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High Tech Tools for an Evacuation

When you are facing an emergency evacuation from an overseas posting or a long-term expat situation, you need to transform your household into a highly-portable operation that can be transplanted on short notice. There are numerous technology tools that can help you with a rapid, but comprehensive, household transition.

When you are facing an emergency evacuation from an overseas posting or a long-term expat situation, you need to transform your household into a highly-portable operation that can be transplanted on short notice. There are numerous technology tools that can help you with a rapid, but comprehensive, household transition and the important challenges you face while dealing with an evacuation.

Stay Connected and Easy to Find

You need to stay in touch with colleagues, supervisors along with family and friends during your relocation. For government employees there are remote access tools and mobile phones that can function both overseas and in the US. For family members, you need to be a bit more creative.

Set up an email address that has a web-based interface (some free options include Google Mail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail and Zoho Mail. This will make it easy for you to check email while in transit and, if you end up in a hotel, from an internet café or business center computer.

Some Voice Over IP phone services have handsets that you can use when there is a wi-fi internet signal – typical in airports and, increasingly, in hotels and coffee shops. One example is Skype, which sells handsets that function as wireless phones and, in some cases, can be connected to a computer to make internet-based calls. Having a fixed phone number, such as with Skype or Vonage, will make it easier for people to find you and stay in touch.

Make your Data Portable

When you have to leave your residence in a hurry, if you haven’t backed-up your data, you will likely have to leave it behind. If you are evacuating due to a natural disaster, you may never see your data again. Fortunately, a little bit of planning will help you to avoid abandoning critical household records.

Be sure to back up your information regularly. Services such as Mozy (mozy.com), iDrive (idrive.com), Box.net, and Elephant Drive (elephantdrive.com) all offer off-site backup services via the internet. You can also invest in a large volume hard drive (500 GB – 1 TB) and schedule automatic weekly (or daily) backups.

Another simple solution is to scan account statements for your credit cards along with the information pages of your passports and store these images on a USB thumb drive. Be sure to keep it in a safe place! In the event of an emergency, you can grab the drive and any other portable hard drives and carry them with you as you travel.

Use Hardware You Already Own

Most households overseas have a variety of data storage tools that they can use more effectively – especially for data portability. If you own a USB thumb drive, an MP3 player (e.g., iPod) then you already have the beginnings of a portable data solution. Other hardware tools include DVD and CD burners (increasingly common items in some of the more recent computer models) and, finally, compact hard disk drives that are designed to be portable data storage solutions. Some examples include the LaCie Portable Hard Drive, Western Digital Passport portable hard drive.

Keep in touch with your community

If you are part of a formal overseas community (e.g., an embassy or a company), you will likely want (and need) to stay connected as a community even while you are in your safe-haven location. In most cases, governments and corporations have support offices that assist with organizing community functions and regular “news” updates. Howver, these might not be able to reach individuals who have chosen to wait out the crisis in a location separate from other families in your community.

If you are inclined to take a leadership role, you can set up a “do-it-yourself” community website and make it easy for friends and colleagues to stay connected during the evacuation and the weeks that follow. Examples of group collaboration service sites are Ning (ning.com), Google Sites (sites.google.com), Yahoo! Groups (groups.yahoo.com), and PBWiki (pbwiki.com).

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