I’ve decided to acknowledge Hurricane-to-be Hanna. After receiving an e-mail from my electric company informing me that, if I had to evacuate, I could stay up to date on restoration of service via computer or mobile phone, I ran out to stock up on bottled water and batteries (Walmart already was sold out of D cells). At the store, I ran into my daughter (with my new grandson), who also prodded herself to acknowledge reality when the pediatrician called to tell her to be sure to stock up on baby formula before the hurricane approached.
I survived (barely) the great blackout of 2003 in Michigan; so here in South Carolina, I felt I knew what to do when a hurricane approaches (other than getting my tail out of there). Bottled water, canned food, batteries, full gas tank (no gas pumps without power), cash (no ATM service without power), propane grill on the patio to cook meals, etc. I have VoIP service (no phone service without power), so I’ll use the gas engine in my car to power the car charger for my mobile phone.
While all these preparations translate well from the power crash of 2003 to the crashing storms of 2008, I began to think how much has changed in five years—how much more easily I can remain in touch and even work, despite the inconveniences and dangers of floods and power outages.
If I can drive to the next town with power, I’m back in business. With my Smartphone, which syncs with a server in far-away Southfield, Michigan, I can receive and send e-mail, maintain my calendar, access all my contacts, text, record pictures and video, and visit local and national news Web sites to learn what’s happening. Oh, and it also serves as a phone.
With my laptop, which allows me to go online to connect with the main-office servers, I can still collaborate with colleagues to write, send, receive and edit documents and spreadsheets. With Microsoft LiveMeeting and my Web cam, I can hold face-to-face meetings with other ’Foilers or clients and even conduct training sessions. With Twitter and Facebook, I can learn where my family and friends are at any moment and how they are doing.
And I can do all this from a table at Starbucks.
In a crisis, technology literally can be a lifesaver if we plan for remote services and follow an IT checklist as closely as we follow a storm emergency kit checklist. The only drawback is there’s no such thing as a snow day anymore—or a wind-and-rain day when Hanna chases me somewhere into the Blue Ridge Mountains.