Monday, October 10, 2022

Emergency Planning for Writers

 I rewrite and reprint this article every few years, mainly after some event reminds me to.  Ian, other hurricanes, and wildfires are this year’s reminders.  


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 when dangerous weather approaches so you can shut down your 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. 

Are your computer and peripherals plugged into an alternate power source (APS) so it won't be damaged or your current work lost if the power goes out?   (An APS is like a power strip, but it includes a recharging battery that cuts on when the power cuts off so you have a few minutes to save documents and cut off your computer properly.)

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. 

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. Or sync your work with WiFi or your cloud account.  

Weather preparation isn't just for a short summer or winter storm. It's for major disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and wild fires. So, 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 and other digital documents 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.  A SD card is another option. 

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.  You might not be in the path of a hurricane, but the servers for your cloud service may be.  

An external hard drive is also a good option.  

Some external drives come with software that will automatically update the drive’s contents with your main computer to keep it as current as you wish.  Macs come with the Time Travel app.  Other OS systems probably have a similar app, or you can find one.  

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.)  Some external hard drives are made specifically to move about so they are a safer alternative.

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.

If you don’t have links to your bank, insurance, and other important accounts on your phone, set that up.  Have your passwords elsewhere in case of phone hacking or loss.  

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.

Remember that the future you save may be your own.  

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