It's fitting that this post was one I planned to write for the start of hurricane season - and it comes just days after we get our first tropical storm of the year hitting our coast! We tend to be a little complacent around here (Central Florida) when we start seeing the tracking maps hit the stores and the sales on batteries, radios, water and other supplies grace our favorite store shelves. Florida as a whole can go for several years without having an actual named storm make landfall, and for us here in Central Florida the risk seems even lower; even after getting hit with "Beryl" just this Memorial Day Weekend.
The reality is electronics are delicate things. Even if we just get some heavy rain (like we just had in my neighborhood) it can wreak havoc on un-protected systems. So, even though I can’t force you to be prepared for the overall scenario a natural disaster of any kind can bring, I can give you advice on what you can do to keep your equipment as safe as possible.
• Check your surge protection/UPS – when did you buy, or have installed, the strips connected to your TV & components? Your camera system? Your computer(s)/phone system? If the answer is anything like ‘sometime last year’ start looking for sales and upgrade! It only takes one hit to ruin a surge surpressor. Unless you’ve got some serious backup, (1000va battery backup or better) it’s definitely time to change it out before you get nailed and it doesn’t protect your sensitive equipment! Heck, if it’s a really good deal – buy two. **Note: Those ‘guarantees’ that come with some surge protectors may require pictures of the equipment you have, a site visit from a technician to verify, and they are very strict about how things must be plugged-in. If you’ve had it for a couple years and you get burned, you may not get the money!
• Backup your computer’s information – This is something we should all do at least once-a-month for personal computers; maybe daily or weekly for businesses. If you want to do it yourself, and you think you can be disciplined enough to do it regularly, then purchasing an external hard drive is the way to go. For around $200 or less you can get a great drive with backup software, included.
If messing around with another computer drive isn't something you’ve done before, or you're spotty about keeping up with it, consider one of the many online services that will backup your data for you, automatically. We use Crashplan (Pro, for the business) which is located here in the US. There are other companies as well – another popular choice here in the states is Carbonite. Isn’t the internet great?! Send data to someone else's servers automatically and get it back whenever you want.
No matter if you do it yourself using a CD writer or external drive, or use a service to backup your data: start doing it now! If you get a surge or strike that hits your internet source (cable or DSL) it can fry your system and leave you starting over.
• Check any outdoor equipment and be prepared to bring it in – We might think about things that will get destroyed by wind or blown three houses down, but what about the 'other' stuff we might have on the patio? Outdoor speakers? TV on your porch/lanai? Surveillance cameras around the house?
Depending on how high it is, taking down your TV might not be a feasible idea for a spot of rain. But, make sure if the wind is really kicking you aren't going to get rain or debris in that area. Covering it up with a tarp doesn't take long and might save it from getting scratched!
Most speakers designed for outdoors have weatherproof housings and can take higher moisture and humidity than indoor speakers. Check the wiring behind, though, and make sure they are secured tightly on the wall or if you have rock speakers, they are weighed down well. **If connections will be exposed, put a heavy duty plastic bag around them and secure with duck tape. For extra protection, wrap the ends with electrical tape beforehand.
If you purchased cameras yourself in a kit, it might be a good idea to take a look after it rains and make sure the housing is still in good condition. If you are getting a ‘fuzzy’ picture on your TV or DVR, there could be condensation in the lens and your camera isn’t as weather/waterproof as you might have thought!
If you have a generator, now is the time to get it serviced! If you don’t, taking these extra precautions will help you to get through even the smallest of inconveniences with your devices intact. We always hope if a storm does develop, or a natural disaster occurs, it won't affect us! But Mother Nature is un-predictable and it’s better to be prepared than sorry.
Photo courtesy of Steve A Johnson via Flickr