What’s in Your Digital Go-Bag? Five Essentials for Communicators

Technology will fail us all at some point. And if you are unprepared, it could exacerbate a situation and become a crisis.

Even a behemoth like Facebook goes down, as we saw last month. During an earlier worldwide outage of Facebook, Basecamp, the project- and team-management website and app, also went down. In such cases you'll miss pics of the neighbor’s lunch. That's manageable. But many businesses lost precious opportunities. For example, think of the advertising exposure lost when publishers couldn’t link to Facebook videos clients sponsored in their emails. The thousands of companies that rely on Basecamp lost access to every detail of their projects and the ability to communicate with teams.

This got me thinking: Am I ready for an extended outage of critical business systems? The answer was no.

Admittedly I'm a bit of a prepper in the zombie apocalypse sense. So, the axe and bottled water are stored safely with the family bug-out bag. But if the crisis is a major technology failure and not a global virus that takes control of unsuspecting bodies, I think most of us are unprepared.

So, I developed a digital go-bag. You might think I went overboard. Perhaps you want to swap out some geographic or industry-specific items for your go-bag. Fine. Consider the ideas below starting suggestions:

Back-up chargers for all your devices

Think about being without power for a couple of hours, let alone days. Forget about your computer, iPad and phone. A robust back-up power source that can power a handful of devices for a day costs about $100. Be sure to get one that has all the ports you need. For instance,  Mac users will want a USB-C. Some even have a regular 120v plug.

Sat phone

The Weather Channel reporter standing in the middle of a hurricane is talking on a satellite phone. They are indispensable when cell service is interrupted because of weather or power outage. They're also handy when there’s a coup on the island nation where you are vacationing and the military shuts all comms. Don’t forget to pre-program your key contacts for ease of use. Satellite phones are pricey. The Iridium Extreme 9575, has a rugged “military grade” design, costs $1,300, plus $50/month for service fees. And that’s before the cost of making or receiving calls.

Thumb drive with key files

Assuming the crisis you are facing does not include a foreign power detonating an EMP that destroys electronics for miles in every direction, you will have access to your computer. But the Internet might be down, so carry a thumb drive, or several that hold key files, like your crisis plan and templates for ever document you might need to produce. Also, stripped-down contact databases in Excel spreadsheets, old-school style. You may not be able to broadcast it to the world or forward to HQ, but at least you can write your media statement and update reports.

Printed contact lists and key documents

Many communicators operate in paperless offices. Printing things may no longer be in our nature. Still, having a contact list of the most critical people you need to be in touch with is important. Don’t forget to include fax numbers. Even if the Internet is spotty, the Panasonic fax machine at FedEx Office will still work. Also, put together a file with the most important pages you might need, like corporate governance documents, powers of attorney, holding statements and background material, such as org charts and timelines.

Back-up hard drive

Thumb drives can hold just about everything you need. But in case of an extended period without Internet connectivity, have a back-up of all your files. Some organizations have policies that restrict this kind of file downloading. If so, get special permission. And be sure to use encryption.

Adam Probolsky is president of Probolsky Research