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Are You Prepared for the Next Hurricane?

Items you can have this week should Irma head our way.

With tragic images still pouring in from Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, we are now threatened by a very powerful new storm named Irma. While the media is doing their best to keep us posted, the consensus seems to be that none of the models know exactly where it will head. As I write this, the storm is pounding the islands, and will reach Florida by the weekend. From there, it could turn north and hit the East Coast. We hope not.

For those of us in the North East, Hurricane Sandy seems like only yesterday. The damage from that storm continues to effect the region. 

Here are 10 things items that can help get you through power outages (or worse) should the storm work it’s way up the coast. Most of these items will help keep you safe, sane and offer some comfort during the worst- and most of these items can be here ahead of the storm if you act quickly.

1. External USB Battery Chargers: Your cellphone is a lifeline for news, information and keeping in touch with others. You can to be able to keep it powered up as much as possible. I have found that the Anker 10000mAh External Battery Power Bank with PowerIQ can fully charge my iPhone 6s Plus three times before it needs to be replenished itself. My previous iPhone 5 could be charged fully 4 to 5 times from one of these units. At just $29 on Amazon, you can keep a couple of them charged on hand for days of cell phone power. It will charge most USB devices. I’ve used mine for several years now, and they’re still holding up! 

2.  Power for your pad: Charge your phone while also lighting the room at night and deliver 500 watts of power to items around your home.  The BLACK+DECKER PPRH5B Portable Power Station gives you an area light, a built in inverter with 2 standard AC outlets, a DC port (handy if you’ve got a car charger for your phone), a USB power port, an air compressor and a jump starter for your car. For $99, that’s a lot of power! It’s handy to have around whether storms are coming or not! It holds it’s charge a good long time. Just top it off if you hear a storm is approaching. 

3.  Keep informed or entertained: Let’s face it. Without a steady source of power, your phone isn’t going to keep you connected for the long haul. A basic radio is a handy way to keep on top of the news and emergency info. The Kaito KA500 is a powerhouse. It can be powered by AA batteries, a build in NiMH rechargeable battery pack, a solar panel (built in), 5V USB input, a 5V AC/DC input (sold separately) or a hand crank generator. I have experience with similar models, and I’m never too optimistic about the solar or hand crank options. They tend to work- but not as quickly as you might want. However, I’ve had the radio work for extended periods of time during Hurricane Sandy. It included AM/FM radio as well as 2-band shortwave and 7 pre-programmed NOAA weather channels. The built in battery can also be used as a USB charger, and it also includes a 5-LED lamp, flashlight and a red LED S.O.S. beacon light.  

4.  Keep the lights on: Sure, conventional wisdom has you running out to the stores in a panic to stock up on batteries to power your flashlights. But even on a cloudy day, the sun provides enough light to charge solar lights! Check out the Greenlight Planet Home 120 Solar Lighting System Plus USB Charger. It’s a 3 light system that connects to a solar powered battery pack. The battery also has the ability to charge USB devices using the solar panel. It lets off a very bright light. The wires are long enough to spread the lights around from room to room, and each light has it’s own power switch. They also make single light versions of this for camping- but certainly good for storm prep. Place he solar panel in a window that gets a lot of light (or outdoors if that’s an option for you). Let it charge by the sun all day and give you light all night. 

5.  Skip the candles: During blackouts when I was growing up, candles would be lit and placed in various rooms. But flames around your home can be dangerous- especially with children around. So consider skipping candles and opt for small solar lights. There are many options available for solar garden lights. They generally come with an top portion that is a combination solar charger/ LED light/ diffuser, and a steak to put them in the ground. But they work just as well indoor! Just face the solar tops on your window sill all day, and then flip them upside down at night and enjoy! I’ve had mine for years, and they still come on at dusk and run for a good 4 hours. The Oak Leaf Solar Lights Outdoor LED Landscape Lights come 6 in a box, so you can scatter them around your home and not need to reach for a flashlight.  

6.  Keep stuff dry: If things get really bad, and you are in a place that is likely to flood- it might be time to invest in some dry bags for important paperwork! While the Earth Pak waterproof Dry Bag is the perfect companion for kayakers, boaters and beachgoers- it can serve a valuable purpose for a flooded home. Gather up information you might need for insurance, banking, and other important personal documents and keep them sealed up so they don’t get lost or ruined. The Earth Pak also comes with a waterproof case for your smartphone.  

7.  Keep in touch: Sometimes you need to think OLD school. Smartphones are a great way to stay connected- but battery life during a prolonged power outage can become an issue. The Motorola MH230R walkie talkies boast a 23 mile range. While the structures in big cities impact that distance, it’s still a great way to connect with the people- especially emergency services. These include 2 radios, 2 belt clips, 1 dual drop-in charger, 1 charging adaptor, 2 NiMH rechargeable battery packs, and offers 11 weather channels as well as privacy code options. 

8.  Weatherproof portable power :  The Dizaul 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank combines some of the ideas already discussed into one waterproof. shockproof, dust proof unit. While functionally similar to other USB battery packs, this one has it’s own solar charger built in. It’s important to not that it’s a slow charge when using the small built in panel- but it works. It also comes with a clip to latch it wherever you need it. Of course you can also charge it via it’s included USB cable- but if you find yourself spending the day outside in very wet conditions, it’s nice to know that this can continue to charge when external power is not an option!

9.  A new twist on camping lanterns: While classic camping lanterns that require fuel are still available- providing both light AND heat, there are many much safer options in their modern day LED counterparts. The Coleman CPX 6 Rugged X-Large LED Lantern gives off an enormous amount of light with 2 modes:  700 Lumens (high), and 140 (low).  This unit DOES require D batteries- so you want to keep some of those on hand!  

10.  Break out the BIG GUNS: While it’s not an option for people in apartment buildings, those of you that live in private homes have the option for an external generator. While it may be too later to have an electrician install an interlock switch on your home panel- you CAN still fire up a generator and run extension cords where they need to go. The ultimate solution is to have a natural gas powered, self starting whole house standby generator. This are large units that sit next to your house (depending on the codes for your town) and start by themselves when the power goes out. They tend to be fairly expensive to install due to the wiring involved, as well as the natural gas line attachments to fuel it. A more cost effective option is a portable (usually in a frame on wheels) generator that you start manually like a lawn mover. They come in all shapes and sizes, depending on your power needs. The Champion Power Equipment 76533 3800 Watt Dual Fuel generato r will fully power a small home with it’s 3800 running WATTS and 4750 surge WATTS. Our house uses gas powered steam radiators. The boiler requires very little power to fire up. If your house uses forced air heat, this might not suit your needs. I found that during Hurricane Sandy, our home only used about 800 WATTS (the refrigerator, some lights, charging cell phones) during the day- with surges up to 1,900 WATTS when our sump pumps kicked in to empty the well. This momentary bursts of energy still gave us plenty of power to spare. We could run the washing machine and even the dryer (which uses gas heat). We could power the TV, lights and stereo system easily. However, we wouldn’t want to use the microwave or hairdryer much. The best way to use one of these is to have an electrician install a port on your home and wire your electrical panel for am interlock switch. But until then, you can string extension cords to the places that need power the most. 

Whether this storm heads this way or not, this list will come in handy at some point- even if it’s just a camping weekend with friends or a tailgating party before the big game. Let’s all hope that’s all we ever need it for!

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