People living in areas prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados are probably pretty familiar with the concept of a go-bag (also called a bug-out bag). The idea is for you to have a bag already packed with emergency items like water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, blankets, medical records, cash and any other things you might need if you must immediately evacuate your house in an emergency. These have been around for years, and people have gotten pretty good at figuring out what you might need if you must quickly leave home for a few days or if it might take some time before disaster relief organizations can reach you.
When Hurricane Irene was about to strike New York City, my aunt asked me what electronic items I would recommend packing. Most of the lists that I had seen neglected to include many tech items, which seems a bit old-fashioned, so I decided to make my own list. So to answer your question from two weeks ago about a storm that has come and gone, Aunt Claire, here are five things that I would bring in my tech go-bag.
1) Hand Crank Flashlight/Radio: These made a few of the other lists that I looked at. It's obvious why flashlights and radios are useful in times of emergency, and the fact that these do not run on batteries is a major plus. Some hand crank devices now even come with adapters so that you can charge your cell phone if you don't have access to power. Don't get caught in the dark or without emergency information!
2) Solar Powered / Car Cell Phone Charger: If you're in a situation where you might not have electricity for a while your cell phone's battery might not live to see the end of it. Assuming this emergency does not involve the destruction of the sun, a solar powered charger might be a good investment. If you have a car and plan on using it while you don't have electricity, a car charger would also be a smart solution. Keeping in touch with loved ones is very important in times of crisis, and if you have a smart phone and the cell towers are doing their job, you'll be able to keep and touch AND stay up to date about what's happening around you.
3) Flash Drive / External Hard Drive: Since so much of our lives revolves around the data on our computer it could be tragic to lose it. Even many people who back up their data do it locally and keep a copy near their computer. If you don't see a problem with this, imagine making copies of a whole photo album (for safety), and then keeping it on the same shelf as the original. Your tech go-bag should include either a flash drive with copies or scans of important personal and/or work documents, contact information for friends, family, and anyone you might need to get in touch with, and anything else too important to lose or be without for long. You could also pack an external hard drive with family photos and videos, because in the end, your computer can be replaced but these personal items cannot.
(While it's not really a go-bag item, I feel I must plug our backups page with multiple backup solutions, including remote storage which removes the risk of losing your data in a fire or flood.)
4) Laptop/Netbook: If situations aren't TOO dire, it would be a good idea to grab your laptop before evacuating your home. A smartphone is a nice substitute, but there are still things that can only be done on a real computer. Of course if you plan on living off the wild or in some kind of evacuation center you might not have time for playing around on your computer, but if you have room in your bag, why not pack one of your most useful belongings?
5) eReader/iPod: Last but not least, you have to keep yourself occupied. Rather than packing a bag full of books and CDs, include some of these entertainment storage devices so that you can still enjoy some of the creature comforts of your everyday life without taking up valuable space. Surviving a disaster is pretty tough if boredom is driving you crazy.
Admittedly, you might not want to keep an unused laptop or eReader in a prepared go-bag year round of the off chance that a disaster will strike, but they are things that I would definitely recommend trying to include at the last minute if at all possible. Also, you should remember to pack everything in watertight packaging. Waterproof bags can be found on Amazon, and really nice ones for outdoor use can be bought from stores like REI. Small objects like flash drives can be kept in watertight jars, or you could even use Ziploc bags in a pinch if what you're trying to protect isn't too valuable.
Obviously, don't forget to pack other essiential go-bag items (like all of your hair barrettes and a sleep mask if you are my little cousin) if you have to leave your home. Survival should be your #1 goal in a disaster, but keeping your life in order is also key. With these tips you can start packing for the next emergency. Hopefully you'll have a very, very long time to prepare.