Technology can help us all in natural disasters

EVERY time natural disasters strike around the country, or the world, the first thing that goes through my head is, "I wonder how many of these people are using cloud computing technology" and "I wonder when they last backed up?"

Last year's disasters have provided a compelling reason to get familiar with online resources that exist, often for free, which can help your business a) be better prepared for a disaster and b) get up and operational quicker after a disaster.

The comprehensive approach to emergency or disaster management is PPRR which stands for plan, prepare, respond and recover; so I've ordered my suggestions in this manner…

Prevention Phase

The Queensland Government's website has a range of excellent resources to help you prepare for a range of disasters. This list includes checklists, templates, and specific advice for different types of disasters.

In past columns I have highlighted several of the Google Apps suite, online at, but they provide an alternative to expensive, complex solutions as far as data disaster recovery goes. All your data is stored and backed up online by Google. Get set up on here and continue to run your business during and after a disaster provided you have power and an internet connection.

Diversify the communication lines: install an app for Twitter, instant messenger, or even Facebook on your mobile device to get in touch with people who can't get through on traditional means of communication. A quick status update telling everyone you're okay could be a pure blessing.

Preparation Phase

Back up by scanning all of your important documents, usernames and passwords into a web-based app, which will store them in the cloud. Apart from Google Apps, options include, and

The Bureau of Meteorology website, at, tracks forecasts and warnings including flood warning and hydrometeorological services. A free iPhone app is available.

Secure home inventory software at offers both free and paid plans. There are iPhone and Blackberry apps available.

Response Phase

Twitter ( could be put in any one of the phases listed as it's a really great way to get out quick messages in the lead-up to, during and after a disaster. During the response phase use it to post updates. To keep updated on developments related to the disaster, create a Twitter list of media outlets you trust and watch their tweets.

Recovery Phase

Once the immediate threat of a natural disaster has passed, you'll no doubt be keen to get back to business as soon as possible. If you have a lot of the items above in place, you will minimise the possibility of damage, interruption and loss of business if and when a disaster strikes.

The Last Word

It's one thing to have all this technology in place, but another to actually be able to operate it. In addition to the above tips, ensure you have a solar charger for your phone and any other devices you want to be able to power during and after a disaster (laptop, iPad etc). See or and purchase some solar powered equipment before you need them.

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