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Not Another Survival Flash Drive Article (Part 1: Data Storage Methods and Personal Information)

Monday, 03 September 2012 01:37 Written by 

If you are new to prepping or a veteran, you have likely come across articles that recommend using a flash drive, a memory card, or an external hard drive to store important documents and reference materials. Some sources will recommend having hard copies of important documents, sealed in a waterproof bag. Both of these methods work, but there is a better way to store important information. Here enters the survival tablet.

Survival Storage Devices

Before we get into the survival tablet, we will first identify our survival data storage system. Next we will look at the methods of storing information, identify products that are great data storage options, identify their benefits, and compare them to the tablet method. Why you may ask? Tablets are expensive, and we want to ensure we meet every prepper’s budget.

The Prepper Link Survival Data Storage System

There are several good websites that recommend what types of information you should store. We have compiled a list of their recommendations, vetted the items, compared it to our personal experiences, and have developed a system that you can use. Additionally, we have categorized this information and we will release three separate articles that you can use to develop a personalized system. The key here is digital. We will also recommend products and will provide downloads so you can start storing your information digitally, or you can supplement your current data storage methods.

Part 1: Data Storage Methods and Personal Information – Prepper Link’s Data Storage overview, recommended products, introduction to tablets (Kindle Fire), and storing personal information.

Part 2: Reference Materials – Getting out of the paper mindset, finding .pdf documents, and purchasing digital media.

Part 3: Reference Videos – Leveraging YouTube, downloading YouTube videos, and converting .flv files to .mp4 files.

Flash Drive, Memory Card, and External Hard Drive Methods 

Using a flash drive or memory card are the most cost effective methods of storing information in a digital and portable format. For around $10, you can store 16GB of data. If you are not computer smart, 16GB is enough storage capacity for 4,000 songs or 4,800 photos, so let’s just say it has enough room to store your survival documents and reference materials. Some flash drives can be attached to a key chain, and you can use a case for a memory card, so it can be placed in your Every Day Carry (EDC). However, if not properly protected, both can be damaged easily.

If you are looking for a more durable solution, you can purchase a ruggedized flash drive. While a rugged solution is more costly, your data will be better protected from the elements. Products we like: Corsair Flash Survivor USB 3.0 16GB Drive and LaCie XtremKey 16 GB All-Terrain USB 2.0 Flash Drive.

External hard drives provide even more storage capacity. I have used external hard drives, in several different configurations, while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. My mobile hard drive of choice was a Western Digital (WD) My Passport. When selecting an external hard drive, I would recommend a 250GB or larger hard drive. The WD My Passport 320GB will run around $65. If purchasing an external hard drive, we recommend also purchasing a rugged case; as most external hard drives are not moisture or impact resistant. The WD Nomad Rugged Case (around $20) is designed for the WD My Passport hard drives, and is impact, moisture, and dust resistant, and has a carabineer attachment ring which can used to secure the hard drive inside your Survival Bag.

Another External Hard Drive option is the Silicon Power Rugged Armor A80. Out of the box, these drives are waterproof (IPX7 waterproof standards), dust proof, pressure proof, and can endure a drop of about 4 feet (MIL-STD-810F 516.5). It is marketed as a military grade hard drive, and reviews very well. The Silicon Power Rugged Armor A80 500GB external hard drive ($62) is actually cheaper than the Western Digital, and does not require a case to protect it from the elements.

Flash Drive, Memory Card, and External Hard Drive Survival Assessment

If you are on a budget, a flash drive or memory card will be more than enough to store your important information and some reference materials. If I had to choose between a flash drive or memory card, I would go with the flash drive. Flash drives will last longer, as memory cards can be easily damaged.

An external hard drive provides a lot more capability, and can store hours of videos and most if not all of your music and movie collections for entertainment purposes.  External hard drives can also be packed very easily, as most will fit inside a pocket. However, if the external hard drive is not ruggedized, you must purchase a case. Moisture and dust are you biggest enemies here.

The problem with flash drives, memory cards, and external hard drives is that they are paper weights unless you have a way of accessing the information. These methods require a computer, smart phone, or other viewing device. So if we look at this from a survival, specifically Bug Out or evacuation, perspective if you use these methods you will also need to pack a computer in your Survival Bag. How many of us factor carrying a computer alongside your survival gear?

Hard Copy Documents and Waterproof Bags Survival Assessment 

Some sources claim you should have hard copies of important documents stored in waterproof bags. Sure, this makes sense in theory, but how many documents are you expected to carry around on your person or in your survival bag? My separation agreement and divorce paper comprise of more than 30 pages, front and back. All kidding aside; so where am I supposed to carry all of my other important documents? I have a file cabinet in my house, full of “important documents.”

For comparison purposes, let’s say you already have a computer and a means to scan documents. It would be cheaper to use a flash drive with digital documents, when compared to printing costs and purchasing a waterproof bag. Not to mention the added weight of potentially several hundred documents. So in Prepper Link’s opinion, carrying hard copies of documents is not feasible in a survival situation.  Take our assessment for what it is worth. 

The Survival Tablet 

Having used file cabinets, external hard drives, flash drives, and memory cards, we wanted to have a means to store important information, but also have it self-contained and useable without needing multiple devices. My survival and reference library contains over 50 books, and that does not even include dozens of .pdf documents and magazines. Books are heavy, especially when you have over 50. Even if you were to pick just 5 books, they would likely fill a back pack. The challenge here is having all this information portable, and taking up as little room and weight as possible. The reality is, most prepping related books are already in digital format, and purchasing digitally is usually cheaper than purchasing a hard copy. Using external storage devices only get you part of the way there, as they still require the use of a computer to view the data.

The tablet computer is a perfect compromise between storage capacity and having a means to view your digital information. There are several options when considering a tablet computer. I went with a Kindle Fire, but any tablet can be used. Why the Kindle Fire? I am a big fan of Amazon, a member of Amazon Prime, and stream free and paid digital content from Amazon daily. So for me, it was the best choice. Additionally, I did not need GPS capability, nor did I want to purchase a data package from my cell phone company. And, the Kindle has one of the best price points (around $200). It is by no means a replacement for a more capable tablet, such as the iPad, but it meets my needs. If you already have a tablet, use it. I am not advocating the need to purchase a Kindle Fire. 

One downside of the Kindle Fire is its storage capacity. The Kindle has 8GB of storage, but only about 5 - 6GB is useable. Even with the limitations, I believe it is more than adequate for storing important information, reference materials, and reference videos. If you use a Kindle Fire, or other low storage capacity tablet, you will have to prioritize what information you want to store on your tablet, and what information remains on your computer, external hard drive, flash drive, or memory card. But rest easy; a Kindle Fire can store over 6,000 books. 

General Tablet Considerations 

Aside from the storage capability, tablets have differing operating systems, with the main ones being Android, Blackberry, Windows, and Apples iOS. So when purchasing applications, called apps, for your tablet, you must ensure they are compatible with your tablet's operating system. Applications are programs that provide additional capability or features for your tablet. Apps can include weather programs, spreadsheets or lists, internet browsers, and games. 

Since the screen on most tablets is exposed, it is recommended to purchase a case for your tablet. For the Kindle Fire, I purchased a Marware shell, which protects against impacts and scratches. This does not make the tablet waterproof, but it does provide a little protection. It is still recommended to place the tablet in a waterproof bag when you are in the field. Additionally, it is a good idea to purchase screen protector film for your tablet. 

Kindle Fire Recommend Apps (Android Operating System) 

The Kindle Fire uses the Android operating system. You will have to determine if your Android device is capable of using the same applications. At the time of this article, we are currently recommending only one required application to use with your Android tablet; as it is the backbone for our Survival Data Storage System. 

Quickoffice Pro – The QuickOffice Pro application ($15) is intended for mobile phones, but is also compatible with the Kindle Fire. If you have a different Android based tablet, possibly Android Honeycomb, then look at the Quickoffice Pro HD ($20, HD is not compatible with the Kindle Fire). These apps allow you to read, create, and modify Microsoft (MS) Word documents, MS PowerPoint slides, MS Excel spreadsheets, and .pdf files. 

There are other “Microsoft-ish” apps out there. Just make sure they have tools that can create spreadsheets or lists and view .pdf documents. 

Important Personal Information 

So now that we have covered the available storage devices, we will now look at what personal information you should store. Please see our Downloads section for folder structure, and a how-to for placing documents on your tablet. As stated earlier, you can use any type of digital media storage device; the key here is to go digital. So what personal information do you need to store? 

1. Contact Information – Can include a spreadsheet with important contacts, organized by family, friends, and survival/prepping group members. The contact information tracker can consist of phone numbers, addresses, call signs, emergency services contact information, or anyone you may want to contact later. Sure, these can all be stored in your phone, but you should have a redundant system in place. Please see our attached spreadsheet for an example. 

2. Identification Cards – You should have a digital copy of each government issued identification card and license in your possession. During an emergency, you may forget to get your actual card, if not located in your wallet or purse. Additionally, you may lose these identification cards, so having a digital copy is just another redundant method of storing this information. Identification cards include: Driver’s license, state identification card, Social Security Card, and Passport. You should have a copy for every member in your family. 

3. Current Photographs – Hopefully you will never need to show a photograph of a loved one to emergency services, but in case you have to you can show a digital picture. Additionally, having a picture stored on your device can prove ownership. 

4. Insurance – Have copies of your insurance cards to include: vehicles, home owner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, personal property insurance, and recreational vehicles. 

5. Legal Documents – Legal documents can consist of several hundred documents, and includes wills, marriage certificate, divorce, custody and separation agreements, power of attorneys, and/or restraining orders. 

6. Financial Documents – Have copies of bank and saving account numbers and documents, credit card numbers and documents, retirement accounts, stocks/bonds, or any other financial related document. If a total collapse; well these documents will be useless. But, hopefully you can use this information post disaster. 

7. Medical – You can keep copies of your medical records, shot records, and prescriptions. Since your medical files are likely located at your doctor’s office, ask them to make a copy of them for you. Then scan in the copies to a .pdf document. Having a copy of your prescriptions could also keep you out of trouble if interrogated by law enforcement because they discover your medications. 

8. Titles – Have copies of your property, vehicle, and recreational vehicle titles or loan agreements. You never know if you will have to prove ownership during or post collapse. 

9. Permits and Licenses – You may be required to show different types of licenses during a collapse situation. Have copies of your firearms, conceal carry, and/or business licenses. It is also a good idea to keep a copy of state issued hunting and fishing licenses. 

What’s in the Attachment 

Located in the Part 1 Attachment is a set of folders. Try to keep everything located in the Important Personal Information folder, as this is part of the Prepper Link system. However, you can move, rename, or delete as necessary. Additionally, there are several sub folders that you can use to store your personal digital information.  

Note: If using WinZip, the default settings will open the spreadsheet first. To see the entire contents, right click in the zip file, and select Files by Folder (Explorer Style). 

1. Contact Information (Spreadsheet) 

a. Contacts 

2. Identification (PDF) 

3. Current Photographs (Images) 

4. Insurance (PDF) 

5. Legal Documents (PDF) 

6. Financial Documents (PDF) 

7. Medical (PDF) 

8. Titles (PDF) 

9. Permits and Licenses (PDF) 

Conclusion: Part I

So there you have our view on which devices you should use to store important information during a survival scenario. While a tablet may be out of your budget, you can still use the flash drive, memory card, and external hard drive methods. In reality, it still makes sense to use these devices to store large amounts of important information. Although I use a tablet, I also use other means to store my information. Redundancy is the key, but so is ensuring you have a portable method to store important data. Please check back for Part II: Reference Materials. Until then, Be Prepared. Get Connected

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 18:08
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  • Comment Link texican Sunday, 23 September 2012 16:13 posted by texican

    I've been looking for a tablet, for just such purposes. The onboard memory isn't sufficient for my purposes... and if it doesn't have the option of using external media, it's not workable. Like the information about using thumb drives (have all my most needful data on one drive, thousands of pdfs on two more 16gb drives, and a few with just music on them. I need a tablet that'll accept other media... most I've seen have a micro SD card slot. Still don't have a tablet, as new models were coming out this month and had to wait and see... So now, my backup is a Faraday'd notebook and a netbook... both of which will take sd, micro-sd, and thumb drives. What'd really be nice is a tablet that'll do usb...

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