When the Big One Hits
August 28, 2012 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Best way to store contacts online for a headcount during a natural disaster?

So I recently moved to a friendly neighborhood where folks are keen on earthquake preparedness. We had our first meeting, during which we got to know each other (about 15 households), spoke about what we'd done to fortify our houses, what kinds of emergency supplies we had, and what we should be prepared to do if/when The Big One hits. Someone suggested sharing contact info so that we'd know who to look for during a headcount. I suggested that we put this info online as well as in hard copy--perhaps a semi-private neighborhood Flickr page where we'd put a pic of everyone in the household, their address, phone #, and at least one out-of-state friend to contact in case of emergency. But I'm wondering whether there's a better way to do this. Obviously it needs to be easily accessible (and modifiable) by about 20 of us (some of whom are not particularly computer-savvy) and a few trusted friends in other states, but not so public that any old Joe Schmoe could log on and randomly find us. And it should be free. I see that Google has a neighborhood web site option, but that's way more than what we need. Does anyone have suggestions about logistics?
posted by Lettuce_Leaves to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Seconding google docs, or perhaps a pdf stored in a shared Dropbox or similar cloud storage. That way people can easily keep it stored in their phones/tablets/laptops etc. in addition to the cloud, in addition to paper.
posted by Sara C. at 1:36 PM on August 28, 2012

Don't forget that in an emergency, you might not have cell phone or internet access: cell phone towers and repeaters could be down (either unpowered or even physically toppled), ditto online service providers.

(And if this sounds farfetched: consider that 'derecho' windstorm that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses here in the mid-Atlantic region just two months ago --- among other problems, all 911 access was down for almost a week in Fairfax County, Va., one of the most wired counties you can name.)
posted by easily confused at 2:09 PM on August 28, 2012

Hard-copy printout in ziploc bag or, if it doesn't change frequently, laminated. Include a printed link to an online version in case there's Internet access.
Put multiple copies in multiple waterproof boxes or dry bags with other supplies in known locations throughout the neighborhood.
posted by cocoagirl at 2:31 PM on August 28, 2012

From a security/privacy angle, think about what information you need to put on the list and limit it to that. Maybe just first names and last initial and house numbers rather than full names and addresses along with first names of contacts and their phone numbers. This way it's value to someone in the identity theft sector is pretty low.

One way to make sure you have a copy when you need it is to encourage everyone to keep a printed copy in their glove box. It's unlikely everyone's car is going to be buried in rubble.

Also, do you have a place where you all have agreed to meet? Some place not too far away that is unlikely to be hazardous to approach in the event of a major earthquake. Putting your list there in a dead drop of some sort might not be a bad idea, but make sure whoever does the maintenance there knows and is cool with the idea.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:01 PM on August 28, 2012

Also, this is one of the disaster services the Red Cross provides in times of local disaster.

But, as mentioned above, you should have at least two pre-arranged meeting places for everyone. Again, the Red Cross has great resources for putting together your emergency kit and your emergency plan.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:31 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was going to say Dropbox or Google Docs.

I recall the recommendation being that one keep this information in a ziploc in one's emergency bag.

Part of me worries that the list runs the risk of being too big and just introducing confusion, unless the unspoken objective is that the pictures will help identify bodies. After all, if a group of you have assembled, someone will know if the rest of their household is there. On the other hand, if a kid gets separated from their family, odds are the kid's not carrying the phone number their family is calling.
posted by hoyland at 6:17 PM on August 28, 2012

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