A Defensive Computing Checklist    by Michael Horowitz
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Avoid extension cords with two male ends, as per: Why 'Suicide' Extension Cords Are So Dangerous by Tobie Stanger for Consumer Reports (October 2022). Often used with a generator, this type of male-to-male extension cord can injure or kill you.

This article in the New York Times, A New Job for Electric Vehicles: Powering Homes During Blackouts by Ivan Penn (July 16, 2023) is a bit ahead of the curve. The reporter found only one person currently using an electric car to power a house and that person had to hire experts and spend thousands of dollars to make it work. Quoting: "For now, few electric vehicles can provide backup power. But executives at Tesla ... and other automakers have said they are working on updates that will enable many more cars to do so ... Energy executives said the industry was working to improve and simplify the technology to connect electric cars to homes, something they said would happen within a few years." Time will tell.


Download Google Maps for your local area. This lets you navigate without a 4G/5G Internet connection. Google Maps can even provide turn by turn instructions using only the downloaded map and GPS (only tested on Android).

Setup emergency contacts on your phone. Both iOS and Android can do this and there are some instructions on this site in the iOS and Android topics.

Try to have at least two copies of your passwords.

Store your important files in the cloud. Do not take suggestions from the Art History majors in the tech press as to which cloud service to use. Instead, use a service that can not read your files. More here.

The U.S. government sends out Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to cellphones, however, not everyone can get them. Check that at least one cellphone in your family can. The system is spotty and complicated.

FEMA has a mobile app: FEMA Mobile Products

June 21, 2024: This free app is the experts' choice for wildfire information by Shira Ovide in the Washington Post. The article is about Watch Duty an app that was created in 2021. It is a trustworthy source of information about wildfires. The app is mostly run by volunteers on a shoestring budget. Watch Duty is a non-profit. Information comes from official sources, video feeds of fires, and public safety radio communications.

LOCAL: Your local government may offer alerts. It may not work, but try to opt in by texting your Zip code to 888777. This is Everbridge Nixle.

LOCAL: Do a Google search for the name of your state and "emergency alerts" to see what they offer. Many local emergency and law enforcement agencies issue alerts on Facebook and Twitter, so follow them there.

iPhone: iOS v18 will allow the iPhone 14 and 15 to send text messages using a Satellite when there is no 4G/5G service available. (as of June 2024).

August 29, 2023 (last updated): How to Prepare Your Phone and Electronics for Hurricanes or Other Natural Disasters by Cordilia James for the Wall Street Journal.

  1. iPhone 14 users can use the Emergency SOS via Satellite service to contact emergency services when there is no cell service. Run a test to familiarize yourself with the process. You need to be outdoors with a clear view of the sky. Settings -> Emergency SOS -> under Emergency SOS via satellite, tap Try Demo and follow the instructions. Older iPhones can not do this. Most (all?) Android phones can not do this.
  2. For backup satellite communication, consider a specialized satellite-messaging device from Garmin or Motorola. They typically cost $400 or less, plus monthly service fees. But they are probably better at contacting a satellite and they let you communicate with anyone. The iPhone 14 feature only communicates with emergency services.
  3. Sign up for power-outage text alerts by following instructions from your electric company.

Consumer Reports: 12 Ways to Keep Your Family Safe and Connected in an Emergency by Tobie Stanger. Last Updated August 28, 2023. The article has both computing and non-computing suggestions. Some suggestions:

August 23, 2023 (last update) Consumer Reports: How to Prepare Your Electronic Devices for a Natural Disaster by Allen St. John. FEMA suggestions for a Go Bag. If there are children to amuse, then either download videos or be prepared to play DVDs. Take photos of your stuff for insurance purposes.

July 7, 2022: How to never miss an emergency alert from shootings to wildfires by Heather Kelly for the Washington Post.

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