It is a dark and stormy night.
As I'm tap-tap-tapping this on my PC keyboard, outside we in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area are experiencing a raging nor'easter dumping windy rain and snow (!) and rain on us just 10 days after we got smacked by Hurricane Sandy.
Like all those stuck in the midst of a storm, I'm concerned about power outages, that thin line that defines our modern civilization. As long as we rely on power lines hung in midair on poles to deliver our volts and watts, we are ridiculously and unnecessarily vulnerable to electrical loss. (See my plea to bury power cables.)
And we're also concerned about the storm-caused destruction of irreplaceable possessions, primarily photos, digital music and documents.
Over the last few years, I've posted various tech disaster prep and emergency survival guides. Perhaps this is the right time to aggregate these posts and review some of the easy steps you can take and products to buy to prepare yourself from potential storm devastation.
Hopefully you'll consider this storm prep review not as "locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen" but more like "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."
More juice, please
First, let's deal with emergency electricity.
Perhaps even more helpful are these "12 Gadgets Every Home Should Have," a dozen power-supplying alternatives including the Targus 100W ($70), which let's you use your car's battery (and a long extension cord) to power small appliances and devices, battery-powered tap puck lights to illuminate your power-deprived premises, and any one of a number of Eton wind-up AM/FM radio/NOAA weather alert/flashlights.
And I practice what I preach. I own all of these items except the Targus – I don't own a car.
On a more temporary gadget-usage basis, you might want to stock up on some of these portable power packs to at least use your laptop, tablet or smartphone, even if it's just as a music player. Considering both the battery life of the gadgets and the battery packs, you could probably get about two-three days of judicious gadget usage sans AC recharging with any one of these.
To provide power for your desktop PC, I suggest a universal power supply (UPS, not to be confused with the brown-clad delivery folks) from APC. For between $50 and $250, you can get a UPS to provide anywhere from a few minutes up to two hours of power to at least finish what you're working on and properly shutdown your system. No home office should be without one.
Protect your pictures, music
There is no reason why your irreplaceable photos should be in danger from anything Mother Nature punishes us with.
Your first emergency preparation should be to spend an afternoon or two and scan your photos into your PC. I am in possession of boxes of decades- and even century-old photos from my parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents, such as the one above, all safely scanned and stored.
Once you've scanned your photos into your PC, save them in varying places. I reviewed a number of back-up schemes including DVD or Blu-ray, an external disk drive and/or the cloud in my "How To Easily and Cheaply Back-up Your PC" post.
The safest hard drive to store your digital goods on is a black box-like drive from IoSafe, which makes both portable and desktop drives designed to survive the worst conditions, including being submerged in up to 30 feet of water for three days.
The company also includes data recovery insurance and services with all its hard drives.
Personally, I'm a digital belt-and-suspenders kind of guy. I have my digital photos stashed in multiple physical and virtual locations and on multiple media – I refuse to lose any of my pictures to any cause, including a simple (or not-so-simple) hard drive crash.
Once you've scanned and stashed your digital photos, I suggest storing the originals off-site in a safe, fire- and flood-proof storage facility or safety deposit box.
If you are an iTunes music shopper, I suggest investing the $25 annual subscription to iTunes Match, Apple's cloud-based music storage service. All your music – even music you've ripped from a CD – is stored and can be downloaded from the cloud whenever.
If you storm prepare correctly, power or data loss shouldn't be a major concern. Just less important things like food, water and heat.