This last year has been one to remember when it comes to disasters across the United States. From fires and floods to hurricanes galore, the importance of being prepared was demonstrated time and again as we watched communities struggle to survive. But while most of the attention was focused on assembling emergency supplies like food, water, first aid kits, flashlights and batteries, not much is being said about digital disaster planning.

Forget about natural disasters. Something as simple as an electrical fire or broken water pipes can prove devastating for everyone from small business to solo entrepreneur. Even families are at risk of losing access and control of sensitive files and financial accounts in an emergency.

Digital disaster plans should be an essential part of everyone’s emergency disaster planning. We realized that not much of a focus has been on this, so we’ve gathered information and created the following checklist to help you get started.  As we kick off the New Year it’s the perfect time to get your digital ducks in a row and be prepared for whatever 2018 may bring.

Copy important files

Make both physical and digital copies of important documents, starting with the ones listed below. Store physical copies in a secure location away from the home or office. Save digital files in multiple, secure locations such as password-protected cloud-based storage, secure digital storage devices kept off-site, or a secure thumb drive that can be easily transported during evacuations.

  • birth and marriage certificates
  • passports
  • social security cards
  • banking information
  • credit cards with contact info
  • living trusts, wills, powers of attorney
  • contact lists
  • home, fire, earthquake insurance information
  • copies of medical insurance cards
  • lists of prescriptions, allergies and immunizations
  • Pet vaccination records, veterinarian contact information
  • Emergency contact numbers, including school and business numbers for all family members

Back up data

Whether it’s a teenager’s extensive library of school work and college essays, or a small business’s server with everything they need to function on it, backing up data is an essential part of being prepared for a digital disaster. Fires or floods will do a lot of damage, but sometimes a random glitch can cause files to be lost or corrupted. Backing up your files to a location off-site is best. Consider using a secure, online cloud-based system.

Empower your smart phone

Smart phones can provide a lifeline in emergency situations through accessing important files or contacts, staying informed of current events, and maintaining contact with key people in your business and life.

  • Connect to your email system through an app so you don’t lose touch with important clients, colleagues, friends and family.
  • Invest in portable chargers and car chargers to extend the life of your phone.
  • Keep critical files on your phone such as emergency plans, contact lists, and medical information for easy access
  • Download apps that can help with communication or current events such as:
    • Zello: Like a digital “walkie-talkie,” users can simply push the button to talk, it’s free, can be used for personal 1-to-1 conversation or over public channels, and it works using WiFi, 2G, 3G, or 4G mobile data networks.
    • Earthquake Alert: Our friends here in California might find this one useful. Earthquake Alert uses USGS data to provide information about earthquakes occurring worldwide over the last week.
    • Red Cross Apps: There are specialized free apps for fires, floods, first aid, pet care, and more.
    • ICE Standard (In Case of Emergency): This app stores critical health information such as medications and blood type, and even lists an emergency contact on your lock screen so medical professionals can help as quickly as