These general safety tips come from the folks at DriveSavers. I met John Christopher (the guy who put these a few years ago at MacWorld).
1. Always back-up! Don’t overlook your duty to backup critical data when you are working on a big project or a tight deadline.
2. Keep current copies of important data offsite. Store copies of your data in a fireproof safe or in a bank safety deposit box.
3. If you must disconnect USB or FireWire peripheral devices while the computer is on, use extreme care. Be sure external drives have stopped spinning before picking up or moving them.
4. Never reformat a hard drive without checking your backup. If you use tapes, be sure you are familiar with the backup software before archiving important data.
5. Never move or jar a drive or computer while it is operating. Doing so could cause media damage.
6. Allow adequate space around external drives’ cooling vents; remove books, papers, etc., which might block airflow. Do not put the drive on carpeting.
7. Avoid rapid temperature changes. If the drive was previously in a very cold environment, allow your drive to warm-up to room temperature before operating. Generally, if you are comfortable, the climate is appropriate for the drive.
8. All computer equipment should be protected with high-quality surge protectors or line conditioners.