By Presley Dailey, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas
Storms and natural disasters can bring on a series of problems that run the gamut, but one issue that often causes a domino effect of struggle even months after the initial disaster is the damage of digital possessions and the subsequent loss of personal information. During and after a major storm or natural disaster, some of the most crucial cyber obstacles people face include keeping communication with loved ones, maintaining access to important updates from media platforms, and being able to protect and recover sensitive information which can be especially at-risk if not backed up in a safe place. At the Red Cross, one method we recommend using to prevent these technological hiccups is the preparation of a Digital Disaster Kit. This kit will ensure that you stay armed with the materials, resources, and information needed to help you come out on the other side of a disaster already one step closer to recovery.
A Digital Disaster Kit can be considered an extension of a Red Cross Emergency Preparedness Kit, but with a focus on the importance of digital communication and cyber-safety. The physical kit should include the following items:
- A fully charged cell phone
- A universal charger
- Extra cords and charger blocks in good condition
- Extra battery in good condition
- A car charger
- Screen protector and phone case
- Handheld radio
- Extra radio batteries
- Extension cords and connectors
- An adaptor or power strip is good to have in case you do not have access to one single outlet due to crowded shelters.
- It is also a good idea to download the Red Cross Emergency app in advance—stay updated on wildfires, tornados, hurricanes, flooding, and more!
It is also important that you create a digital vault for the storage and protection of sensitive personal information that could be lost or damaged in the event of a natural disaster. Unfortunately, some disasters are so extensive that physical hardware such as computers, tablets, and phones are destroyed entirely, so it is imperative that you protect any files or documents in a back-up space of some sort. Whether its medical records, financial documents, government identification records or personal work portfolios, preparing a digital vault can keep these documents secure and protected from prying eyes or network failures. Living in a digital age, keeping your data secured and protected is vital for your career and livelihood, so it is a good idea to plan the use of a digital vault!
While preparing your digital kit for natural disasters and thinking about how it can help you in the future, it is important than you keep these concepts in mind – communication, security, safety, and duration. Not only do you need to prepare a physical kit of tools to help with communication and news updates for as long as a disaster may have you displaced, but it is also wise to back up your personal data beforehand to prevent sensitive information from being lost or stolen. Recovery from disaster is much easier if crucial information you need to move forward is kept safe, secure, and accessible to you!
Learn how to build your disaster kit for home, work or your car by visiting redcross.org/prepare.