The east coast is currently being buried under an epic snowfall. But no matter where you happen to live, disaster can strike. A serious natural disaster can turn your life upside down, but a little preparation goes a long way towards helping you weather the storm, so to speak. For example, do you have an emergency kit? A few key supplies can help you weather power failures, business closures, and, well, the weather. P. Allen Smith has a list of gear he recommends, and as someone who has lived in hurricane alley, I’ve got my own list of stuff that I consider essential – with a bit of a geek twist:
First aid kit. Have a small travel-sized first aid kit that you can throw in a travel bag or keep in a small closet with your other emergency supplies. As disaster approaches, it’s a good idea to collect any regular medicine your family members might need to take, and pack it with “evergreen” supplies like bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin or ibuprofen, a thermometer, scissors, and tweezers. You could certainly assemble all that stuff yourself, or just buy a ready-made first aid kit at any pharmacy, department, or grocery store.
Water. My wife keeps a few giant 7-gallon water containers in the garage. Available inexpensively at camping stores, a pair of these can supply an entire family with drinking and cooking water for days. You certainly don’t need such giant containers for your own emergency kit, but it’s a good idea to be able to stockpile at least one gallon of water per person per day in case you lose access to running water.
Food. Cans – lots of cans. Canned food has a long shelf life, so it’s a natural choice for stockpiling eats for future catastrophes. Another option: Consider picking up some MREs – military-speak for “Meals Ready to Eat.” These full meals (including desert!) are vacuum sealed and highly non-perishable. Also, they don’t taste half bad. Check out this eHow article on where to find MREs.
Can opener. Pack a manual can opener, or you’ll be like that guy from the Twilight Zone episode — surrounded by books but no eyeglasses to read them with.
Essential gadgets. Have access to at least one flashlight, a portable radio, your cellphone, and perhaps even your laptop or tablet. Also, consider any unique gadgets you might need. I used to maintain a salt water fishtank, for example, and we’d always have several battery-powered circulation pumps on hand that we could drop in the tank as emergency life support for our fishies when the power went out.
Batteries. Have a bunch of batteries for any battery-powered gadgets you might have. Increasingly, though, your most important gadgets aren’t powered by replaceable batteries – which means you should strive to keep your phone and laptop topped off as you approach a storm, and minimize their use to extend their life as long as possible in case the power does go out.
Hand-powered radio. A quick search on Amazon and other online stores reveals a wealth of hand crank-powered gadgets that can help you to stay civilized when the power is out. You can find hand crank-powered radios, for example – great for staying in touch with civil authorities and getting news when the Internet and electricity go out. You can also get hand crank-powered flashlights, and even combo radio/flashlights. I’ve got a wind-up flashlight with a radio built in, and I’ve had opportunities to use it many times over the years – well worth the $15 or so that it cost me.
Hand crank charger for your phone. If you lose power, your cell phone’s battery will eventually die. Luckily, you can find a hand crank charger for many common cell phones – here’s one for the iPhone, for example. A couple of minutes of cranking can give you as much as 30 minutes of standby time. You might want to check out our Tech Know video on other ways to charge a phone without power.