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Safety – For Yourself and Your Damaged Equipment

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Safety – For Yourself and Your Damaged Equipment

Ensure that you have a safe environment before you begin the recovery process. For your own safety, observe the following precautions:

  1. If the floor or any electrical wiring or computer equipment is wet, check to make sure the power is off before you enter the room or touch any metal, wet surfaces, or equipment. If you’re positive the power is off and it is safe to move the equipment, it should be moved to a safe, dry environment with reliable electric power.

  1. If you have to use temporary extension cords and cables to make connections, they should either be placed where they won’t be walked on or taped to the floor to provide protection in high-traffic areas. Be sure that the cables are rated for the device and appliance they are connected to.

  1. Make sure tables are sturdy enough to handle the equipment placed on them and that stacked equipment won’t fall, especially when it is connected to cables or other peripherals. Take a little extra time at this point to make sure everything is stable, neat, and orderly. Rushing and cutting corners may lead to more losses later.

  1. Once you have a safe, dry environment, it’s important to make sure that you have good, reliable electric power before connecting or turning on any computer equipment. Plugging in an electric light to make sure it isn’t flickering or a lot dimmer or brighter than normal is a good first step. You can also try plugging in things you can afford to lose — for example a radio or any other device that isn't power-intensive — and testing them out.

  1. To avoid power surges and brownouts, turn off — and, if possible, unplug — computers when they will not be used for an extended period. If a lightning storm is expected or the power goes out, turn off and disconnect computers and other sensitive equipment until the power is back on and stable — power surges often occur when the power returns. Computers you don’t want to lose should have a short-term power backup system or uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which also provide isolation. Laptops are isolated by their power supplies and batteries, but reliable power is still important to avoid damage to the power supply.

  1. Ventilation is also very important. Take care not to block the vents on any equipment. Computers can run in a warm environment as long as they have adequate ventilation. Don’t put computers right next to each other or with the vents next to desks or cabinets. Use a fan to keep the air moving in the room and around the computers if you think they might get too hot. In general, if you are hot and uncomfortable, it is too warm for your computers to be running. Turn them off if you leave the room and let them cool down before they are turned on again. Consider working during the cooler part of the day and turning off computer equipment when it is too hot to work comfortably.

Hardware Recovery

If a machine is visibly damaged and its data deemed mission-critical, stop right now and skip to Chapter 7: Tips for Reviving Broken Computers (Page 57). Do not power on machines or try out disks that you intend to have professionally recovered.

  1. Clean and dry hardware you intend to revive yourself. Don’t attempt to plug in or operate a computer until it’s completely dry and free of mud, dirt, or other debris. Your computer may be just fine, but turning it on prematurely can destroy an otherwise healthy machine. Take the time to open up the chassis of your computers to make sure they are clean and dry inside and out. If there’s any debris, remove it carefully so that the computer won’t overheat from reduced air flow.

  1. Wear an electrostatic discharge (ESD) wrist strap or work on an antistatic mat if you need to touch or put your hand or tools near any part inside the computer. If you don’t have a wrist strap or mat, touch a grounded object (such as metal water pipes) before you touch the computer. Before you open the computer's case, be sure all power sources are turned off, the computer is unplugged, and laptop batteries are removed.

  1. Make sure devices such as routers, switches, and printers are dry before powering them up. If possible, do not attach peripherals and cables to computers unless you are sure the equipment is working properly.

  1. Check your components twice. Even if a computer doesn’t work right off the bat, put it aside to check later. Once you’ve got some idea of what is working, and what is not, you may be able to build a few “Frankenstein” computers using functioning parts from otherwise broken computers. Use your triage list to focus your efforts where they will make the most impact.

  1. For devices that won’t start, check out our troubleshooting tips in Appendix B.

  1. Once you get a computer running, back it up if possible. For backup instructions, see Chapter 3: Remote and Local Backup on Page 21.

Network Recovery

As in hardware recovery, safety is essential in the network recovery process. Educate your staff and volunteers in safety precautions before beginning recovery.

Local Area Networks

In the case of a flood or other inundation, a local area network (LAN) can be badly damaged. Network cabling can become waterlogged and cease to function. Patch panels and jacks may also be damaged, while switches, hubs, routers, and other electronic devices on your network may be shorted out by the water. Fully restoring a complicated network can take time and effort, but it’s possible to build an ad hoc LAN quickly.

Wired Networks
To build a simple network, start with an Ethernet hub or switch. Ethernet and TCP/IP networking technologies are the most common networking technologies, and are relatively robust and easy to set up. The hub or switch, which forms the backbone of your network, manages network traffic between the different computers and devices on your network. To create an ad hoc network, just about any hub or switch will do. If you need to add capacity, most devices include a crossover switch or port, which can be used to connect two devices together using a basic network cable. Some newer devices include auto-sensing ports that automatically adjust to connect two switches or hubs.
Once you have a working hub or switch in place, you can start connecting computers to the network using standard Ethernet cables. Try to run the cables along the base of walls and out of the way of foot traffic. Ethernet cables are easy to trip over, and when yanked, can break connectors and jacks and pull equipment to the floor. If you need to run a cable across a traffic path, try taping the cables to the floor to keep them out of the way. (Note: When pulling up taped-down cables, try pulling the tape off the cable while it is still on the floor. Pulling up the tape and cable together is likely to result in tape wrapping around the cable, which can be very difficult to remove.)
Most computers include Ethernet network interface cards with RJ-45 jacks (which look like large telephone connection jacks) that connect them to networks. If your computers do not have network cards, they are relatively inexpensive and can be easily installed in any PC.
Wireless Networks

Another option for creating an ad hoc network is to use wireless technologies. The 802.11b and 802.11g standards, often referred to as Wi-Fi, are easy to use and well supported. The older and slower 802.11b standard is less secure, but also somewhat cheaper than the newer, faster, and more secure 802.11g standard. In any event, either technology is acceptable for an ad hoc network.

Wireless networks consist of access points, which are often built into cable and DSL routers, and wireless network cards, which allow computers to connect to the access point. Access points, much like wired switches and hubs, have limited capacity. For large installations, more than one access point may be required.
Wireless networks, due to their “broadcast” nature, require the use of basic security precautions. There are two common Wi-Fi security technologies. Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), which is associated with 802.11b networks, and Wi-Fi Protected Access Pre-Shared Key (WPA-PSK), which is associated with 802.11g networks. WEP is no longer considered very secure, but is adequate for an ad hoc network. WPA-PSK is much more secure, and is appropriate for both ad hoc and permanent networks.

Devices Setup
Once the computers and devices are plugged in to the network, or set up on the wireless network, they may need to be configured. Many TCP/IP networks use Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) to automatically assign addresses and other information to network devices. Most routers and servers include DHCP servers. You may find that your computers automatically configure themselves properly when plugged into the network. If your device has status lights that blink, stay green, or otherwise light up, these clues may indicate that the device works as well. There might also be tips printed on the device itself.

If your network does not have an active DHCP server, you may need to manually configure the network settings on your computers and devices. For Windows, this is done through the Networking or Network Connections control panel. For Macintosh 8.x to 9.x, this is done through the TCP/IP control panel. For Macintosh OS X, this is done through the Network system preferences pane.

For an ad hoc network, you want to set all the computers up on the same subnetwork (or subnet). This means providing each computer or device with its own unique address. We recommend using a non-routable address range, such as 192.168.100.X, with X being any number between 1 and 254. Every computer or device should share the first three sets of numbers and have a different set of final numbers. Each computer should share the same subnet mask, which should be If there is a functioning Internet router on the network, add its IP address as the default gateway.
It’s possible to share a network with other organizations in a somewhat secure fashion. Ideally, we recommend using a router to segment off the different parts of a network.

Internet Access

Many organizations have become increasingly reliant on the Internet to communicate, conduct research, and interact with other organizations. There are many options for restoring Internet connectivity; which one is appropriate for your situation depends on what services are available to you and the equipment you have access to. The following section lays out a list of scenarios for obtaining Internet connectivity for temporary offices providing services in an area affected by a disaster.

Options for Restoring Internet Connectivity
The list below compares the benefits and downsides of several networking solutions following a disaster.
High-speed On-Site Connection

Pro: Fast, may be free.

Con: Shelters or service center sites may not have high-speed Internet access.

Equipment/Cost: About $150 for SOHO router and cabling.

Notes: If your organization’s host location has Internet access via T1, DSL, or cable, the connection could be borrowed via a wireless access point or a long Ethernet cable, even if you are not in a room with Internet access.

Wi-Fi Bridge (Depending on your location, there may be a Wi-Fi access point near the service site.)

Pro: Can be fast; possibly no per-minute charges.

Con: Somewhat complicated to set up.

Equipment/Cost: Usage charges will vary depending on the type of access. If you can’t use an existing, public connection, building your own connection requires a Wi-Fi/ethernet bridge, Wi-Fi cards for computers, cabling, and an Internet router: approximately $400.

Notes: With the right equipment, the signal can be brought onto a wire and redistributed to one or more computers. This may require an antenna mast or the temporary mounting of an antenna to the roof of the building.
Dial-Up (An individual computer dials in to an ISP over a telephone line)

Pros: Works anywhere there is an available telephone line.

Cons: Connection is slow; monthly cost to maintain account.

Equipment/Cost: None for individual computers; about $400 for a dialup LAN.

Note: Several computers could be serviced via a wireless or wireless LAN by means of a router with a built-in modem or a computer with a modem and Internet Connection Sharing turned on.

Sharing a Dial-Up Internet Connection

Mobile Phone or Data Card

Pro: Works anywhere there is mobile service; faster than dial-up.

Con: Depending on the data plan, per-minute and data-transfer charges can add up. In a disaster, connection can be slowed or stopped by an overload of users in a city.

Equipment/Cost (Mobile Phone): Most modern mobile phones can transmit data natively. Some can be used as a modem as well.

Data Card: A one-time price of $150 to $250 per laptop.

Note: Individual computers can access the Internet using either PC cards or mobile phones attached by a cable. This connection could then be shared on a network using Internet Connection Sharing.
Satellite Internet (Dish captures a broadcast signal)

Pro: Works almost anywhere; somewhat faster than dial-up

Con: Expensive; not particularly easy to set up.

Equipment/Cost: About $400 for satellite and possibly LAN equipment.

Note: Can be shared with clients over a wired or wireless LAN.

Sharing a Network

Depending on the scope of the disaster and resources available, sharing a network or Internet connection with multiple organizations may be the most feasible solution available. Sharing a network is relatively simple, but requires some planning so that each organization can get the resources that it needs. Start by setting up the core network where the Internet connection, if any, enters the office. Most consumer and small business networking equipment can theoretically support around 250 separate computers or network devices, though the more heavily used the network, the fewer devices a router will be able to handle.

Organizations with privacy or confidentiality concerns may want to use a second router to subnetwork parts of the network. It’s possible to use multiple routers to create a number of different subnetworks that all tie into the core network.

For organizations that have less stringent security requirements, sharing a single network should not present many difficulties. The key to sharing a network smoothly is to set up each organization's computers with a different workgroup name and provide each computer with a descriptive name. In Windows, you can set up computer and workgroup names using the Computer Name tab in the Control Panel. For Macintosh OS 8.x to 9.x computers, you can set the computer name in File Sharing control panel. For Macintosh OS X computers, you can set the computer name in the Sharing System Preference pane. Macintosh computers do not natively use workgroup names.

Data Recovery
If you have lost data during a disaster and your backup plan didn’t account for this sort of catastrophe, there is still hope.
In the Technology Triage section of this chapter (Page 42), we talked about establishing what is critical to your organization to operate following a disaster. You also need to decide how much you’re prepared to spend on this recovery.
If lost information is mission critical (such as your donor list, for example) you may want to pay for data recovery. There are a lot of companies that do this. Costs can range from just a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. One data-recovery vendor offers the following advice:

  • Do not attempt to clean or dry waterlogged drives or other media by yourself.

  • Do not use common software utility programs on broken or water-damaged devices.

  • Do not shake or disassemble any hard drive or server that has been damaged. Improper handling can make recovery operations more difficult, potentially leading to permanent loss of valuable information.

  • Before storing or shipping wet media, it should be placed in a container that will keep it damp and protect shipping material from getting wet. Wet boxes can break apart during transit, causing further damage to the drive.

  • When shipping your media, package it in a box that has enough room for both the media and some type of packing material to prevent movement. The box should also have sufficient room around the inside edges to absorb impact during shipping. Ship multiple objects in separate boxes or make sure they are separated with enough packing material so there will be no contact.

If you have backups of non-critical and replaceable data, you can try to restore it, depending on the state of the backup media and device. Tapes and CDs can be surprisingly resilient, so try them out even if they look bad. Make sure the media and equipment is dry; if possible, try reading from the tape or CD drive that you originally recorded from. If this doesn’t work, try several different CD or tape drives: sometimes you just need a higher quality drive to recover information you thought was lost. However, if there is even a remote chance that you would permanently damage the media, do not attempt a restore.

Lastly, look for other places you may have inadvertently stored your data. Perhaps you emailed your database to a consultant and it’s sitting in his inbox. Perhaps printouts of the data exist that you can re-enter (data entry is often less expensive than calling on technology experts). If you do find a copy of your data, back it up and make a copy before you do anything else. Use only this copy, saving the original in case something goes wrong with the duplicate.

Dealing with Lost Passwords

Even though a system is functional or revived, you still may have lost the passwords to access it. Here are some ways to regain dominion:

Administrative Rights on Computers
Windows Computers: If you have Internet access and are feeling brave, check out the following link for fairly technical details on how to reset the admin rights on most Windows computers.

Forgot the Administrator’s Password?

Macintosh Computers: You can use a Mac OS installation CD to reset the passwords on a computer.

  • Start up from a Mac OS X Install CD (one whose version is closest the version of Mac OS X installed). Hold the C key as the computer starts.

  • Reset Password from the Installer menu (or Utilities menu in Mac OS X 10.4 or later). Tip: If you don't see this menu or menu choice, you probably haven't booted from the CD.

  • Select your Mac OS X hard disk volume.

  • Set the user name of your original administrator account.

  • Important: Do not select "System Administrator (root)," which is actually a reference to the root user and not to be confused with a normal administrator account.

Online Services
For online services where you have simply forgotten the password, use the website's password retrieval tool.
If you no longer have access to the user or account name and password, try sending an email message to the staff person who set up the account and ask for your password.
Routers, Firewalls, and Other Network Equipment
Check the instruction manual that came with the equipment. Most network equipment comes with well-known default passwords. Common passwords include (sometimes capitalized, sometimes not):

  • Admin

  • Password

  • Administrator

Most equipment can be hard-reset to the factory settings, usually by pushing down the reset button during startup or in a set pattern. Check the manuals or documentation that come with the device, or check the website of the manufacturer of the device.

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