Having access to personal records and identification during an emergency situation is important, but other documents, such as medical reference documents, equipment and product manuals, schematics, maps, and other reference materials may also be a godsend.
If you are anywhere other than at home when disaster strikes, you may not have access to your laptop computer or file cabinet, so it makes sense to keep a digital copy on a small USB drive.
An inexpensive, small, USB drive (aka/ thumb drive) that is routinely updated, is an easy solution to this potential need. These diminutive drives can be used to store hundreds of PDF-formatted or scanned documents, military field manuals, radio, electronics and product user-manuals, shortwave band charts, equipment repair guides and schematics, and repair information for guns, vehicles, mechanical and electric items of all sorts. They can also be used to store vital medical “how-to” reference materials, shelter, and survival manuals, instructions on water purification and dose charts, free USGS maps, an address book of friends and relatives (including phone #s and alternate addresses), close-up photos of family members (in case you need help looking for someone), and a myriad of other useful PDF documents.
Be sure to add to your drive a copy of the PDF-reader software, just in case it’s not already installed on the computer to which you are able to gain access. Or, include the appropriate-format reader software if you are storing e-books.
This safety and security measure is an inexpensive and easy undertaking. Costing about the same as a couple of burgers from a fast-food restaurant, a small USB drive (thumb drive) such as the Kingston Digital DataTraveler is inexpensive to purchase. It will fit on your keychain, and adding files to it is as simple as saving a computer file.
While this little device may not survive an EMP or solar flare event, or a swim in salt water, it may nevertheless prove invaluable during most other emergency situations. Yes, it’s worth keeping printed versions in a file cabinet, and electronic copies on your laptop computer or iPad, but you may not have access to these when they are needed most. Conversely, you probably always have your keys with you, so a keychain USB drive may be your best choice for storing this reference information. Of course, you will need to borrow a computer to access the files on this USB device, but that’s often possible.
An example of reference materials which may prove to be invaluable are the medical documents which are available from nonprofit organizations such as Hesperian. Some can be downloaded free chapter-by-chapter, or they can be purchased inexpensively as complete PDF documents. Note: If you purchase books in e-book format, be sure to also store the reader software on your portable drive.
Recommended Hesperian PDF Documents Include (Example):
– When There is No Doctor (Updated 2017)
– When There is No Dentist
– A Book for Midwives
– Sanitation and Cleanliness
For other reference materials, such as product manuals, go to the manufacturer’s website. They almost always have PDF versions available as “free” downloads.
Another source of valuable reference documents is government organizations. For example, there are many useful documents available from the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Army (U.S. Army Field Manuals). These military manuals cover a variety of non-warfare topics such as wilderness first aid, survival, and map reading. These pamphlets and books can be found online as “free” downloads from government agencies and nongovernmental sources, and they can also be purchased inexpensively as reprints or as PDF versions made by publishers such as Carlile Military Library. These books are available from online retailers such as Amazon.com.
Sensitive or Confidential Data
Since a family member or friend may need to access the reference information on your Emergency USB Drive, or you may forget the password, don’t store these PDF reference documents and manuals on an encrypted drive.
However, since sensitive information does need to always be encrypted to avoid theft, your drive either needs to have an encrypted partition (portion), or you need to carry a second, encrypted USB drive containing your sensitive or personal information.
Always store confidential data such as medical records, account numbers, deeds, titles, passwords, and even copies of identification, in an encrypted format. The simplest way to accomplish this is to use a highly secure UBS drive. For example, a device such as the IronKey D3000 device resists tampering and uses military-grade encryption to protect its contents.
For more on this topic, read the post “Portable Personal Records for Emergency Situations.”