Long-time freelance writer and Takoma Park, Maryland, resident Patrick J. “Pat” Kiger has seen his share of storms. In this guest post, I asked him to share the systems he’s put in place to make sure he’s / — MVR
I live and work in the Maryland suburbs of DC, a place where life frequently is disrupted by storms. We’re close to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, so we’re affected by whatever blows in from the Caribbean, even if it doesn’t directly hit us.
This area also has a lot of trees and an aging, above-ground power transmission system, so it doesn’t take too much to knock out the electricity. On multiple occasions in recent years, we’ve had power outages that lasted for three or four days.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen with Sandy. The storm didn’t hit us quite as hard as expected. We had one scary evening (Sunday) of howling winds and swaying trees, and the power went on and off repeatedly for a few hours.The next morning, we had electricity and an Internet connection, so all was well.
Of course, we didn’t know that going into the storm. I’ve learned over the years – by being caught off guard, and forced to scramble – that I have to be prepared for such outages.
Here’s what I do now to prepare:
1. Back up everything. My big problem in the past used to be remembering to back up everything on portable media, I always ended up having some important file that I couldn’t get to. Today, however, I have a backup of just about everything in the cloud, because I use Evernote and Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs. Evernote syncs every three minutes or so with my various computers, so I’ve got a native copy on my hard drive and one in the cloud. Losing stuff or not being able to get to it is not a big problem anymore.
2. Use a laptop. To cope with power and internet disruptions, I have a laptop, and I bought a UPS batteries, which I keep charged but unplugged, so that it doesn’t start running down until I plug the laptop or the phone in to charge them. I spend an extra $20 a month for the connection sharing feature on AT&T wireless, which enables me to turn my phone into a WiFi or a wired connection for my laptop in an emergency. It isn’t as fast as my usual broadband, only about 1 mbps, but that’s enough to run cloud apps, check mail, and go to websites that aren’t super graphics-heavy.
3. Check weather reports. I’ve found that it’s important to pay close attention to the weather reports. I have an app on my desktop (actually, it’s part of ObjectDock, a Mac-like toolbar that I run on my PC) that provides weather info. If I know a storm is coming, I try to rearrange my schedule and get as much done prior to its arrival. During Sandy, for example, I only had to complete a single piece of work, the text for a slideshow for Discovery Channel’s international website. I got about half of it done before the storm hit. I”ll concentrate on stuff that would be more difficult with a slow Internet connection, such as searching Nexis or Google newspaper archives. If I amass my research in advance, rather than looking things up as I go along, then I can concentrate on writing a draft, which I don’t necessarily need a fast internet connection to do.
What’s tried and true advice for working through a storm? Share your wisdom by leaving a comment.
[Flickr photo courtesydavid_shankbone]