Disaster Preparedness and Evacuation Tech Essentials

By Christine Phipps

Were you prepared for last year’s emergencies? Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may now be behind us for the most part, California has started to rebuild from their wildfires, and innumerable other areas have worked through dangerous weather conditions, and during that time many of us discovered how ready – or not – we were to deal with these impending crises.

A disaster tech kit that you can get ready in advance will help you be prepared in the event catastrophe strikes — be that rioting, terrorist threat, breakdown somewhere, or natural disaster.  Your mission in preparing your tech kit is to ensure that your basic needs are met if you’re forced to evacuate your home or leave a dwelling or abandon a vehicle. The kit should include nutrition, water, medical supplies, and some way to communicate with loved ones and stay up-to-date on crisis alerts. Of course, your smartphone is the number one piece of technology to help with the latter, but the following apps and gadgets are also essential for a bug-out bag should you ever need to cut and run.

Motorola Consumer Radios MT352R
Should phone networks get overloaded with cities full of people trying to reach each other, a long-range walkie-talkie set could help you connect with your loved ones. The Motorola MT352R walkie-talkies can work over a 2-mile range in an urban setting through buildings, 6 miles over water, and up to 35 miles if nothing is in the way. $74.99 at Amazon.

 

Kaito KA550 emergency radio
If phones, internet, and electricity are all down, you’ll be glad you have this hand-crank multifunction AM/FM and shortwave radio to get updates on breaking situations and access to the Emergency Alert System. It doubles as a portable lamp with a 5-LED reading light, a flashlight, and an SOS beacon mode. It can be charged by a NiMH rechargeable battery pack, 3 AA batteries (not included), hand-crank generator, solar panel, or AC/DC wall adapter/charger (not included), should you have access to power; the radio also has a USB port to charge other mobile devices when you’re on the move. $49.99 from Amazon.

Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter
“Society is three square meals away from complete anarchy” suggest researchers — but with the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter, you can hold off hunger-fueled rioting by rubbing together a ferrocerium rod and metal striker to make a nice big meat- (or portobello)-grilling fire. It comes with a waterproof storage compartment for tinder, as well as an emergency whistle and a pocket survival booklet with instructions on attracting rescuers’ attention. $13.30 from Amazon.

 

GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier and Bottle
If ‘they’ have gotten to the water supply, filtering your H20 will be crucial for survival until order is restored. Fill up the GRAYL with water from any fresh or tap water source, then push the purifier like a French press to remove 99.9999 percent of viruses and bacteria, and filter out particulates, chemicals and heavy metals. Bonus: It’s also handy for travelers who want to avoid the eco-impact of buying bottled water. $59.50 from Amazon.

 

ThermaCell Heated Insoles
In addition to the head, the feet are one of the greatest areas of heat loss in the body. Should a freak heavy rain or snowstorm come your way, these rechargeable heated insoles will keep your toes toasty, saving your energy for figuring out an escape plan. From $60.21 at Amazon.

 

 

Luci EMRG solar-powered light
You can’t overestimate the fundamental human need for light. In disaster scenarios, reliable, solar-powered and portable lighting like the Luci EMRG can reduce stress simply by providing illumination for your community to come together. The EMRG has long-lasting, solar-powered LEDs that can be used in four intensity settings, including flashing SOS alert. It’s also inflatable and collapsible, so you can pack several into your bug-out bag. $14.95 from Amazon.

 

VividLed rechargeable headlamp
If you have to brave a flooded cellar when the power’s out, this rechargeable headlamp keeps both your hands free for fussing with the fuse box. There are five light modes, including a strobe for getting attention and a red light, which helps you see your surroundings while keeping your eyes adjusted to the dark — handy to avoid feeling temporarily blinded when you look away from the lighted area. $12.97 (on sale from $29.99) from Amazon.

 

ThruNite TN4A LED Flashlight
A flashlight is an essential for any emergency kit, so pick a long-lasting LED one like the ThruNite TN4A, which has a lifespan of over 20 years. You can use it in one of five brightness settings, going up to a hyper-bright 1150 lumens with a range of up to 450 meters, or put it in strobe mode to attract attention. It’s also waterproof to 1.5 meters and impact resistant to 2 meters. $49.95 from Amazon.

 

Gold Armour Camping Lanterns
Brightest LED lantern for its size: Latest technology Chip-On-Board LED technology illuminates more area with more light than the commonly found 30 LED camping lanterns. Its light is also warmer in color than the competition’s 30 LED lanterns, eliminating that cold, harsh feel. The warm light also leaves your sleep rhythm intact, helping you to avoid the insomnia that other brands might cause. Dependable build: Each of our premium LED Camping Lanterns are hand-built with military-grade, water-resistant plastic — making them extra durable wherever you may be. The lantern is built for both the indoors and outdoors. Advanced collapsible design: Superior design and construction allows our lantern to be super lightweight and compact. It is also collapsible with a simple push. $35.99 on Amazon.

Portable battery pack
Murphy’s law dictates that when you need your smartphone most, its battery will be nearly empty. Sidestep this by keeping a charged-up portable battery pack in your bug-out bag, and you’ll be good for at least 72 hours. We like the Anker PowerCore, which can fast-charge an iPhone 7 or Galaxy S8 around three times from its 10000mAh battery. Or if you need more power, try the three-USB RavPower Portable Charger, whose 22000mAh, can hold about a week’s worth of power (or charge an iPhone eight times). Anker PowerCore $25.99 (currently on sale from $49.99) from Amazon. RavPower Portable Charger $39.99 (currently on sale from $109.99) from Amazon.

Birksun solar backpacks
Get maximum use out of your bug-out bag itself by using a solar-powered, charge-packing backpack. Bags in the Birksun range cannot only store all of the above survival essentials, but also charge up your gadgets so you can access critical updates and communicate with others. Every two minutes of sunlight provides enough energy to charge your phone battery another 1 percent. The waterproof, scratch-resistant solar panel can juice up your tech for up to 20 years, with a 3000mAh battery that stores around one full charge for a new-ish smartphone. When you get back to civilization and power sockets, you can also charge the bag from the mains. From $109 at Birksun or from $99 on Amazon.

For your smartphone

First Aid app by American Red Cross
This app has step-by-step advice for everyday first aid for issues from asthma attacks to strains and sprains, as well as instructions on handling out-of-the-ordinary scenarios such as hazardous chemicals. It’s integrated with 911, so you can call emergency services directly from the app. It also has safety tips for dealing with extreme weather, from severe cold to hurricanes and tornadoes, and includes addresses of the nearest hospitals. And in case of a power loss or evacuation off-grid, all this content is available offline. Free, Android, iOS.

Life360 Family Location app
In the event of a disaster, it can be a vast relief just to know where your family members are. Get your loved ones to download this app, and you’ll be able to view their location on a map — either whenever they make it available or continuously if they so allow. You can add emergency contacts to alert others on behalf of anyone in your family group, or press a panic button in the app to alert each member of a group that you’re in trouble. Other handy features include the ability to save “Places” so you can be notified when one of your group arrives at home, school, or another designated location. The paid-for Plus service lets you save unlimited places, while the Driver Protect add-on can detect a car accident, then call for an ambulance, and raise the alarm within the app. Free, Android, iOS; from $2.99/month for Plus; $4.99/month for Driver Protect.

bSafe
An app designed for personal safety can be well-suited for emergency use. bSafe lets out an audible alarm that can aid in rescue attempts and will also broadcast video of your surroundings, along with your GPS location. Outside of emergency situations, the Follow Me Timer can automatically send an SOS message to your chosen contacts if you don’t check in before a preset time — handy for staying safe if traveling alone. To receive this info, however, friends and family also need to download the app.

 

Dropbox
Dropbox truly is the easiest way to back up your entire life, from court reporting note and wav files to pictures of generations of family members.  This was probably the number one thing I heard during these disasters: massive scanning going on and putting pictures into Ziplocs. Endeavor to get all those pictures scanned. (Perhaps the court reporting firm you work with would work out a financial arrangement to have their production department perform the scanning for you.) Make sure you have your most important documents that you keep in a safe like birth certificates, estate planning documents, and insurance policies scanned to a folder stored on Dropbox also.  Be sure to download the app to your phone so that you can easily access the documents as well.

As we begin hurricane season, take advance precautions while there are no threats to protect your loved ones and the irreplaceable photos and documents.

Christine Phipps, RPR, is CEO of Phipps Reporting in North Palm Beach, Fla., and Vice President of the NCRA Board of Directors.

TechLinks: What you should know about the GDPR for your personal information

Attorney Mona Ibrahim, who advised several clients about how to comply with GDPR on their websites, wrote in the article “Why you should be reading the privacy notices choking your inbox” on polygon.com that it is useful for people to pay attention to the emails and notices with the changes. Although the rights are mostly for residents of the EU, others will benefit because so much of what takes place online is global. She lists a number of rights granted by the GDPR, including access to your data, asking to have your data deleted, the ability to restrict certain third-party activities, and more.

It’s all about consent. Ibrahim notes: “Consent must be specific, concise, easy to understand, and freely given. Individuals in the EU must also have the ability to withdraw consent in a manner no less difficult than it is to give consent.” Consent is even required if you want to continue communicating with people already on a list you’ve created — whether by email or mail.

A lot of the changes haven’t come to full fruition, so it’s likely that there will be attention directed toward this issue for the next few months. According to Ibrahim, “companies have plenty of incentive to pay attention to you moving forward if providing end users data protection solutions makes a company more attractive to you.”

The GDPR also offers a number of tools for consumers, including a way to download all of your data. Check out Gizmodo for more information.

Here are additional links:

TechLinks: What you need to know about privacy issues and the GDPR

TechLinks: What you should know about the GDPR for your business

TechLinks: What you need to know about scanners

NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resources Committee members tackled the subject of scanners this month to give NCRA members a leg up on finding the best solution in going paperless.

“Among the scanners I have used, the Fujitsu ScanSnap and also the Epson Workforce scanners are my two favorite,” says Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Fayetteville, Ark. She offers the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500

Advantages

  1. It has a small footprint.
  2. It works wireless and wired.
  3. It will auto-detect two-sided and automatically delete blank pages.
  4. It will OCR, which makes the text in the PDF searchable.
  5. It can be set up so that the program automatically pops up when you open the dust cover/lid.
  6. Its scan destinations include Google Drive and email, as well as Dropbox, Sharepoint, Evernote, OneNote and SugarSync.

Disadvantages

  1. You cannot put in a preconfigured naming series with auto number advancing.
  2. It does not have a flatbed for scanning.
  3. You need to choose the highest resolution setting if scanning photos to get good quality.
  4. The wifi is awkward to set up.

 

Epson Workforce ES-400

Advantages

  1. It offers a preconfigured naming series with auto number advancing.
  2. It will OCR (optical character recognition), which makes the text in the PDF searchable.
  3. Epson offers great customer support.
  4. It can scan to destinations including Google Drive and email, as well as Dropbox, Sharepoint, Evernote, OneNote and SugarSync.

Disadvantages

  1. It does not have a flatbed for scanning.
  2. The OCR is slightly more clunky, but it uses ABBYY FineReader as an adjunct.

 

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC

“Make sure you configure your default scans to automatically OCR (found in the scanner settings),” recommends Hayden.

“I find myself using a scanner app lately a lot,” says Christina Hotsko, RPR, CRR, Arlington, Va. “I’ll use it to scan in exhibits if the office needs something quickly. I’ve scanned over files to my scopist during a break on a long job. I scan in receipts to keep track of travel expenses. I’ve even had my passport scanned and saved on my phone when I needed to pull it up in a pinch.”

Hotsko recently started using the app, Adobe Scan, which she keeps on her smart phone. “It’s a little more user friendly and offers a few more options,” says Hotsko. “What’s convenient about a scanner app is you open it up and let the app do the rest. It searches for the document, image, or whatever you’re trying to scan, auto-captures a shot, and then adjusts and fits the captured image to page.”

With Adobe Scan, documents are stored in an Adobe DC account on your computer. Adobe Scan lets you search your photos for documents, and from there you can select which ones you need to send.

There are many scanning apps available for smartphones. “Try a few different apps and see what works with your style,” advises Hotsko.

Need more information?

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Committee chair Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, of Germantown, Tenn., provided some additional resources to research the best scanner for your needs. “Document scanners are all about being able to process documents in a seamless way,” says Mueller. “I recommend purchasing a dedicated sheet-fed scanner rather than a flatbed one or an all-in-one device.”

PC Magazine, one of Mueller’s go-to sources for products, offered a chart on April 6 of best scanners.

TechGearLab, a well-known online tech review website, listed their favorite scanners of 2018.

Also in April, Best Reviews published a list of the best scanners. “My scanner is a Fujitsu ScanSnap, and it made this list,” says Mueller. “I absolutely love it for its size and fast scanning options.”

Still need convincing to go paperless? Mueller offered a number of reasons on her blog.

Additional Links

Lynette Mueller’s ScanSnap settings

How to reduce the size of a pdf file

How to reduce the size of a pdf file

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

By Lynette Mueller

When you have a large file, it may not be easy to share through standard methods. It’s useful to know how to compress pdfs.

Prior to scanning your exhibits and documents, be sure to adjust your settings in your scanner app. For those times when perhaps you get scanned docs from a paralegal or attorney and the file size is extremely large and you want to link the exhibits to your transcript or you need to send a transcript via email and not sure a client will be able to receive it, reduce the file size of the doc using these options:

  1.  My first choice is Smallpdf. Just drag-and-drop your PDF file in the box, wait for the compression to complete, and then download your file. It’s that simple. All the file compressing takes place in the cloud and will not consume any capacity from your own computer. Best of all? Smallpdf.com is browser-based and works for all platforms. It doesn’t matter if you use Mac, Windows, or Linux.
  1. Acrobat offers a tutorial to reduce file size.
  1. Another option for compressing pdfs is Split_pdf.

Lynette Mueller’s ScanSnap settings

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

By Lynette Mueller

If you decide to use ScanSnap, Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, of Germantown, Tenn., chair of the Realtime and Technology Resources Committee, shared her settings.

  1. You can choose the destination file of all your scanned documents. I scan to Dropbox because it’s so easy to access all my files from one device to the next.
  2. Prior to scanning, you may choose your File Name Format (custom name). Then, choose serial number so that as you scan the software will automatically add the number of your exhibit at the end of your custom name. This saves so much time.
  3. Scanning Tab: Image Quality, Normal; Color mode, Auto color detection; Scanning side, Duplex Scan (double-sided). Check the box for “Continue scanning after current scan is finished.”
  4. Select your File Format options. PDF or JPEG
  5. Paper tab: Paper size, Automatic detection; Multifeed Detection, Check Overlapping (Ultrasonic).
  6. Compression tab: Compression, (Low); File size, 3. I find the 3 setting still provides a very legible and readable PDF.

Lynette L. Mueller, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer reporter in Johns Creek, Ga. She can be reached at lynette@omegareporting.comShe reports that a short video will be on her blog at the beginning of the article.

Refresh your CLVS skills before taking the Production Exam this June

The next testing dates to take the CLVS Production Exam will be June 8-9 at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va. Registration is now through May 31. Space is limited, so candidates are encouraged to sign up early.

Something new this year: We are providing candidates an opportunity to do a Hands-On Training session prior to the production exam. Register now to get another step closer to earning your CLVS certification.

The Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) program sets and enforces standards for competency in the capture, use, and retention of legal video and promotes awareness of these standards within the legal marketplace.

“The CLVS certification is the gold standard for identifying competent and vetted legal videographers and sets them apart from the rest of the field,” said Jason Levin, CLVS, Chair of the CLVS Council. The CLVS Council leads the CLVS Seminar and administers the Production Exam.

The cost of the exam is $325 for NCRA members and $425 for nonmembers.

During the Production Exam, candidates will run the show at a staged deposition and be graded on their ability to follow video deposition guidelines and to produce a usable, high-quality video of the deposition. Candidates must have taken the mandatory CLVS Certification Workshop first, available online through InReach. Candidates must complete the educational components prior to taking the CLVS Production exam. Candidates can take the CLVS WKT at any time, but we strongly encourage candidates to complete the educational components first as questions on the WKT are developed from the education provided.  Learn more about the CLVS program at NCRA.org/CLVS.

The CLVS Production Exam is administered two times a year: spring and fall (depending on interest). Please contact NCRA by calling 800-272-NCRA (6272) for more information, or contact the CLVS Staff.

NCRA members who hold another credential, such as the RPR, can earn 0.25 PDC each after passing the CLVS Written Knowledge Test and the CLVS Production exam.

 

Court reporters – legal videographers: How to change time in Windows 10 for syncing 

A blog by Kramm Court Reporting that was posted April 19 by JD Supra provides the steps necessary for court reporters working with legal videographers to follow to sync time before every deposition to ensure that timestamps on the transcripts match those on the video.

Read more.

LearnToCaption.com offers Translation Tune-Up for court reporters

LearnToCaption.com is now offering Translation Tune-Up, a webinar and a half hour of one-on-one training to help court reporters learn to cut editing time in half.

Read more.

TechLinks: The 2018 guide to Windows 10

Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 to the public almost four years ago, in September 2014. For people who are not early adopters and take a wait-and-see approach, now is the time to safely upgrade, especially if you’re purchasing a new computer. Here are a few good things to know.

Getting set up

Windows 10 Home users can’t defer updates like Pro users, but no one can put them off forever, and nor should they. Many of the updates contain important security patches and bug fixes.

Committee member Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, shares an article from SearchMaster titled, “Windows 10 and the Court Reporting Profession.” The article advises not upgrading to Windows 10 but instead suggests using what you are on until you need another computer and then setting up 10 on a new computer.

“My recommendation on upgrading to Windows 10 is to not do it,” says author Scott Friend. “Stick with whatever operating system you have right now because that is what your computer was designed to work with.”  Later in the article, he adds: “Purchasing a new computer with Windows 10 already installed on it is perfectly safe, and I would encourage you to do this.”

Kleinschmidt also recommended PC Magazine’s “10 reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10.”

“The five reasons I felt pertained most to reporting:  Startup speed and speed overall; ability to access and download from the App Store; touch screen; browser, Edge, started to drain your battery less than Chrome; and 10 is generally a more secure system,” says Kleinschmidt.

“As court reporters, we certainly don’t need our operating system to be updating right before we start our jobs,” says NCRA Technology and Realtime Resources Committee Chair, Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR. “Be sure to schedule the updates on your schedule. I love the metered connection option!”

Mueller recommended an article from TechAdvisor, a British website, that explains how to schedule Windows 10 to update when it works for you.

“The No. 1 complaint about Windows 10 is, of course, the continual updates,” says committee member Cheri Sullivan, RPR. She recommended a March 2, 2017, Register article that provides some background on the debate around the update procedures that are imposed by Windows.

The latest bug to come up with Microsoft is connected to the USB and onboard device. A March 6 ZDNet article includes a link that identifies the problem. The Feb. 21 HighDesertDiva offers an alternative fix.

“Let’s face it: Sometimes the Windows updates are not always great for court reporters. Just when you know you have all your settings streamlined and perfected, an update can ruin it all,” says Mueller. The instructions on the Microsoft website offer some information on how the “restore” function can restore your system to when a point when everything was working as expected. This option takes your PC back to an earlier point in time, called a system restore point. Restore points are generated when you install a new app, driver, or Windows update and when you create a restore point manually. Restoring won’t affect your personal files, but it will remove apps, drivers, and updates installed after the restore point was made.

Mueller says: “I know this link is a little bit older, but it is still relevant.” She also suggested an article on how to reset Windows 10 with Refresh Tool.

Don’t forget to activate an antivirus program. TechAdvisor notes that Windows Defender, which Mueller says is her chosen antivirus program and is built into the Windows suite, “now uses the power of the cloud to more quickly detect threats, and you can also perform offline scans. It’s on by default (if no other antivirus software was pre-loaded on your computer) and it does a great job, scoring highly in our roundup of the best free antivirus software.

Optimize your setup

TechAdvisor also offers information on how to keep your computer running at top-notch speed by controlling your startup programs.

DriverEasy.com gave advice on troubleshooting your microphone setup, which can be useful for audio sync users, especially those who have new computers.

Kleinschmidt suggested a TechAdvisor article that explains Virtual Desktops, which is now very easy through Windows 10, and which reporters may find useful.

If you want a magnifier tool, this New York Times article has you covered. And if you want to tweak your start menu, try this one, also from the New York Times.

TechRepublic offers some suggestions on new features that are available for 2018.

ITPro Newsletter identifies “17 Windows 10 problems – and how to fix them.” Sullivan pointed to several that are pertinent to court reporters:

  • 2, Can’t upgrade to latest Windows 10
  • 4, Windows update isn’t working
  • 5, Turn off forced updates in Windows Pro
  • 8, Enable system restore
  • 11, Fix slow boot times
  • 14, Stop Windows 10 using 4G data

TechLinks: The 21st century reporter, part 2

TechLinks_logoOn behalf of the NCRA Technology Committee, Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, recently shared a series of links with information to help the 21st-century reporter or captioner. This second installment covers cloud backup, password management, and efficient internet searches.

In a July 21 article on How-To Geek, Cameron Summerson talks about how to use Google’s Backup and Sync tool to automatically backup information — including documents, photos, and videos — onto Google Drive. Summerson talks a bit about what this tool is and how it works, and then goes step by step through the process of setting it up. The Backup and Sync tool works on both PCs and Macs, and it allows the user to sync either an entire computer drive or only specific folders.

In a July 21 article for PC Mag, Michael Ansaldo presents the best password managers of 2017. Ansaldo talks about what a password manager does, why it’s important, and how PC Mag chose the best overall and the runner up. The article includes links to reviews for all of the password managers that PC Mag considered.

In a July 18 reprint on SlawTips (the original ran on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog), Alan Kilpatrick offers some tips on using Google Search for efficiently. Kilpatrick focuses on using specific search terms and then using the different search operators and filters — including combining them — to “craft powerful queries and locate good results.” The article ends with a few reminders about evaluating search results for authenticity, etc.

Read “TechLinks: The 21st century reporter, part 1.”