Category: Disaster Planning and Recovery

Less Than Electrifying News

The proliferation of always-increasing battery power-consuming devices has left battery technology in the dust. As more features are added to our convergent devices, the energy gap widens. I, like so many of my fellow earth-friendly geek friends, have been watching hopefully for news of some significant advances in battery technology.

A news headline in Wireless Week today promised the first real advancement. The article started out with the announcement that “Powercast, a new Pennsylvania-based startup, has a better battery solution that it promises is not only reliable, FCC-approved and safe, but will be ready to power millions of small devices by the end of 2008, using radio waves.”

Imagine the break-through this technology promises. But no, the article goes on to state “According to the company, its platform can harvest a few milliwatts of energy within a meter of the transmitter; enough energy to charge a single depleted cell phone battery about halfway overnight.”

Ok, the meter limitation means it will be the equivalent of a Bluetooth-type charging device. Just put the cell phone within distance of the power transmitter and no need to plug in. But all night to achieve only a halfway charge? Clearly the technology is not the breakthrough needed. But at least it’s a start . . .

It does remind one, though, to keep in mind battery life when purchasing ones smart phone. All of the add-ons, like the MP3 players, digital cameras, etc all come at a cost — additional power consumption. Because our convergent devices aren’t a luxury anymore, they’re essential. Nothing is worse than being in a situation where you have to make a critical call, or find that essential telephone number, only to discover your battery is too low to perform the desired task. For that reason I gave out emergency cell phone power supplies to my close friends as holiday gifts this past season.

Speaking of economical, this is a small disaster avoidance step you can take now to make sure you’re prepared later. Buy one for the glove box, and your suitcase.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep watching the news for any glimpse of battery life improvement technology breakthroughs.

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Email After Death

When I read this title in Woody’s Email Essentials I thought it was a reference to the kooky service one can subscribe to which sends emails out on ones behalf after death. But it turns out it’s about more serious issues — how to access the email of loved ones when the unthinkable and inevitable happens.

Woody’s points out that most email storage is deleted by ISPs after a period of inactivity (30, 60 or 90 days). I join the many readers who are disturbed about the inactivity time limit on email accounts and especially the fact that the inactivity might not be the date of death but some date earlier. Aside from any business or financial information on the email accounts, there may well be important personal messages that could be a comfort to family and friends.

Woody’s points out that a Power of Attorney is normally only active while the person is alive. Upon death it lapses and control moves to the executor or administrator (once confirmed by a court). With modern medical care and the ability to prolong life for some time, it’s probably a good idea to have a Power of Attorney to let someone handle your business affairs if you’re incapacitated. At least that means that someone will have the authority to access your emails on your behalf and deal with the issues which arise.

Since so much business in our personal lives is now conducted via email, it’s easy to see how it can be important to enable someone else to access our email if we are incapacitated for any significant length of time. And if we are taking care of the affairs of a deceased family member, we need to move email access to the top of the list, because there may be only a 30 day window in which to access unread email.

What did I learn from this eNewsletter? I have my mother’s banking information, and am a signatory and hold a key to her safe deposit box, where most of her vital information can be found. But I see now that is not enough. I need to leave some documentation and account access details for my mother just in case, and I need to get the same from her.

It may not be an easy subject to raise, but doing it now can save hassles later at a difficult time.

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Are You Ready for the Pandemic?

In the light of the avian flu, SARS, increasing natural disasters which may be linked to global warming, and threat of terrorist attack, it is important for every business and individual to have a plan and be prepared. There’s a reason why two past presidents — Clinton and Bush — have made a public announcement which airs regularly on TV stations urging every American citizen and business to be prepared for disaster.

There was such extreme outrage on a national level when it took FEMA so long to respond to the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. No one seemed to notice beforehand the warning on the FEMA site (now less conspicuously displayed), which states “Following a disaster, community members may be on their own for a period of time because of the size of the area affected, lost communications, and impassable roads.” And of course the larger the disaster, the longer it takes to mobilize an appropriate response of resources and people.

There is no doubt that there are difficult times ahead. The avian flu alone is enough to cause one to lose sleep. Where do you turn for information, guidance, and assistance?

We’re fortunate in the U.S. because there is a wealth of very valuable information available from our government and designated agencies. Some is readily available on the internet, other information may be attained online and delivered to your door. Let’s walk through some of those resources.

The most overwhelming threat, from my perspective, is the avian flu. Why? Well, aside from the fact that it is clearly spreading globally and heading toward our continent slowly but surely, it is very often fatal. And the fact that it spreads so rapidly and without recourse means possible mass quarantines. How will your firm survive if your city or town is locked down by quarantine? Will you plan now for this eventuality so that work can be accomplished on a “virtual office” basis? And we’re not talking just you, but likely your staff, too.

Or will you just wait and try to figure it out later? And hope for the best? The fact that this is not yet on the “radar screen” of most law firms reminds me of the lines at the supermarket when a big storm is about to hit. People buying all the batteries, water, and toilet paper they can carry. Fighting over bags of salt and shovels. Ugly. Unnecessary. (And what do people do with all that toilet paper anyway? :-))

In point of fact, you have a professional responsibility to take reasonable measures to preserve your ability to service clients. And that means at least a modicum of forethought and planning on your part.

Ok, you may think I’m exaggerating the risks. Don’t take my word for it. First, go to the web site of International SOS, the world’s leading provider of medical assistance, international healthcare, security services and outsourced customer care. This is the company that global businesses rely on to rescue their workers anywhere in the world when natural disasters, medical emergencies, or civil unrest or war put them at risk. Take a look at the information on their site regarding avian flu. Hit the “play” button on the map to see how it is spreading and how fast, and you will be ready to start planning. Or at least worrying that you haven’t been planning.

Another excellent resource to understand the threat of the avian flu is the web site of the U.S. Government, appropriately titled PandemicFlu.gov. In the Business & Industry portion of the site, we are advised

In the event of pandemic influenza, businesses will play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety as well as limiting the negative impact to the economy and society. Planning for pandemic influenza is critical. Companies that provide critical infrastructure services, such as power and telecommunications, also have a special responsibility to plan for continued operation in a crisis and should plan accordingly. As with any catastrophe, having a contingency plan is essential.

There is a wealth of information on the site to guide you in what you should do to prevent the spread of flu in your firm.

Of course, flu is just one risk. Natural disasters pose yet additional risks. FEMA has a wealth of information on their web site. In particular they have a guide in downloadable PDF entitled Are You Ready? This guide was designed to help people learn how to protect themselves and their families against all types of hazards. It can be used as a reference source or as a step-by-step manual on how to develop, practice, and maintain emergency plans that reflect what must be done before, during, and after a disaster. Also included is information on how to assemble a disaster supplies kit with sufficient quantity for individuals and their families to survive following a disaster in the event they must rely on their own resources.

Here’s a thought: how about you download and print a copy for each and every employee at your firm? It’s a start. And while you’re at it, why don’t you download and print the PDF Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industryand give it a glance.

Ok, if you’re one of those untrusting anti-U.S. Government fanatics, maybe you’ll want to avail yourself of similar information just recently published by the Canadian government on their Is Your Family Prepared?web site.

Lastly, we have terrorism to think about. And the place to start is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Ready web site. They have preparedness kits and checklists waiting for you as an individual, and you as a business.

They even have a special link for those with pets. I will be clicking on that after I’m done with this post. Why? It broke my heart after hurricane Katrina and Rita to hear of all the displaced pets separated from their owners. Imagine going through a disaster of that magnitude, and on top of that wondering if your beloved pet is alive. Or even worse, knowingly having to abandon your pet(s) because you’ve made no contingency plans. My heart aches just thinking about it.

The American Red Cross has a fairly robust section of their web site devoted to preparing to survive a terrorist event. They also explain the possibility of local officials to advise citizens to “shelter in place,” which means that you should remain inside your home or office and protect yourself there. They offer a PDF Shelter in Place Fact Sheet which you can download and print.

Last but not least, I think that every bar association should purchase one copy of the Disaster Recovery Yellow Pages, so that members of the bar can utilize it should the need arise. It comes in either hard copy or CD. With thousands of vendor listings and over 400 categories, the Edwards Disaster Recovery Directory is the most comprehensive resource for disaster recovery and business continuity information. Purchase of either the hard copy or CD provides access to the online directory, which is updated daily with new vendors and corrections.

Now I’ve done it, haven’t I? I’ve left you absolutely no excuse to NOT address these issues. I’ve given you links to so many quality resources, with access to ready-made guides and checklists. I’ve made it pretty much idiot-proof, haven’t I?

You don’t have to check it all out right this minute. But don’t let it become out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Because I promise you, if that happens, a day will come when you will regret not having followed up on this information. Come on, I’ll sleep easier at night knowing you’re taking steps to protect yourself, your employees, your family, your firm and its clients. Do it for me, if not for yourself. I need the sleep! 🙂

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Life Is Too Short

These words really hit home recently. And they hit hard.

In an article which has resulted in an overwhelming response from attorneys across the state of Pennsylvania, the author asks and answers questions of great importance to all lawyers, but especially to solo and small firm attorneys.

What preparations have you made to ensure your practice continues to run if you are suddenly disabled or deceased? What have you done to make sure an undue burden is not left on the shoulders of loved ones and/or partners?

Do you know what stress is doing to you each hour, day, week, month and year of your life? Do you know how to achieve a balance to protect yourself?

For answers read Life Is Too Short. This article which was recently posted to the web site of Freedman Consulting is sure to make an impression.

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A Year After Katrina

Has there been much progress made in rebuilding the Gulf Coast? If you listen to the politicians, you think life is almost back to normal. But here is an inside perspective from someone who lives there. Ray has been a consistent voice of reality, sharing news with me since the hurricane hit. Here is his latest report:

Good morning and greetings to all,

Well its been a year since the hurricane arrived at our doorstep. My how time flies and how things can change so suddenly.

Its been many months since my last posting so I thought I would give you some of the latest happenings from New Orleans, especially since the rest of the country is being bombarded with Katrina news – one year later on the television.

Some would say that opportunities couldn’t get any better than this. Our president says that $110 billion has been invested in rebuilding the entire Gulf Coast. The mayor and governor are making their press rounds and as I write this the President is touring some areas of the city. Last night he supposedly ate a typical New Orleans Monday dinner of red beans and rice.

Truth of the matter is that Congress has approved billions of dollars for reconstruction, however that money is making its way very slowly to the area. It now looks like the Fall before any of this money gets distributed to the people and small businesses to help them rebuild.

The casinos are doing record business. The National Guard has arrived to help with the crime problem. The city water system is losing millions of gallons of water each day because of underground leaks, and we had our first scare for a storm over the weekend.

We still have a medical crisis with lack of hospital beds and lack of doctors. Last night I heard that over 75% of the mental health professionals are gone. Best yet its still summer – 95 degrees and 90 % humidity. Lovely weather.

It may appear gloomy to most, however there is hope amongst the ruins, trash and despair. Our firm has moved back into all of its office space and we are very busy. We can’t find enough qualified paralegals and secretaries. We are near the end of a major software conversion and
implementation project. Law firm life is getting back to normal. ALA
Chapter life is normal and functioning like it should.

On the personal side, not much has changed. My old home is on the demolition list and hopefully will be torn down by year’s end. My neighborhood of 30 years is still devoid of life, except for a few brave souls living in FEMA trailers.

My wife has returned to her former school which reopened in March with 30 students. The new school year started last week with 310 students. Most of the classrooms are located in the gymnasium and consist of rooms with ceilings and metal studs. They have white boards and brown craft paper for their walls. Americorps volunteers helped them get the facilities ready for the school year. Some books have arrived others are still being shipped. Their is no cafeteria and only 4 toilets available for use.

People are still trying to get their income tax returns finished. The IRS has twice extended the filing deadline. Now its in October.

As I have commented before, life for us will never be the same. The struggle will remain for years to come. One thing is for sure, the care and concern of people from throughout the country and the world is greatly appreciated. Without that help who knows where we would be right now. Thanks for caring and sharing.

A. Ray Lightell, Jr. CPA CLM
Executive Director
Frilot Partridge, L.C.
1100 Poydras Street, Suite 3600
New Orleans, LA 70163-3600

No, thank YOU Ray, for your courage, upbeat spirit, and continuing to let us know what’s really happening down there. Many of us in the country feel helpless. We want to help, but just don’t know how.

For example, our local ALA Chapter — the Independence Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators — ran a clothing drive (the second) which resulted in two rooms filled with over 360 bags of new and gently worn clothing and household items. We assumed that the Salvation Army would come and get it like they did with our first clothing drive, and deliver it to be given away for free to people in need in the Gulf Coast region. Boy were we surprised (and disappointed) to find that they wanted no part of it. We contacted every other relief agency, and none of them were still accepting donations of anything but cash. Problem is, we don’t know if cash will wind up going to the people who need it, or even to your region at all.

I contacted each of the major and local TV and radio stations and left messages seeking help, but none responded. I was hoping it might be an interesting enough human-interest story to spark some bit of news which might yield a benefactor to transport the goods down south and arrange distribution through local churches or shelters.

All the clothing and household items were eventually picked up by a local relief agency. If only there were some way to know what’s needed and get it into the hands of those who need it, I’m sure help would pore in from all over the country.

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It’s Hurricane Season Once Again

If you live or work in the Northeast part of the United States you know that the predictions are that we’re way overdue for a massive hurricane. Pennsylvania has not experienced such devastation in over forty years. Many of us think it can’t happen, or won’t happen, or won’t be so bad. So did those in Florida who got hit with back-to-back hurricanes Rita and Katrina, after fifty years of being hurricane free. The time to prepare is now. Not after! Remember, you have an obligation to your clients to take reasonable steps to safeguard their files, and your ability to serve their needs. You have an even stronger obligation to your employees and co-workers to worry about their safety and take precautions to ensure it.

See my previous post entitled Common Sense Hurricane Survival Tips. And read my articles entitled Preparing for and Recovering From Disaster and Protect Your Clients and Yourself: Prepare for Disaster Before It Happens.

And enjoy the following which just circulated the internet as a gruesome reminder of things possibly to come, from those who have lived through it . . .

FLORIDA HURRICANE PREPARATION

You all should be aware of hurricane preparations, but in case you need a refresher course: We’re about to enter the peak of the hurricane season. Any minute now, you’re going to turn on the TV and see a weather person pointing to some radar blob out in the Atlantic Ocean and making two basic meteorological points:

(1) There is no need to panic.
(2) We could all be killed.

Yes, hurricane season is an exciting time to be in Florida. If you’re new to the area, you’re probably wondering what you need to do to prepare for the possibility that we’ll get hit by “the big one.” Based on our insurance industry experiences, we recommend that you follow this simple three-step hurricane preparedness plan:

STEP 1:

Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at least three days.

STEP 2:

Put these supplies into your car.

STEP 3:

Drive to Nebraska and remain there until Halloween.

Unfortunately, statistics show that most people will not follow this sensible plan. Most people will foolishly stay here in Florida. We’ll start with one of the most important hurricane preparedness items:

HOMEOWNERS’ INSURANCE:

If you own a home, you must have hurricane insurance. Fortunately, this insurance is cheap and easy to get, as long as your home meets two basic requirements:

(1) It is reasonably well built, and
(2) It is located in Wisconsin

Unfortunately, if your home is located in Florida, or any other area that might actually be hit by a hurricane, most insurance companies would prefer not to sell you hurricane insurance, because then they might be required to pay YOU money, and that is certainly not why they got into the insurance business in the first place. So you’ll have to scrounge around for an insurance company, which will charge you an annual premium roughly equal to the replacement value of your house. At any moment, this company can drop you like used dental floss.

SHUTTERS:

Your house should have hurricane shutters on all the windows, all the doors. There are several types of shutters, with advantages and disadvantages:

Plywood shutters: The advantage is that, because you make them yourself, they’re cheap.

Sheet-metal shutters: The advantage is that these work well, once you get them all up. The disadvantage is that once you get them all up, your hands will be useless bleeding stumps, and it will be December.

Roll-down shutters: The advantages are that they’re very easy to use, and will definitely protect your house. The disadvantage is that you will have to sell your house to pay for them.

Hurricane-proof windows: These are the newest wrinkle in hurricane protection: They look like ordinary windows, but they can withstand hurricane winds! You can be sure of this, because the salesman says so. He lives in Nebraska.

HURRICANE PROOFING YOUR PROPERTY:

As the hurricane approaches, check your yard for movable objects like barbecue grills, planters, patio furniture, visiting relatives, etc. You should, as a precaution, throw these items into your swimming pool (if you don’t have a swimming pool, you should have one built immediately). Otherwise, the hurricane winds will turn these objects into deadly missiles.

EVACUATION ROUTE:

If you live in a low-lying area, you should have an evacuation route planned out. (To determine whether you live in a low-lying area, look at your driver’s license; if it says “Florida,” you live in a low-lying area). The purpose of having an evacuation route is to avoid being trapped in your home when a major storm hits. Instead, you will be trapped in a gigantic traffic jam several miles from your home, along with two hundred thousand other evacuees. So, as a bonus, you will not be lonely.

HURRICANE SUPPLIES:

If you don’t evacuate, you will need a mess of supplies. Do not buy them now! Florida tradition requires that you wait until the last possible minute, then go to the supermarket and get into vicious fights with strangers over who gets the last can of cat food. In addition to food and water, you will need the following supplies:

23 flashlights;

at least $167 worth of batteries that will turn out to be the wrong size for the flashlights;

Bleach (No, I don’t know what the bleach is for. NOBODY knows what the bleach is for, but it’s traditional, so GET some!);

a big knife that you can strap to your leg. (This will be useless in a hurricane, but it looks cool);

a large quantity of raw chicken, to placate the alligators. (Ask anybody who went through Andrew—after the hurricane, there WILL be irate alligators);

and $35,000 in cash or diamonds so that, after the hurricane passes, you can buy a generator from a man with no discernible teeth.

Of course these are just basic precautions. As the hurricane draws near, it is vitally important that you keep abreast of the situation by turning on your television and watching TV reporters in rain slickers stand right next to the ocean while they tell you over and over how vitally important it is for everybody to stay away from the ocean.

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A World Without the Internet

How would your firm be affected without the ability to utilize the internet for some extreme length of time? We’re not talking hours, we’re talking days, maybe weeks. Ok, before you answer, think about your clients being in the same situation, and your vendors, and your colleagues. What cascading long-term effect might that have? And now for the #1 question, what has your firm done about including contingent plans in your Disaster Prevention and Recovery Plan?

Fortunately for us, our country has never experienced a massive Internet outage, but a coalition of dynamic chief executives believes that the nation must do more to prepare for this prospect. This coalition includes 160 corporate members from companies such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun Microsystems, General Motors, Home Depot and Coca-Cola. All told, the group’s membership counts $4.5 trillion in annual revenues, more than 10 million employees, and nearly a third the total value of the U.S. stock market.

At a recent Business Roundtable, this august group pondered the likelihood that a “cyber Katrina” will occur, and the potential impact it might have. Their conclusion? Without proper planning, myriad industries–from health care to transportation to financial services–could face devastation if a natural disaster, terrorist or hacker succeeds in disrupting Net access.

The resulting Report from the Business Roundtable calls on the government to do a number of things, including the following:

• setting up a global advance-warning mechanism, akin to those broadcasted for natural disasters, for Internet disruptions;

• issuing a policy that clearly defines the roles of business and government representatives in the event of disruptions;

• establishing formal training programs for response to cyber-disasters;

• and allotting more federal funding for cyber-security protection.

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, or US-CERT, which bears primary responsibility for coordinating responses to cyber-attacks, receives on average $70 million per year, or about 0.2 percent of the entire U.S. Department of Homeland Security budget, the Report noted.

Although experts disagree on whether a cyber-Katrina might happen, all agree that adequate coordination between government and the private sector is essential to recover, should such an event occur. And all agree that the government should be much more active in taking and coordinating security measures to prevent such an event.

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Business Continuity Planning Practices

In the legal industry we refer to this as Disaster Prevention and Preparation Planning. In the “outside” world it’s mostly referred to as Business Continuity Planning. I know, I know. . . in a law firm when we think of continuity planning our mind focuses on institutionalizing the firm and grappling with the issues related to the orderly succession of clients to the next generation. So you need to wrap your mind around this different nomenclature in order to take advantage of some additional resources I’ve found.

Fifty-two percent of the 669 business continuity planning (BCP) professionals who participated in a recent survey jointly conducted by Strohl Systems and CPM-Global Assurance, said they didn’t think their plan would hold up in the event of wide-spread communications failures such as those following a Katrina-like or 9/11 event.

Approximately 25 percent of the survey participants said they use an emergency notification system, 27 percent said they plan to explore purchasing one, and 48 percent said they do not use an emergency notification system.

In a somewhat self-serving explanation, Brian Turley, President of Strohl Systems, stated in a PR Newswire release, “Having stable communications is vital to the success of a business continuity plan. After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, we all saw first-hand how recovery can be hampered by a lack of effective communications. Following each and every disaster, we always hear about that one means of communications that worked all the way through. After 9/11 it was Blackberries and after Katrina and the London subway bombings it was SMS text messaging. The key is to diversify your communications strategy. You can’t just rely on one or two means of communications to get your message out. Today, you need five, six, seven, or more ways to communicate. . . . Effective business continuity planning programs plan for the possibility that communications may be sporadic at best. These organizations take the time to evaluate and purchase an emergency notification system, review their communications providers’ business continuity plans and test their call trees.”

Self-serving or not, his statements are absolutely true. The time to find out whether or not your post-disaster communication plan works is not after the disaster has struck!

I found some decent resources to assist firms in creating or updating of their Business Continuity a/k/a/ Disaster Prevention and Preparation plans on the Strohl website. Numerous brief survey results are summarized for viewing here. If you look here you will find links to

— articles and resources for testing your call tree / communications plan

— tips from seasoned professionals on how to get and maintain executive support for a BCP program. Boy, this is just critical at law firms, isn’t it?

— Tip Sheets on how to minimize potential business disruptions in the event of Earthquake, Flood, Hurricane, Severe Winter Storm, Terrorism and Tornado.

— case studies (in downloadable PDF format) of how large corporations and even one law firm used their plans to deal with actual disasters

— articles and essays on a variety of BCP issues

I also invite you to read my straight-forward articles on this topic including Protect Your Clients and Your Firm: Prepare for Disaster Before It Happens, and Protecting Your Computer, which can be found here and here.

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Average Cost is $97,000 to Clean Infected PCs From Zotob Worm

Fewer businesses fell victim to the Zotob worm that struck corporate networks than previous attacks, according to an article in CNet News, but those it hit paid dearly, according to a new survey. Cybertrust, which released the results of a 700-company study Wednesday, identified that Zotob’s victims included cable news station CNN, TV network ABC, The New York Times and DaimlerChrysler.

Zotob was less widespread, in part, because it targeted only PCs running Windows 2000, an older version of the software. The worm exploited a hole in the operating system’s plug-and-play feature, and let attackers take control of infected machines while spying on users.

A full 26 percent of Zotob victims told the firm that infections occurred because they had no firewall in place. The average cost of recovering from a Zotob infection was $97,000, Cybertrust said. For 61 percent of victims, cleanup required more than 80 hours of work.

As mentioned in previous posts and cited in numerous articles in CNet News and other sources, the incentive for these attacks is no longer about young hackers exercising their nerd muscles and feeding their egos. It’s about seeking confidential information and financial gain. In fact, the article points out that the two men arrested in Turkey for allegedly unleashing Zotob and other worms are thought to be part of a credit card fraud ring.

It’s unbelievable to me, given what we know about today’s computing environment, that major corporations could have computers exposed with no firewall protection. Don’t let this happen at your firm. You have an obligation under the Rules of Professional Conduct to safeguard confidential client information.

In fact, I recently came across an Opinion which specifically spelled out “reasonable” steps to take to safeguard electronic information. (See State Bar of Arizona Opinion 05-04 [July 2005].) Among the reasonable steps suggested are use of anti-virus, firewall, and anti-spyware software, as well as regular back-up, use of passwords, and encryption. I will add that the back-up should be stored off-site.

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Common Sense Hurricane Survival Tips

As someone who very frequently lives through tropical storms, Rick Crowsey of Crowsey Incorporated / Stennis Space Center provides expert advice learned the hard way. Feel free to pass the following 7 tips along to those you know in Florida, and file them away for your own future use:

1. Be generally prepared for high winds, high water, no power, and no running water (if you’re on a community system)

2. Have a battery powered radio that’ll pick up the national weather service channels.

3. Consider investing in a battery powered TV, and everyone’s favorite comfort foods.

4. Keep a 5-gallon bucket with a couple trash can liners in it, topped by a lidded toilet seat. It comes in handy if you don’t have water pressure to flush toilets. Duluth Traders, Cabela’s and others sell the seat/lid combo that’ll snap onto the average 5-gallon plastic pail for $5-$20.

5. If you have a well and don’t have a generator, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to get it when you finally do. Be sure to get one big enough to run your well pump. These usually take much more starting current than running current, so you might have to run just your well for a while, then just refrigerators, freezers and lights. By all means, trip the main house breaker if you plug a generator into any circuit in your home. This’ll keep you from frying the power grid, and keep any linemen safe who’ll be working on the line. This is really, really important.

6. If you normally use DSL, satellite, cable or other non dialup service, you’ll want to have a dialup backup method already worked out and tested. Phone service is usually available even when power will be out for days. I only use this service a few times a year, but it’s a life saver when twisted copper wire is the only way you can access the internet. Make sure you test this occasionally. In the middle of a significant weather event isn’t the time to be figuring out access protocols.

7. If you don’t have a reliable water source (well plus generator), you might want to invest in a few 5-gallon water containers from your favorite Mega-Mart. Fill several of these when a storm is approaching. Also fill the bathtubs, and use this water for flushing the toilets when water pressure is low.

Thanks, Rick!

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