Oct. 27, 2012 at 1:18 AM ET
Family safety planning is always at the back of our minds as we try to meet any weather challenges that might arise, like Hurricane Sandy barreling down on the East coast. Here are useful items to add to your home and family safety apps for your devices.
Power in a pinch
In an emergency or extended power outage your car might be the only source of power. To accommodate the many communication and computing devices a family might own the Anker Multi-function 90W Universal AC/Auto Combo Adapter is a good choice for under $30 on amazon.com. Solar is another alternative to charge your devices — the Accessory Power Revive Solar ReStore external battery pack with USB charging port and built-in light, for under $30 on newegg.com, will do the job and you can take this charger skiing or to the beach. It is a good idea to encourage the family to keep devices charged at all times.
You can never have enough flashlights when you need them! The Hybrid Solar Powered Flashlight ($25 on amazon.com) has a power panel to charge its batteries and will keep its charge for three years. And if the charge runs out, you can pop in regular batteries. However, I do also love combination products like the Greenlite LED 3-in-1 Night Light, Emergency Light, & Flashlight ($18.98 on greenlite.ca). Both are reasonably priced so you can put one in the bedroom, garage and kitchen.
To ensure access to clean drinking water, you'll want to have a water purifier on hand. The SteriPEN Adventurer Opti ($89.95 on steripen.com) uses UV light to kill bacteria — including Giardia and Cryptosporidia — in 16 ounces of clear water in less than a minute. For murky water, consider the Katadyn Vario Multi Flow Water Microfilter ($94.95 on rei.com).
"Grab-and-go" emergency backpack
Have an emergency backpack in the garage, ready to put in the car if you have to evacuate. The backpack should contain essentials like a first aid kit, food and water for a day or two, matches, batteries, flashlights, a few small blankets, a plastic tarp, utility gloves and simple tools. Mayday's 4 Person Deluxe Emergency Backpack Kit ($68 on amazon.com) is already packed with enough supplies for a few days for a family of four. However, make sure you add a small bowel for water and dry food for your pets.
Two-way radios provide an easy way to communicate with between vehicles if you are evacuating with more than one car. Plus, in a hurricane or similar situation, you cannot depend on cell towers to work or have the capacity to serve the busy mobile phone system. These two-way radios use less power than your mobile phone, offer 22-50 channels and have a range of 20-30 miles, depending on the brand. Models, like the Cobra MicroTalk CTX425 ($45 on amazon.com), also include a 10-channel NOAA weather radio.
Have a waterproof bag ready to go for the items you plan to take with you, such as passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates and check books. You can also scan and store copies of credit cards, home owner insurances policies, valuable photos and contact lists securely in the cloud. Also, make sure you pack cash in small bills in your “grab and go bag,” in case ATMs fail and credit cards don’t work.
It's a good idea to have a list of medications and medical issues for each family member handy along with a list of family doctors and insurance numbers. You can store these on your mobile phone or tablet. I like the Family Health Record ($1.99 in iTunes) app for my iPhone and AboutOne (free) for Android, Windows Phone and iOS devices.
What to do
With a busy family, everyone might be in different locations when an emergency event strikes. Plan for this by making sure each family member know exactly where to go if a sudden evacuation is required. Each member should also know how to communicate with the family unit. The Life 360 app, free for iOS, Blackberry and Android devices, will help you locate and secure your family.
Lastly, good advice from someone who lives an area prone to earthquakes and forest fires: Keep vehicles' tanks at least half full of gas at all times. If you need to evacuate quickly, gas stations might not be operational. And if you do need to find one, load up Gas Buddy onto your iOS, Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry device.
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