Archive for Disaster Readiness

Emergency power for cellphones

One of the items I felt was sorely lacking in our emergency kits was the ability to recharge our phones during a power interuption. Sure we have a generator, but if we’re on the move I’m not carrying the genny.

AA USB Charger

As a stopgap (at about $2.00 each) I threw two of these into our kits. Testing them, however, showed that the unit would kill two AA batteries in about an hour, restoring only 20% capacity to my smartphone. I’d need a bundle of AAs to charge my phone properly, and that’s not happening.

Leading up to our vacation I went out looking for some sort of portable external battery to extend the life of my smartphone (notorious for lasting a max of 12 hours or so), and happened across the Boost Turbine 2000. At about $50 the unit has a 2000mAh battery and a crank so it can be recharged when no outlets are readily available. Perfect, both for our vacation and to be added to the emergency kit on our return.

Boost Turbine 2000

Initial impressions are favorable, the unit charged my phone from 14% up to 95% in just over an hour, in the process draining the Boost Turbine to almost zero. Plugging the unit into a USB port recharged it in just over two hours (I experimented with the hand crank but have no real sense of what I was accomplishing and will have to give it another run when the internal battery is depleted.)

Edited to add: 07 Sep, 2013
Tested this during our recent vacation. The internal battery will recharge my cell phone once. Using the hand crank on the unit is a tedious process that quickly becomes tiring, but that does allow recharge the phone. The unit was useful when we were on a plane or sitting in an airport.

It has now been added to our emergency kit.

Some quick thoughts on preparedness…

I’d like to be clear here, in my 40 years of wandering around I’ve been in precisely one major blackout (lasting more than 24 hours) and a few comparatively minor riots (as a result of employment). Statistically speaking my emergency preparedness efforts are at best a theoretical effort and at worst a sink hole for disposable income.

Much like insurance (which truthfully drains substantially more of my disposable income on an annual basis than the my emergency preparedness efforts), I sleep better knowing that the people I am responsible for wouldn’t immediately be reduced to eating crackers or scavenging for food the moment our supply chain is disrupted.

But WHAT am I preparing for?

Well, that’s the question isn’t it. The Government of Canada recommends a 72 hour kit as the “minimum” preparation. I’m fairly certain most of us could scrape by for a few days on the food in the back of our kitchen cabinets (fruit cocktail? beans? Spam?).

I have to admit that my motivation was based around the events at significant disaster sites, and the unpleasantness that fills the void between the initial event and the official response. It also helps that I’m a fan of Zombie Movies where scenes of people mobbing the grocery store at the first sign of trouble are all too common.

So here we sit, some emergency kits, a little extra fuel on hand, and our “essential documents” copied and ready to grab on a moments notice.

At this stage our level of preparedness doesn’t cost much money and is made up more of little habits than anything else.

72 Hour Emergency Kit – Mk.II

The “Bug out bags” are still a work in progress. I’m not going to be spending a fortune on these, but the initial “luggage” has been replaced with individual bags for each member of the family.

Our 72 hour Emergency Kit

There is no specific emergency these are being prepared for. They are just meant to ensure that we have the essentials for a number of days before anyone becomes hungry, thirsty or cold.

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Backpackers Pantry – Chicken Vindaloo

MREs and concentrated rations are nice, but I figured as long as I was monkeying around with this stuff I would experiment with some food made for hikers and the like. This is short term BOB emergency food as cost/quantity is too high for long term prepping stuff, but might add some much wanted variety to mobile emergency rations.

The disadvantage to freeze dried over concentrated rations or MREs are that boiling water has to be added to make them edible (I suppose you could, in a pinch, eat them without adding the boiling water – but I’m not trying that any time soon).

I discovered that Mountain Equipment Co-op carries Backpackers Pantry – Freeze Dried Chicken Vindaloo (among other, more conventional offerings). I decided I would order a handful of their freeze dried offerings and try them out in the comfort of my living room to see if a few should be included in our BOBs.

Gotta say I was impressed.

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72 hours

Ok, we should all by now be familiar with the “you should have a disaster readiness kit capable of supporting you for 72 hours” stuff. Granted most of us could probably muddle through by emptying our cupboards and drinking water out of the toilet reservoirs if we absolutely had to (consider for a second if you REALLY want that to be your plan however), but there are more dignified ways of surviving for a few days.

Some of us go a step further, preparing for all manner of catastrophic disruptions of the our daily routine. So before something big goes boom, and you’re standing in the dark take a moment to assess the risk and figure out what level of preparation YOU are comfortable with.

Personally, I’ve always been pretty casual in this regard. I always have a surplus of canned goods on hand that would feed us for about a few weeks (more if rationed carefully), enough fuel to refill the cars gas tank on a moments notice (or run the generator for a few days), travel documents and cash on hand and ready to go.

Scattered around the house and car we have a well stocked first aid kit, a “power outage kit” that includes flashlights, spare batteries, hand crank radio, candles and playing cards etc.

Our preparations appeared adequate to me, but seem mainly built around sitting out any disaster in the comfort of our home. In order to better balance out the arrangements to include “bugging out” (which would, under the existing arrangement involve ALL sorts of running around the house, and inevitably forgetting some items) I recently ordered a “3 day / 4 person” survival kit from Costco, and added an additional 7 days of concentrated rations and a stack of MREs (bringing the grand total to just over two weeks of mobile food for three people), which gives us a pretty robust kit if we did have to hit the road (better if we retained the presence of mind to throw some of those previously mentioned canned goods into a box on the way out).

Costco 72 hour kit

Costcos’ 4 person 72 hour kit is pretty good, but I’ll beef it up a bit over the next little while (it IS meant to be a 3 day bag, not a “few week” bag).

(if you don’t have the cash, you can always use their content list as a template and assemble your own bit by bit).

An ounce of prevention…

Sandy is no zombie apocalypse (at least not yet anyway), but this sort of thing always gets me in a “disaster readiness” sort of mood, where I’m likely to be found rotating the jerrycans of gas (old gas into car, new gas into jerrycans), testing our small “hail mary” generator, and doing a quick check of that canvas bag that contains flashlights, candles and that hand crank radio from ages back.

I engage in a lot of routine maintenance of this stuff, but a coming storm always bumps the maintenance interval a bit. It takes less than an hour, and it has never made the slightest bit of difference…so far anyway, but like so many things (insurance, kevlar, seatbelts, armored riding gear) I’d feel pretty stupid if something did go sideways and I had failed to make even minimal preparations.

(Truth be told, my preparations ARE minimal compared to some – and boy do I wish I was that committed to things).

See you after the storm.

[Edited to add: Really? That's it?]