When a fire approached her campus in 1993, Roxane Cohen Silver, PhD, had 15 minutes to back up her data and leave her home.
Such preparation was natural for the University of
California, Irvine, researcher, since she has dedicated her career
to exploring people’s reactions in the aftermath of a disaster.
Fortunately, the fire never reached her office, though the area
was showered with soot that could have caused damage —
highlighting the fact that it’s better to be safe than sorry, she
To make sure you’re disaster-ready, Silver and others suggest
• Keep an evacuation list. Prepare a list at home and at work
of items that are essential to keep in case of crisis, and put them
in places that are easy to access — stored in your phone and
taped to your refrigerator, for example. Take time preparing
your list, as some events, like earthquakes and tornadoes, come
“You want to have it in advance of a disaster so you can walk
through your home or office and figure out what you want to
take,” Silver says.
• Back up important documents. Keep copies of your
license, will, diplomas and other important papers in a second
location. For most psychologists, that means their office and
their home, especially if they’re separated by some distance.
For extra peace of mind, consider banking your credentials at a
national organization, such as the National Register.
If you’re a clinician, keep copies of your billing and work-management systems on flash drives, external hard drives or on
an Internet-based cloud system, advises Donna Hastings, PsyD,
mental health advisor for the Red Cross in New Hampshire. She
paid $350 plus an annual fee to have her work files encrypted
and backed up on such a system. “If something happens — a
tornado comes through and takes out my house — I know I can
replace all of that information,” she says.
• Protect your data. Similar strategies apply to researchers
and their data. In addition to backing up her laptop files onto
separate hard drives that she stores in her office and home,
Silver regularly emails files to other members of her research
team, and they do the same. “Even if we’re in the middle of
writing a manuscript, we send early drafts to each other so it
is never just on one person’s computer,” she says. Again, cloud
Simple precautions can ensure that your work,
clients and data are safe in the event of a crisis.
BY TORI DEANGELIS