Getting Digitally Prepared

“If disaster strikes what about my computer? My files! My online life!”

By Joshua Patterson ( Webmaster and Portland Preparedness Center Operations Manager ). Read more of my posts here.

Having access to your important documents would be absolutely essential if you were required to rebuild your life following a disaster.

Owning a computer repair shop, I hear this question all the time...”what about my computer and files if a disaster strikes?”

There are some things that you can do to protect your technology and to use technology to your advantage.

Emergency Documents ! Proving you are who you say you are.

An overlooked subject of preparedness is having copies of important documents which would prove your identity and possessions to the authorities should your originals get destroyed due to disaster.

Floods, tornadoes, Wildfires and theft are all great examples of how this could happen. Families who are otherwise prepared but fail to follow this advice could run into a host of issues.

Once the immediate  danger is over, when residents may try to return to their homes, the national guard and police, who are guarding against looting, may prevent people from entering their homes if they cannot provide proper identification and proof of ownership. There may also be difficulties in getting families back together after becoming separated during a disaster.

Did you know children who may be at school (or pets later found in the open) can only be released to parents/guardians and owners if they can prove their identities. Even trying to file insurance claims will be more difficult if you have no i/d or proof of ownership and if you don’t have your policy numbers it may take additional weeks to recover this information.

What Documents Should you Have Backups of?

Here’s a list of documents that you should have a hard copy AND electronic backup of for each family member (where applicable):

  • drivers license (front and back)
  • passports
  • insurance cards
  • social security cards
  • credit cards (front and back) (you want to have a copy of the back because it has your Confirmation code (3 digits) on it, and the customer service number)
  • proof of ownership or lease of your residence
  • vehicle, boats etc. proof of ownership (copy of title, bill of sale etc)
  • bank account numbers and other financial information
  • legal documents and wills
  • a recent family photo with names
  • recent photos of pets or livestock
  • phone and address information for in and out-of-state emergency contacts
  • birth, death, marriage, divorce certificates
  • important business documents
  • photos of valuables for documentation of insurance claims
  • medical records (immunization etc.)
  • Handgun Carry Permit
  • Hunting and Fishing licenses
  • locations and security codes for safes and safety deposit boxes.
  • It is also wise to back up your family photos and your genealogical information.

Where should you store these Backups?

Having more than one backup for these important documents is essential. For example, if you choose to put your emergency docs only in your bug-out bag – go bag – 72 hour kit, it may be that a disaster prevents you from getting to that bag. As well as having hard copies, my personal favorite choice is….

Keeping Electronic Copies

This is one of my favorite methods. You can not only store the essential documents mentioned above, but a whole lot more as well. Basically you create digital copies using a HIGH QUALITY scanner and scan the document to PDF, (PDF’s can be opened on just about any cell phone, computer or ebook device like a the new kindle.)

Once you have scanned your documents now you have to store them, There are a few ways to do this. Some experts suggest that you use Google Docs, or other file storage services. I don’t see much of a problem with this, provided you also have those hard copies, Personally I will not be storing copies of my social security cards or birth certificates online.

For electronic/digital copies,  I use two methods. For very secure storage I have a couple USB drives. They are SUPER secure, I use Corsair Padlock Drives, They not only have HEAVY 256 Bit encryption they require you to enter a physical code on the drive before it can be accessed. If you don’t have the code, you cannot turn on the drive. Period! In fact I have even had to throw one away because I lost the code to it.

These drives cost about $50.00 from various vendors, (but we have them in the store and on line for only $44.95 for the 8GB capacity model, and $64.95 for the 16GB model). I can I put all my vital documents on them for myself and my family PLUS I can even keep my ebook collection including every Mother Earth News from 1970-2010, AS WELL AS all my family archives and family photos from the last 100 years! Using a tool like this  allows me to KNOW that my digital treasures are locked away and safe. I do recommend keeping two of them, in case you cannot get to one or one fails. A backup of your backup is always wise!

Click Here to Try out Dropbox
If you are going to use Online Storage I recommended Dropbox, Dropbox is great because you can have copies of your documents online and on multi computers, so for example you can have a copy on your computer at home, on your mom’s computer across the country and on your work laptop. If you change the document then you have a backup on one of those computers, if your technology is destroyed you know a copy is off site and safe! Check out Dropbox. There are other services (like Gmail, Google Docs, or Hotmail). By keeping a copy on various remote servers you benefit from the fact that your document is safe from disaster. Many large companies like Google and Microsoft have disaster-recovery servers that if one server location were to be completely destroyed another would take its place without any data loss. But on that same token, your email could get hacked and then the thieves would have access to these documents. Which is why I think its best to keep it local. If you are not excited about keeping Digital Copies then here are some other ideas on where you can keep physical copies. Here are some options for you:

In Your Bug-Out Bag

Besides food, water and gear, your bug-out bags (72 hour kits) should also contain these important documents. I prefer to put them in Ziplock brand (they’re more durable) freezer bags. This keeps them completely waterproof and prevents damage.

With Trusted Friends/Family

Another option where you can store your emergency documents is with a trusted friend or relative who lives outside of your area. This provides another failsafe in case your area is completely destroyed. You obviously don’t want these documents to fall in the wrong hands so it’s of primary importance that you can trust that individual and that they take the necessary precautions. “How Can I use Digital Copies? There is No Power Remember!” Aww the next great question.. I will keep it simple and then go into detail a little later. In another post… If you have access to the Sun you are going to be able to access power, because what you want to do is get a Solar Charger for your Cell phone or computer.

This one is great for Cell phones and Kindle Device . And Starts at about $39.95 Check it out on our website.

And then to charge Computers you will want somthing a little larger.. like this.. You could also use Battery Power from a Car with inverter.. The reality is that in a LONG term situation you will just want to have these documents backed up. It will be much easier to get copies from the government when you have things like file number, case numbers, id numbers, and in the event there is never a government again (snicker) you will have pretty things to look at.. That’s about it for this article. Please leave suggestions and comments at the bottom.. And if you haven’t done so yet, please sign up for Preparedness News – the occasional newsletter from The Portland Preparedness Center.

Anteros Oberon
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