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Preparing for an unexpected departure

Unexpected absence with loss of communication

Most of us do not think about the possible gauntlet of issues that have to be faced by family and colleagues if one is rendered unable to communicate somehow, for even a medium term (eg a car accident), let alone a drastic change such as an untimely death.

A group of IT staffers have come up with various things that one can think about putting in place to help in situations where communication is curtailed. 

  1. Passwords: In today's world, passwords are everything. From Facebook to Netflix, everything has a password. While many people use the same password for various websites, that is typically a very bad idea. If you use a password manager (like lastpass, 1password, passwordGorilla), getting to the accounts without knowing the passphrase is herculean. Our suggestion is to write your passphrase, and maybe your phone PIN code down, put it in a sealed envelope, and leave it in a safety deposit box, or with critical documentation, such as your passport, will, house documents, etc. This becomes critical if you need to use email to reset a password, change a primary contact email, etc
  2. Scanned documents, photos, etc: make sure that scanned documents, or downloaded documents, photos, and other critical, difficult-to-replace documents are stored in multiple places, both in your house as well as a trusted offsite location. If you don't have a good off site location, use a software like VeraCrypt, put it all into an encrypted folder with a good passphrase, and follow #1.
  3. 2-Factor authentication: Almost all 2FA setups have an option to print off a one-time-use password. Google, for example, allows you to print off 10. These, too, can be stored with #1.
  4. Use shared locations to store data as much as possible, making sure the locations are safe, and only people you know and trust have access to those locations.
  5. Keep your dependent list up to date. 
  6. Have your dependent know how to reach either your IT department, or your Business Office. 

If you are dealing with the unexpected passing of a colleague, please also check out the very thoughtful article listed by our U of Maryland colleagues at:


We will keep this page updated as we think of additional things. 

Last Modified: Jun 23, 2021 8:00 am America/New_York
Created: Dec 4, 2017 10:10 am US/Eastern by admin