Revised September 29, 2023 from a previous version
Whether it’s hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, impending fires or even massive hacking attacks, it’s important to make sure that your tech is ready and able to operate even in the event of a power failure.
- Batteries, flashlights and portable radios are a must. Also consider flashlights and radios with a crank that don’t even need batteries.
- Get an external backup battery for your cell phone that can recharge the battery even if the power goes down. They’ve pretty cheap and easy to find at places like Walgreens, CVS and Walmart, so maybe get a second one just in case.
- Be aware that landlines can fail and even cell phones could be unavailable if their towers are down or if the network is overwhelmed.
- Consider an uninterruptable power supply or UPS that can keep your computer, broadband modem and Internet router charged for at least a couple of hours. I have a separate UPS for my modem, router and Internet phone adapter.
- Get a car-adapter so you can plug your cell phone into your car’s power (cigarette lighter) plug. If you have two phones in your household, get one that can charge both devices
- Consider a portable power station, which is basically a backup battery that you can use to power lights, computers, routers, medical equipment and other relatively low power devices in the event of a power failure. You can keep the power station charged-up by plugging it in before a power failure and you can also buy a solar panel (see below) to charge it if you have sunlight during a power failure.
- A portable solar panel can be used to charge phones and other devices (including portable power stations) in the event of a power failure but only during daylight hours if you have sunlight (which may not be the case in some weather emergencies)
- Be sure to charge your cell phone and laptop ahead of any possible power outage.
- If you have a landline, have a corded (not cordless) phone plugged in that will work without power (as long as phone lines are OK).
- Back up your computer and mobile devices. It’s best to use “cloud storage” like Dropbox, iCloud, Microsoft One Drive and Google Drive because those are safe even if your devices and backup disks are damaged.
- Know how to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot from your phone (also called “tethering”) so you can access the Internet on your laptop if your home Internet connection is disrupted (data charges may apply so don’t use it to stream video). Here are instructions for iPhone and Android.
- Be aware that home security systems may not work during a power failure.
- Have a plan for where you can go if you need Wi-Fi access and have no power or Internet access at home or work.
- Make sure your vehicles are fully fueled or charged ahead of a predicted storm. Most electric vehicles can be charged up to 80% routinely and 100% in the event of a predicted emergency.
Keep your tech as dry as possible — have a way to override electronic door locks
We’re increasingly dependent on tech that could be exposed to elements, including electronic door locks, doorbell cameras and outdoor security cameras. It may not be possible to fully protect these items but you might be able to put some plastic sheeting over them which may or may not help. Some items can be disconnected and brought inside. If you have an electronic door lock, make sure you have another way to enter your home, such as a key that overrides the electronics or a different door to enter. If you’re worried about water entering your home, put your electronic devices as high as possible to reduce the risk of water damage. It’s a good idea to have security cameras inside the house (and outside if they can withstand the storm) to alert you if someone breaks in during or just after the storm, while you may be away.
Protect your car
If you have a car, consider parking your car away from big trees during a major wind storm so it’s there for you if you need it. If you park in a garage with an electric opener, make sure you know how to open the door in the event of a power failure. If you’re concerned about the garage being blocked, consider parking on the street, away from trees.
Unplug during power outage
If the power does go out, it’s a good idea to unplug computers and TV sets to protect against a power surge when it comes back on. Don’t panic if you forget. You’re probably OK, but it’s still a good idea. Avoid opening refrigerator and freezer doors to keep the cold in.
CNET has a post with “Everything you need in you’re emergency go bag.”