Iowa State University

ITInformation Technology

Use and protect your technology in severe weather season

This blog entry expired April 30, 2017. It may contain out-of-date information.

Severe weather season is upon us in Iowa. The recent warm weather is a reminder that thunderstorms and tornados are not far behind. There are all kinds of ways to prepare yourself for severe weather or any other natural disaster.

But since this blog deals with technology, we wanted to offer up a few tech tips to keep you and your property safe.

Your technology can help protect you...

First, staying on top of the weather forecast is important. Free weather apps for mobile devices are popular and easy to find, but go a step further and spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with your app’s features. Be sure to know how to set up severe weather alerts and how to access a weather radar map in the app so you will be ready should you need to get to this information quickly.

In recent years, you have probably also received severe weather notifications or AMBER Alerts on your phone. These are Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), which are provided through a partnership between national, state, and local governments and wireless carriers. When extreme weather, like a tornado, is imminent, you will get notifications on your phone through this system.

The American Red Cross also provides free apps including disaster-specific apps for tornados and floods. These include information to prepare for severe weather, notifications when severe weather is imminent, and an “I’m Safe” function which can be customized to send messages to friends and family via text, email, or social media. They also include maps to nearby shelters, a flashlight program, and a strobe light ability should you need to signal for help.

...So protect your technology

There are also a number of steps you can take to protect your digital property. For devices that run solely on electricity, make sure they are they are plugged into an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that also offers surge protector to guard against a lightning strike or power fluctuations. Check out this UPS buying guide.

For devices that use batteries, keep them charged whenever severe weather is a possibility. If the power goes out following a major storm, it could be hours or days before it returns. Turning off data usage for non-essential apps and minimizing your use of the phone will help preserve battery life.

Do not forget to back up your devices! A tornado, flash flood, or lightning strike could do just as much damage to your devices and their data as any virus or security breach.

For your computer, there are many popular, inexpensive online backup services that will store your data and allow easy access and recovery in the event of a disaster. Remember: if you utilize external hard drives or backup DVDs as your backup method, store them in a fire- and water-proof place (like a safe) or at another location outside your home.

For your mobile devices, there are a number of inexpensive options. This guide walks you through some of them for both iOS and Android, and this guide lists eight top Android cloud backup apps.

For a minimal investment of time, you can set up your devices to be valuable tools in case of a weather emergency and protect those devices against whatever Mother Nature can dish out. As always, ISU IT is here to help so contact us if you have questions.

Stay safe!