May 2011 Edition
Prepare for Disaster
No one can prepare for a disaster like the one Japan recently faced. But the crisis serves as a good reminder to be ready for less shattering events, such as blizzards, hurricanes, and earthquakes that toss a bit of chaos into your life.
Being prepared can make the difference between cruising through a crisis or being completely at the mercy of fate. Here are a handful of essentials culled from groups that know best--emergency planning organizations.
Cover the Basics:
- Food--Have a three-day supply of non-perishable food on hand. The emergency stash should include food that requires no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water. Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables, protein or fruit bars, and dry cereal or granola all work. If you don't want to put your own kit together, many warehouse clubs sell complete kits.
- Water--Include a three-day supply of water per person. One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
- Know where and how to shut off the water, power, and gas and have the tools and flashlights in place at each key utility spot.
- Have a first-aid kit at the ready. Be certain to plan for special medical needs, by having prescription drugs, glucose monitors, and so forth, on hand.
- If you live in areas prone to certain natural disasters, such as earthquakes in California or blizzards in Quebec, you can find specific recommendations for such events. FEMA (www.fema.gov/plan/index.shtm), for example, offers advice about what to do for everything from dam failures, wildfires, and landslides, to volcanoes, floods, and tsunamis. Find American state-specific information at www.ready.gov/america/local/index.html
- Point person--Identify an out-of town person who can serve as a communications point person. After a disaster, often you can make long-distant calls, but not local ones. Every family member should know how to reach the contact, who can help to coordinate among separated family members. Be sure the point person knows of the plan and has contact information for each family member.
- Special needs--Those who are visually- or hearing-impaired or those with physical challenges may need extra attention. Here's a quick reference guide (www.fema.gov/plan/prepare/specialplans.shtm) to help those with unique requirements, and here's (www.ready.gov/america/getakit/seniors.html) insight on addressing seniors' special needs.
- Have a plan for pets, and consider the food, medicine, and toys your animal will need.
- Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness--www.ccep.ca
- Preparedness.com emergency checklist-- http://preparedness.com/emprepchecli.html
11 smartphone safety strategies
A recent study by Norton by Symantec indicates that 36 percent of U.S. consumers and 33 percent of Canadian consumers have been victims of cell phone theft or loss.
Miami, New York, and Los Angeles topped the list as U.S. cities with the highest rate of cell phone loss or theft. In Canada, the top cities were Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
But no longer is a phone just a phone. If you use an iPhone, Blackberry, and so forth, you're carrying around a computer teeming with a wealth of personal information--credit card numbers, financial data, and access codes--that can be a boon to thieves.
So if your phone is stolen, treat it as if your wallet had been stolen or lost. And take measures to protect your data.
Here are 11 ideas:
1. Don't leave your smartphone on the dashboard in your car, on the table of a cafe, or in an easily accessible backpack pocket.
2. Spend time to really learn how your device works and understand its capabilities.
3. Be cautious about using your device in public. Understand that there's a risk of someone running by and snatching your phone from your hand on the street or on public transit.
4. Use a password to lock down your phone. Without password protection, a thief has full, instant access to everything on your phone. Disable automatic username and password functions that let you automatically log into password-protected sites. The automation is convenient for you. Unfortunately, it's also convenient for thieves.
5. Choose short idle times. Your device automatically locks itself after a certain amount of time that it's not been used. Learn how to adjust the idle time. The aim is to shorten the time amount of time that criminals have to root through your data.
6. Report a theft to the police and call your cell service provider immediately. Also consider what other information, such as credit card and online banking numbers, are on your phone so you can alert those financial institutions.
7. It's possible to remotely wipe away the data on your phone, and there are apps to help you locate missing phones. Familiarize yourself with the applications and steps specific to your phone and understand how such things are done before you actually need the knowledge.
8. Thieves don't need physical custody of your device to track your movements or do malicious things. Phones can get infested with viruses and spyware, for instance. So be cautious about what you click on and what you download. Take the same precautions you do when you're using a desktop computer.
9. And though it's tedious, read and understand the terms and agreements before downloading an application, especially free ones from unknown sources. Be certain that you're not agreeing to give up a slew of personal data in exchange for using the app.
10. Be leery of free Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes, airports, and hotels. Rely on secure wireless connections for e-mail, social networking, and any transaction that requires a credit card number. For Wi-Fi safety tips, see www.onguardonline.gov/topics/hotspots.aspx.
11. Before selling, donating, or recycling an old phone, wipe the phone clean of personal data. Consult your manual and online articles for advice on effective wiping strategies.