Storm readiness

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The following advice was given on the Mac Ministry List in advance of Hurricane Irene in August 2011.

Advice from the Drew

Drew Janssen writes:

Greetings, Listmates,

As the survivor of three hurricanes and assorted tropical storms, I thought I'd share some small words of advice.

Here are some quick tips for those of us sitting in the path or "potentially effected areas" of Hurricane Irene, but applicable to many types of weather emergencies. This assumes you read these words before you're sitting somewhere awash in floodwaters. I'm in this storm's path, too, so I intend to practise what I preach.

1. Back up now. Not later this afternoon, or some vague time "real soon." Now. Even if it's just your personal files and not the whole hard drive of your Mac(s). Backing up is cheaper than paying to have your data recovered later. I should know. It's what I do.

2. If you must leave computers in a potentially compromised place, like an office, take a copy of your back WITH you. The computer costs far less to replace than the data. Trust me on that. Take your family and pets, AND your data.

3. If you have can only take one computer, and the choice is between a Mac and PC, I think you know what to do. I mean, do I really have to explain this?

4. Keep all your devices charged. The MOST common form of post-hurricane problem is power outages. Got a spare laptop battery? Swap it in now and get it charged up.

5. IF YOU OWN A U.P.S. (i.e. battery backup): These can serve as an alternative power source, provided they stay dry. When the weather gets really nasty, you're going to turn everything off anyway, so turn off the UPS as well, and unplug it to prevent an outside power surge. Your big need during and after a storm is communications, and by that I mean phones. If the power goes out, you can turn the UPS on for long enough to charge up your cell/mobile phones, iPad, and maybe even your laptop, then turn it back off to preserve power. And to stop that infernal beeping.

6. UPS, continued: Disconnect all other "wall wart" power adapters from your UPS because these will drain power from the unit. Use only the ones needed for the devices at hand, such as iPhone, etc. DO NOT attempt to run electrical appliances from the UPS (seen it done, with bad results) because hot plates, microwaves, coffee makers and the like will suck the juice out of that UPS in seconds.

7. This has nothing to do with Macs, but will make your life more comfortable, potentially: fill your bathtub with water. If there's an interruption to the public water supply, how will you flush your toilet? If you have water in the tub, you can scoop out a bucket when you need it, pour it in the commode and whoosh! problem solved. I did NOT do this before Hurricane Floyd (1999) and we had a well at that time. Wells need power to pump their contents. The power went out, and we had ourselves a Real Problem. Never again.

8. If you own a gas-powered BBQ grill, get yourself an extra propane gas tank. If you're a charcoal griller, stock in the charcoal. After the hurricane in 2003, lots of folks were without power here for up to 5 days, and those with grills were still able to cook, after a fashion.

9. Keep clean, potable/drinkable water on hand, enough for at least a couple days.

10. Check on your elderly neighbors. Some of them might be too proud or timid to ask, but they will appreciate it all the same. Check before and after the storm, and especially if the power goes out.

11. And finally, if the power goes out and you have ice cream or popsicles in your freezer, eat them. It's your duty.

I hope these help you survive whatever flavor of apocalypse is happening in your neck of the woods.


Further tips

Adding to the list:

  • Do you know where you will go if there is a sudden evacuation need beyond that projected by the National Weather Service:
  • Notify family where you will go if roads are down, bridges are down and you can't get out.
  • Where are the local hospitals (and their phone numbers and addresses) that you would go to in an emergency;
  • Same for city/town emergency shelters. Give this list to family.

Water is the first and most important consideration. As Drew said, fill the tubs!
Toilet: don't mean to be crude but in the Kobe Quake in '95, we learned a phrase, if it is yellow, let it mellow, If it is brown, flush it down. Yes, it does sound crude, but water is the lifeline and don't waste it in such situations. - HL

If you are in the hurricane zone, evacuate early. During Hurricane Rita the 3 hour trip from Houston to Austin took 22+ hours in a car with a cat and a dog and no water and no open gas stations. Don't wait until your area is called to evacuate. Get out early and try to enjoy the trip. -KP

I will add: ICE! Ice is nice, and when you can't get it you miss it right away. Freezing tubs of water ahead of time will help keep your refrigerators cold. If you're affected for more than a couple of days without power, make sure you tell those bringing you stuff to always include as much ice as they can carry. If you get too much there is always someone who will be glad to get some... - Chris Howard


Contributed by Drew Janssen, President/CEO of Drive Rescue, Inc., and others on Mac-Min in August 2011