Monday, March 5, 2018

My Favorite Emergency Kit Items

We recently went through our second multi-day power outage of the year in Rhode Island.  They're getting more and more frequent and I'm learning that we're just going to have to start getting used to them and spend some money putting in things like a hard-wired generator or alternative heat sources.  It's unfortunate, but welcome to the world of Global Warming.

There are a few inexpensive products that we've found indispensable during the outages and I thought I'd take a moment to share them.  Fair warning, these are Affiliate links (I'll get a small kickback from Amazon) but I have not been paid for my use or review of the products.  I've purchased them all myself and my thoughts are my own.

Favorite Flashlights
Ever go to get a flashlight and it's dead or provides dim yellow light?  Yeah, me too.  Recently, I've invested in all new LED flashlights.  They're great because they use very very little electricity, so batteries tend to last longer and they take fewer, smaller batteries for the same light output.  Plus, when they die, they don't go dim for awhile.  They either work or don't and provide bright white light.

This one is a favorite:

At only around $13, they're affordable enough to have two or three.  Make sure to buy the higher-lumens model.  I keep one in a central place in the kitchen near the door in a spot that I know I'll be able to find fumbling around in the dark.  They're also good for the bedside table.  The carabiner on the end lets you latch it onto a bag or backpack if you need to leave the house so you'll have one when you get home in the pitch-darkness and they're just the right size and not too heavy.  Takes only 3 AAA batteries.

We also have a few inexpensive ($3) pocketbook/lipstick sized ones that we keep for bedside and travel.

Portable Device Rechargers
These things are awesome.  They come in different sizes offering either the ability to toss one in a pocketbook or the ability to recharge your phone or tablet multiple times.  I have the rectangular one that's about the size of a deck of cards.  Keep it by your recharging station, plug it in every so often to make sure it's charged (it holds a charge great) and you'll always have emergency recharge power for your cell phone.

An LED Camping Lantern
We bought this for actual camping but it's come in handy more for power outages.  The batteries last a long time on stand-by (easily a year or two) and I've never had to change them in the middle of heavy use.  It's bright enough to light a small room to move around and do things (like our windowless bathroom) and you can hang it above you from a hook or set it up by your head and read easily by its light.
I recommend buying more than one if you can spare the money (the batteries are almost as expensive as the lamp).

Extra Extension Cords
We recently bought a portable generator and haven't been able to have the house wired to accept power from it directly.  However, we were able to put it just inside the detached garage door to shelter it (with the door open for circulation) and run a 100-foot cord into a house (shutting a window on it and stuffing with fabric to keep fumes and cold out) and hook it up to a power strip in the middle of the room and then use smaller cords to get to lamps, our pellet stoves, and other necessities.

I'm over the moon with this inexpensive (about $20) 100-foot cord from Amazon Basics.  It's made of a really soft vinyl that doesn't get hard and kink-up the way other cords do.  When not in use for power outages, it helps with yardworking tools. They also make a 50-foot version.  Don't be afraid to keep a power strip on-hand as well.

An Inexpensive Kettle
You can do a lot if you have hot water, whether it's making instant soups, tea, coffee (try coffee bags or a french press), hard-boiling or poaching eggs, etc. We now have a generator, so we were able to use our favorite electric kettle to heat water, but a simple inexpensive stove-top kettle can be placed on a propane camp stove or a side burner on your outdoor grill.

Cases of Bottled Water
I haven't quite gotten around to this yet, but I plan to purchase 2 to 3 cases (6 to 18 gallon jugs) of bottled water, which is around $1 to $1.50 per bottle and just stashing them in a basement or the back of a closet (or heck, under a bed if you need to).  We've tried keeping extra empty bottles on-hand and filling them before the storm, but at least half the time, the storm catches us off-guard.  When we do remember, the bottles sit around in the kitchen for 2 weeks after the store until I remember to empty them, wash, and air-dry them before putting them away.  Having fresh, clean water in the closet is the easier option.

Eton Emergency Radio
I don't have the most recent fancy model below (mine lacks the USB Port) but this radio has been really helpful.  Again, if you keep it near your device charging station and just make sure it's charged every so often, you'll always have a source for local information (our local TV station simulcasts on an AM radio station during emergencies).  It has a hand-crank generator in case the battery runs low, an LED flashlight, and the newer models can be used to charge your cell phone. Eton makes several models but this is a really affordable one at around $30-40.  LL Bean also carries them branded with their logo.

Baby Wipes and Hand Sanitizer
If you have a well like we do, chances are, you won't have water to keep things (or your body) clean.  Having baby wipes on-hand is great for those moments when you need to clean-up or freshen-up.  Unscented and/or natural is always a nice touch.

Hand Sanitizer is great for all those other situations where you need to touch things and can't wash your hands.

A Battery "Generator"
I don't actually have one of these, but I wish I did.  It's basically a large version of the cell phone recharging packs I listed earlier.  At 150 watts, you're not going to be able to run anything with a pump or a heating coil, but you can run lights, recharge devices, operate medical devices like a CPAP machine, etc.  Assuming you haven't lost your cable lines, it might be able to run your Internet modem or the TV for a bit.

A Battery Back-up Sump Pump
We live in an area with a high water table near a reservoir that feeds public water to more than half of the state.  For about 3 months out of the year in the spring, water pours into my basement from the subsoil at rates up to and over a gallon an hour.  Normally, my sump pump keeps us dry, but this year, we had an early rainy season and a freak wind/rain storm.  Needless to say, I had about 4 inches of water in the basement before I got the generator going to pump it out and the generator struggled to run the pump (and couldn't run all-night).

I don't have one of these yet, but we'll be installing one soon.  This is a secondary 12 volt pump with a battery case (battery sold separately).  It is a major investment, for sure, but is going to be worthwhile for us.  You place it into the sump pit a little higher than the main pump.  If the main pump fails for any reason (power outage or it dies), an alarm will sound when the water reaches the secondary pump and it'll go to work pumping the water out.  If there's power, it'll use the house power.  If not, it'll draw from a rechargeable battery.

I'm still shopping-around for the best one, but this one looks promising:

Note: If you happen to have city/town water service, they make a device that uses city water pressure to create the suction needed to pump the water out of the sump pit.  It wastes a lot of fresh water and requires tapping into your home water lines, but it may be more cost-effective for your situation since you don't have to worry about batteries and power.

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