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.