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4 critical digital strategies to prepare for natural disasters | ICT Pulse – The leading technology blog in the Caribbean

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Natural disasters can wreak havoc on our physical world, but in today’s digital age, they can also disrupt our personal and professional lives. With the passage of Hurricane Beryl in the Caribbean region, and the expectation of many more Tropical Storms this year, here are four critical strategies to ramp up your digital preparations.

Over the past week, many Caribbean countries have been grappling with the impact of Hurricane Beryl, a Category 5 hurricane that devastated Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and wreaked havoc on several other countries resulting in loss of life and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. For the countries most severely affected, a long recovery process is ahead of them – most likely years – as individuals, families and communities come to terms with the loss and try to rebuild their lives. However, the countries not as adversely affected still experienced disruptions, which may take several days or even weeks to return to normalcy.

Having said this, we are just in the second month of the North Atlantic Hurricane Season, which runs from June to November.  Further, experts predicted 2024 would be an “above normal” season, “with 17—25 named storms (average is 14), 8—13 hurricanes (average is 7), and 4—7 major hurricanes (average is 3)” (Source:  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Beryl was a major hurricane, and we may have up to six more, in addition to other storms and hurricanes. It also means that if we could have up to 23 more named storms in five months – after Alberto and Beryl – we need to be vigilant and prepared.

Over the years, we have revisited matters related to disaster preparedness and business continuity, however, having had a Category 5 hurricane pass through the region so early in the season, which experts state is unprecedented and have attributed to the rising sea temperatures, it seems we will be in for a long and very active 2024. We have thus collated four key strategies

1.  Have a digital continuity plan

Although the concept of the business continuity plan was developed for organisations, considering our increasing reliance on electronics and the internet and how indispensable they have become to our working and personal lives, we also need to understand and develop a plan for how our lives could continue in the aftermath of a disaster. For individuals and households, the digital plan does not necessarily need to be a formal document but could be a checklist to ensure all the important bases are covered. For organisations, a more structured framework is recommended that outlines data backup procedures, IT security protocols and procedures, communication protocols, and disaster recovery strategies.

It is also crucial that employers and employees discuss potential arrangements to keep the organisation going during the recovery process. There should thus be clear communication protocols that leverage email, internal messaging systems, social media, etc., to keep employees informed and to disseminate updates during and after a disaster.

2.  Backup files and important data

The cornerstone of digital preparedness is data backup. Consider making it a habit to regularly back up essential documents, photos, and financial records. To the extent possible, back up to a secure cloud storage service plus external physical drives.

The physical drives are especially useful when there is no (or sporadic) electricity or internet access. Once the device to which the physical drive is connected has power, documents can be accessed without the need to also have internet connectivity.

For organisations, cloud services are especially useful once electricity and internet access have been stabilised. Storing critical business data in a secure cloud storage solution can offer greater redundancy and accessibility compared to on-premise solutions in case of physical damage. Further, the use of cloud services becomes especially useful for having team members work remotely, thus keeping the organisation operational after a disaster.

3.  Power up

A few years portable chargers, also called power banks, were all the range, but they don’t seem to be as popular as they had been. These days, we may be more disciplined at charging our phones or walking with the adapter to plug in when necessary. However, what do you do when there is no electricity for an extended period of time?

A portable charger comes in very handy to ensure your phone stays operational during power outages. Though you may not need to use it daily or as often, having one fully charged and ready to go can offer considerable peace of mind. Further, solar-powered chargers are also available, which can be especially useful in extended emergencies.

4.  Protect your electronics

Finally, although it might seem obvious, sometimes, we take things for granted. We have our laptops on the desk near glass windows, which can shatter thanks to flying debris and expose our devices to the elements. Or we have our electronic devices plugged into the mains during a storm, making them vulnerable to power fluctuations and surges. Or we have power strips and uninterruptible power supplies on the floor, which could get shorted if your space gets flooded.

We tend to assume that we will have time to respond or react when required, but often, it is too late. However, think carefully about your devices and the risks they are exposed to. In a time of disaster, when you are relying on your digital devices to keep you connected, informed, and even gainfully employed(!), the priority should be on ensuring they remain functional and ready for use when you need them.

Images credits: Pixabay;  WikiImages (Pixabay); PhotoMIX Company (Pexels)

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