Blizzards, Snow, and Computers…


If you’re lucky enough to be able to read this, then it means that you’re not in the Mid-Atlantic States, or your power hasn’t gone out quite yet.  It’s too late to prepare for this snowstorm (unless you’re in Europe, in which case you may have a few days before it travels across the Atlantic).  However, you may be looking for some tips to prepare for the next round of storms.

Tip 1:  Back up your data.  While you should be doing this anyhow, you really want to make a backup of it before the storms hit.  Just in case your equipment gets damaged (through roof collapses or even a power surge).  Back it up to external drives (or online backup services) and unplug them from the computer.

Make sure the data is in a place that you can get to quickly, if needed.  That way if you need to purchase a new computer, or recover the old one, you won’t have to wait days or weeks for your backups to arrive.  You may be able to have the company that’s repairing (or setting up your new computer) restore everything for you.

Tip 2:  UPS Systems.  A UPS System won’t last for days, but it will definitely last long enough to safely shut the computer off.  If you don’t have a monitor connected, it will last longer (likewise, if you have a newer monitor, it will last longer than the old CRT monitors).

With UPS Systems, you may want to spend a little more money to get one that lasts longer.  And make sure that non-essential items (Printers especially) are not connected to the UPS side of the system.

Personally, I have my router and modem connected to my UPS system also.  As long as my phone line and/or cable lines aren’t cut with the power, I will still have Internet Access for a limited time.

Along this line, you shouldn’t just get UPS systems for your computers.  I have a scanner and weather radio connected to a UPS system (along with my alarm clock).  Between the three of them (along with an amplified antenna), they don’t draw enough power to really drain the UPS.  So, I’ll have those electronics working long after the power goes out.

Tip 3: (Non-computer tip)  One nice thing about the cold weather is freezing space.  If you have foods that need to stay cool (I wouldn’t trust this to your frozen meat), you can set it outside.  We’ve used the outside for cold meats, sodas, cheese, milk, etc.  Be warned that if you leave liquids out overnight, they will freeze.  But this will make a suitable alternative to opening the refrigerator for foods or drinks, while the power is out.  If the temp is close to 0 F, you could possibly put frozen foods (frozen meats and such) outside too, but I would be very leery about this.

Tip 4:  Unplug everything.  This is the obvious tip, but people don’t do it.  After your UPS dies (or after the power goes out, if you don’t have a UPS), unplug it from the wall.  Unplug all of your electronics from the wall.  Turn on one light (or lamp) in two or three of your main rooms (you don’t need to do this in an unused or rarely used room).  Make sure they are on different circuits if possible.

This does three things. 1.  It ensures that the electronics won’t get fried if there’s a power surge or other issue when the power is restored. 2.  The lights will show you when the power is back on (without risking all of your lights being damaged in a surge or other issue).  3.  If there is an issue with the power, you may be able to tell by the lights.

Two examples of this.  When I was a kid, we had a transformer explode.  Ironically enough, it didn’t wipe out all of the power.  Half of our house had power, and the other half didn’t.  We knew by trying lights in each room.  The explosion damaged a lamp and burned out a tv (from the resulting power surge).

Another example was from a magazine in the early 90’s. They discussed how your strip needed to protect all three prongs from a surge.  Apparently someone had a strip that protected the hot and neutral wires only.  Their power went out, and when it was restored, it came in on the grounding plug for some reason.  This wiped out all of their electronics.

So, with these tips, hopefully you’ll be a little more prepared for the next storm.  With the UPS, you may be able to enjoy some of the comforts a little longer.  If you purchase a backup generator, you may not even notice the power outage (at least for a while).

Stay safe, and stay warm.

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