By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes. No one wants to think about a disaster striking close to home, but experts say you need to be prepared nonetheless. 3-On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan tells us about the next generation in high-tech disaster help.
Experts say that every household should have an emergency preparedness kit. Now, disaster-themed apps and gadgets are competing for space among traditional supplies.
Lori Cheek always hoped she’d never have to use her disaster kit. Then, a storm hit. She says, “There was no power. There was no phone signal. I couldn’t get on the internet.” Thankfully, Lori had food, water, and a solar-powered radio. According to Cheek, “If I can’t get in touch with anyone, I can at least know what’s going on around me, find a safe place to go.”
Plug-free battery chargers can now keep your Smartphone or tablet powered for days. You can also buy a backup cell phone that’s charged by a AA battery. Even the old-school crank radio has received an upgrade. CNET’s Dan Ackerman says, “You can use regular batteries with it. It has a rechargeable battery that you can charge via a hand crank or a solar panel, so there are three ways to keep it powered up.”
There are also pop-up, LED lanterns that last 100 hours and can fit in a small bag. Or you can turn your water bottle into a lantern using a unique cap. According to Ackerman, “It’s got a solar panel on the top and a lamp on the bottom, so it soaks up solar power and stores it. If the lights go out, it’ll turn on, and you can use it like a flashlight.”
If you invest in emergency gadgets, it’s important to check that they’re fully charged every few weeks, and store them with your other supplies, in a waterproof case or in sealable plastic bags.
For more information on the products featured in this report, click on the links below:
SpareOne Emergency Phone ($99.99): Freed from the need of power outlets, you can use the amazing AA battery-powered SpareOne anywhere within range of a GSM cell tower. Even without a SIM card, SpareOne has one-button emergency dialing (911, etc.), and can be geo-located in an emergency. This phone has up to 10 hours of talk time and keeps its charge for 15 years. Auto text reply means that if anyone sends you a text, SpareOne will reply with an automatic text response informing them that you cannot read text messages and can be reached via phone calls instead.
Solar Powered Water Bottle Cap ($19.99): The lightest, brightest LED cap available. Turns your water bottle into a solar powered lantern. This small, lightweight (just 2.6oz) cap fits on any “standard” water bottle (2″ wide mouth) such as Nalgene, Camelbak, GSI and most others, turning your bottle into a solar-powered lantern. With clean, green solar energy powering your lantern there are no more burned out batteries to worry about or replace.
Eton FRX2 or FRX3 Radio ($39.99-$59.99): This solar powered and crank radio is ideal for emergencies, and has the ability to charge cell phones. Comes in two sizes, FRX3 and FRX2. Additionally, the crank radio also has a flashlight. This is a standard for emergency kits – but the additional features of flashlight and cell phone charging make this crank radio stand out from the others. http://www.etoncorp.com/en/productdisplay/frx3-0 and http://www.etoncorp.com/en/productdisplay/frx2
Energizer Universal Multi-Port Charger ($45-$70): This is an external battery pack for your tablet and/or smart phone- once the power goes out and you need to contact friends and family. This device more than triples the runtime of smartphones. It also automatically shuts off when device is disconnected.
Energizer Folding Lantern with Light Fusion Technology ($29.99): This lantern pivots open/closed for 360° area lighting. Variable light output delivers up to 300 lumens and up to 100 hours of run time. It folds closed for task light or compact transport, is water-resistant, and is powered by eight AA batteries.
Energizer LED Pop Up Lantern with Light Fusion Technology ($19.99): This lantern offers 360° area lighting, light output of up to 150 lumens, and 100 hours of run time. It is collapsible for compact storage and transport, the handle folds down to lock the lantern closed, and its height can be reduced to just 4″. It is water-resistant and powered by four AA batteries.
American Red Cross Mobile Apps (FREE): The American Red Cross has released a series of disaster-specific apps to help notify you when a disaster occurs in your area, as well as find help and let others know you are safe, even if the power is out. There is also an official First Aid App, as well as a Find Shelter App. http://www.redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps