KZYX "Point & Click" Explores Digital Disaster Preparedness

Oct 10, 2017

On this week's edition of “Point & Click Radio,” the long-running KZYX computer show, Jim and Toby discussed many aspects of digital disaster preparedness.

This week’s wildfires have exposed weaknesses in the communications grid, from overwhelmed phone circuits to damaged or destroyed cell towers. Digital tools, including email and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, have proven their value for sending and receiving information. But they’ve also been prone to inaccuracies.

Jim Heid and Toby Malina explored this along with the importance of having a “digital disaster plan”, including backing up your computer and having a digital “go bag” that you can grab if the worst happens. Links and other information discussed during the show are appended below. 

Audio of the broadcast will be posted here shortly.

Get informed

Sign up for Nixle text alerts of evacuations and other important public safety news: Text your ZIP code to 888777.

Use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to get information from public safety sources. You don’t need a Facebook or Twitter account to access and use these—they’re available to everyone.


Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office

CAL FIRE Mendocino Unit


CAL FIRE Updates


Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office


CAL FIRE Mendocino Unit


Let people know you’re okay, and check on others

To register yourself as “safe” in an affected area, use Facebook’s Safety Check feature. Learn how. The Red Cross’s Safe and Well website works similarly.

Create a digital “go bag” so you can stay connected using your smartphone or tablet should you have to evacuate

Consider having the following in a bag, ready to grab:

  • An extra power adaptor (charger) — so you don’t waste time hunting for the charger you use in your house

  • A couple of extra charging cables of various lengths

  • A portable battery that will charge your phone or tablet, such as the ones sold by Mophie

  • A charging adaptor that will plug into a vehicle’s cigarette lighter (such as this one)

  • A power strip (we like the PowerCube, which also has USB ports that you can use for charging)

  • A power inverter such as one of these, which turns the 12 volts from your car’s cigarette lighter into 110 volts, allowing you to charge devices, power a lamp, and so on. Generally, the more you spend, the greater a load you can put on them. Many include ports for charging USB devices, too.

Create a digital disaster kit

Use your phone or tablet to store:

  • Current or recent photos of all family members, including pets

  • Personal identification, such as state issued identification cards, drivers licenses and passports

  • Personal and financial records, including a list of your credit cards and contact numbers for them

  • Copies of medical cards and lists of prescriptions, allergies and immunizations

  • Pet vaccination records, their veterinarian and a list of local shelters and pet-friendly hotels

  • Emergency contact numbers, including school and business numbers for all family members, as well as any documents relevant to their emergency plans

After the disaster

Being prepared for disaster includes being prepared for what comes next. Once urgent needs are met, thoughts can turn to recovery. Often this includes replacing lost items, which can require documentation. Digital versions of paperwork you may need include:

  • Copies of social security cards

  • Birth and marriage certificates

  • Wills, living wills, trusts and/or powers of attorney

  • Personal and property insurance paperwork

  • Property deeds as well as household and personal property inventory lists

You can store photos or scans of these items on a cloud service such as Dropbox, and use an encryption tool such as Boxcryptor to keep them safe from prying eyes.

Mobile apps you might find useful

A couple of websites have compiled useful lists of iOS and Android apps that can be useful during disaster and severe weather situations.

Inc. magazine’s list

CNET’s list