Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of articles on electronic gear that you’ll need in a natural disaster.
In the Aloha State, where I live, we are fond of saying “Lucky we live Hawaii”. On the island of Oahu we’ve been exceptionally lucky. We haven’t had a major storm since 1992. However, weather patterns are changing and the meteorologists say it’s just a matter of time until we get pummeled by a hurricane the likes of Harvey, Irma or Maria.
Whether it’s earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunami or some other catastrophe, we need to be prepared for the worst.
There are a ton of prepper sites out there and oodles of lists on what to stock in your Go-bag or around the house. In addition to the obvious–food, water, medical kit, etc, you’ll also need electronic gear.
Here are some suggestions for that list:
Red Cross Apps: The Red Cross has a number of mobile apps for any number of scenarios. You can download them from the site I’ve provided or you can get them on Google Play Store or the Apple Store. They provide advice for getting through disasters and first aid tips that could save your okole, as we say in Hawaii. The emergency apps are fully integrated with 9-1-1, free of charge, and work both with Apple and Android platforms. This is a no-brainer for your smartphone.
Emergency Radio: When the grid goes down for an extended period the emergency broadcast is essential. You need a radio that can receive AM/FM and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration channels. The brick-sized, Midland ER310 Consumer Radio Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/FM Digital Weather Radio ($55) runs on crank, solar, battery (rechargeable or standard AA) or USB power. Suffice to say it’s a handy device that can either be stowed in your bunker or even used on a daily basis. Out of the box you get a USB charging cord and rechargeable batteries.
It’s compact, water resistant and even has a 130-lumen flashlight that will act as a strobe. I would say it’s solidly built. The only component that gave me a little pause for thought was the crank. It worked fine but the plastic handle could have been more robust.
I liked the easy-to-read backlit LED display and the three-year warranty. It can either be charged (slowly) with its built-in solar screen or more rapidly from your wall plug. It’s very handy that the radio’s 18650 Li-ion batteries can also serve as a modest power bank to recharge your smartphone or other small devices.
Another cool feature: when NOAA issues a weather alert, the radio puts out an alarm (and flashing display) so you’ll see it.
Lanterns: If you’re thinking kerosene, you’re still back in the dark ages. There’s simply no reason to mess with fuel if you’ve got LED technology. The electronic lanterns are much safer for this reason.
I was very impressed with the 30-day Duro Lantern ($35) which is bright and incredibly efficient. It is manufactured by a company called UST, which specializes in emergency preparedness survival gear equipment and tools. This lantern has several modes, providing everything from a romantic glow to an SOS flashing strobe.
The 30-day moniker is appropriate–it runs on three D-cell alkaline batteries for up to 30 days on low setting (30 lumens). At the high setting, it will crank out 700 lumens. The 30-Day Lantern comes with the lifetime warranty and has been thoroughly vetted–it got the “Editor’s choice” in Popular Mechanics magazine in 2012. I keep mine in the kitchen and had it ready to go the other day when a fierce electrical storm came rolling across Oahu.
The performance of this small (it’s only about 7” high) is astounding off of plain, ordinary “D” batteries. Think about it, the damn thing will run 30 days. (UST even has a 60 day lantern that will run (yes continually 60 days) on six D batteries). The good thing about running on plain ordinary batteries is that they are readily available at any store.
That said, UST does have a rechargeable model called the Spright Solar USB LED lantern ($25). It has an integrated Solar panel that will allow you to recharge its 18650 Li-ion battery (albeit very slowly with the sun) or must faster via USB port.
I liked this model as well, but of course, it’s not going to have the runtime of the 30-day unit. Still, it’s a pretty cool little lantern. The lantern’s cover is a sort of rubbery material which is collapsible for easy storage. The cover has a luminescence so it will glow green in the dark.
When not on emergency duty, it works wonderfully as an area light. I’ve started using it when I have to retrieve items that I have in storage shed that has no electricity. I have no doubt that this lantern this will come in very handy the next time there’s a power outage here on Oahu.
Electronic Lighter: Every disaster survival kit needs a lighter. There are advantages to the electronic variety vs. matches or the classic bic lighter. Electronic aka “plasma” lighters are flameless and windproof. (Think Nikola Tesla in your pocket.) They are easy to recharge and don’t require fuel. Because there’s no flammable gas they won’t leak nor create a large flame and a potential hazard.
I tested the Tekfire Fuel Free Lighter ($25) which resembles an old fashioned Zippo lighter. It has a flip top and a rubberized outer layer. The Tekfire generates a tiny plasma arc, bridging two electrodes, that lasts up to ten seconds. It comes with a small USB cable for recharging.
The main disadvantages are that the electrodes are fragile and placed about ¼” apart. This ergonomics doesn’t leave you a lot of latitude, especially if you’re trying to position it in a narrow spot. Despite this, it has its benefits. It works great for lighting tinder and you’ll need this as a backup for your go bag.