September is National Preparedness Month, so I'll be posting a six-part series on things you can do to plan ahead and reduce the impact of disasters, natural or otherwise. Today's post is on quick and inexpensive things you can do now that could come in handy later.
1. Make an "In Case of Emergency" card for your wallet. This way, if you're in an accident and incapacitated, first responders know who your emergency contact is. It can be as low-tech as a hand-written post-it, or you can download a fancy template and laminate a card.
For parents: You may want to also include information on who's watching your kids and who your child(ren) can be released to, complete with those people's contact information.
(At left: the emergency prep card I keep in my wallet, with "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY" visible at the top. You can see that I used a label maker, as my handwriting is horrible.)
Bonus activity: Make your "In Case of Emergency" card your smartphone's default wallpaper.
2. Set up a recurring reminder in your Google calendar/iCal/Outlook for checking your flashlight and fire alarm batteries. Aim for at least once a month.
Bonus activity: If you're going through batteries at a decent clip, consider setting up a recurring purchase through Amazon's Subscribe & Save program, and you won't have to remember to buy batteries. They'll just arrive at your doorstep at regular intervals.
3. Find the non-emergency number for your local police department and program that into your mobile phone. A lot of municipalities have centralized their 911 operations, and the dispatcher may be at the other end of the county. You can often get a police officer on the premises much more quickly if you know the local number.
Bonus activity: Program in your state's transportation department information line and the number for your state's highway patrol, especially if you spend a lot of time on highways. These lines are often great for getting updated information on road conditions, or for getting help in a hurry.
4. Update your insurance agent's entry in your mobile phone's address book to include the policy numbers for your auto, home and life insurance. (If you have flood insurance or earthquake insurance, add those policy numbers too.) You can use the address or email fields.
5. Photocopy the contents of your wallet -- fronts and backs of all cards, at the least -- and file the copies in a folder marked "if my wallet gets lost." Store the folder securely, in either your fireproof safe or your safe deposit box.
6. Search through your mobile platform's app store to see if your insurance company has a mobile app for reporting accidents. Download it and set it up with the relevant account information.
7. Last smartphone tip, I promise -- search through your mobile platform's app store for apps that provide quick CPR instructions and basic first aid references. I can recommend ResQr First Aid & CPR Coach.
8. Are you regularly backing up your computer and other electronic devices to a cloud-based service of some kind? You should be: If your physical hard drive gets nuked in a fire, you'll still be able to retrieve your assets later. Some folks like Dropbox (you can set it up so it automagically backs up certain folders on your hard drive at regular intervals); I now use Evernote as the repository for all my files and work, so that's another option.
Macworld's many offerings include a good piece which includes how-tos on prioritizing what to back up, a survey on which online backup service is right for you, a staggering roundup of Dropbox tips, and a comprehensive back-up plan for Macs.
(Disclosure: I am married to someone who works at IDG Consumer & SMB, which publishes Macworld.)
9. Throw an old pair of comfortable shoes in your car. (Repeat for all people likely to be in the car on a regular basis.) Throw another set of old, distance-friendly shoes in your desk drawer. You do not know when you're going to be stranded and have to walk for miles at a time. (I will never forget Sarah Bunting writing about her experience on September 11, 01, her experience of walking home from downtown in a pair of flip-flops she bought along the way.)
10. Do one of the above tasks for your live-in love monkey/child/parent. Tell them it's for your peace of mind. Don't smug on about how it's for theirs too.