What’s your plan?

It’s been a rough winter for many of us and the spring storms are just getting started. From floods to tornadoes to fires, the wild weather and other disasters can happen at any time. In my part of the world, hurricane season is little over a month away. It’s second nature for me to keep the pantry stocked with canned foods and bottled water, but that’s just one part of my disaster plan.

  • How will you contact family and friends immediately after a disaster?
  • How do you protect your family treasures – photos, letters, heirlooms, artwork, etc.?
  • Do you live in an evacuation area? If so, do you know your evacuation routes?
  • Is your important financial and insurance information somewhere you can get to it after the disaster?
  • Does everyone in your family know what they need to do before, during and after a disaster?
  • Are you prepared to deal with a long-term power outage?

Most disasters don’t give us time to prepare. That’s why it’s important to have a plan in place even when you think there’s little chance you’ll need it. At Ready.gov, you’ll find help for building your disaster plan. Family Tree Magazine has several good articles for family historians on disaster planning and recovery. If you haven’t double-checked your data backup system, now would be a good time. And, an off-site backup system (Mozy or Carbonite) or storage service (Dropbox, MobileMe, Flickr, etc.) can insure those precious photos and documents you’ve digitized aren’t lost in the rubble.

Because it’s always with you, your smartphone could be a good place to keep important contact and account information. Look for an app like 1Password, SplashID or RoboForm that encrypts your data in case your phone is lost or stolen and, make sure you lock down your phone with a secure password if you’re keeping this kind of information on it.

During and after a disaster, communications systems are often damaged or overwhelmed with traffic. If you can’t get a voice call through, try texting. Is your phone set up to post to Twitter? One text message can tell all your followers (your family is following you, right?) that you’re okay. Make plans with your family on who to contact and how during emergencies.

Speaking of Twitter . . . Do your local emergency management agencies use Twitter for updates? If so, follow them. Check to see which local news organizations post weather alerts and other useful information and follow them too. On the Mobile tab in your Twitter settings you can set your phone up to receive tweets only from selected users. Just click the little phone icon on a user’s profile page or your followers page to activate that user. Get familiar with the Twitter commands for use in texting. They could come in handy during an emergency.

Finally, while you’re reviewing and updating your emergency plan, take a minute and hit the donation button at the Salvation Army, Red Cross or your favorite charity to help them help those caught up in this year’s disasters.

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