Go Go Gadget Preparedness Kit

Are you a lover of technology and gadgets? Do you wish you were more prepared for disaster? You may think these are totally unrelated questions, but they do overlap in the field of… PREPAREDNESS GADGETS (cue Mr. Moviefone and an over-dramatic echo).

What would you do if the power went out? If it was out for days? If your cell phone was out of charge and you were unable to contact your family or call for help? If you were prepared, then you probably had extra batteries on hand, but now they’ve run out. Whatever will you do? Easy peezy lemon squeezy. That scenario never happened because you were super prepared for that disaster and never had to deal with batteries running out because you had solar powered gadgets!!

It’s so simple and brilliant I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner! Stores are selling all sorts of solar powered stuff nowadays. Many of these handy little gizmos have multiple power options too; they can run on regular batteries and their solar chargeable counterparts -so no matter what they’ve got you covered.

Some of you may be thinking that solar powered stuff is too expensive. To that I say nuh uh! Solar power is becoming a lot cheaper and more accessible. Okay, some of the stuff is a little pricey, but you can find a lot of gear in the $20 and under range. Plus, some retailers may offer better deals, so shop around. Don’t you just love technological advancement?

Consider these nifty contraptions to include in your preparedness kit:

Note: These are not required to be prepared, but could be useful (and awesome) to have.

Disclaimer: Examples are meant to give you an idea of the items available on the market, not to endorse any specific products/retailers.

  • Solar powered lanterns– Perfect for lighting up a room during a power outage. 
  • Solar powered or hand crank radio– A great way to stay informed during a disaster without having to worry about batteries.
    • The Red Cross Store actually sells one similar to this by Eton. It’s a radio, flashlight, and smart phone charger. There are multiple ways to power this puppy and it’s super portable. Check it out here. For the more high-tech one, click here.
  • Solar powered cell phone charger– Your cell phone will always be useful with this genius device. Crank ones are also available here and here (see description). Many solar radios have a cell charge option so keep that in mind before buying something extra.
  • Hand crank/ solar flashlights– Great for little ones (or anyone) to have during disaster. Tip: If you want to go the extra mile, many stores also offer waterproof hand crank/solar flashlights. (Example of hand crank only here.)
  • A solar powered battery charger-This baby puts the oomph back into your rechargeable batteries, with just a little sunlight. How awesome is that? So, if you already have preparedness gear that runs on AA or AAA batteries, this tiny machine can make sure they run for a long time in an emergency. 

If you really want to get crazy with the solar powered stuff (mostly for fun):

-Did you know they make solar powered fans? In the event of a blackout and a simultaneous heat wave, this green gadget can keep you cool. (Many have a removable solar panel that can be adjusted to get the best light.)

-A solar powered wireless sound system? That is the coolest thing I have ever heard! You can charge your phone on it-that is reason enough for me to buy, connect to it via Bluetooth, and listen to your tunes for up to 8 hours on a full charge. It’s water resistant so it would be great to take to the beach or pool (not to mention during a blackout when I need my music).

-Okay, this I just had to share-solar powered toys! I saw this little ‘solar frightened grasshopper kit’ –it moved when in the sun. It would be a great way to keep your kids entertained any day, but could be especially fun for them when the power’s out and TV, video games and computers are not an option. (You have to build the little guy, so it could provide lots of entertainment. Plus, it’s really cute.) Something similar here.

BONUS: All of this awesome solar powered stuff is great in a disaster, but can also be used for camping. (Hello, solar powered fan; you are my new best friend for a summer camping trip.)


No Cell Phone? No Thank You!

Imagine this: A disaster strikes. Cell phone towers are down. There is no access to the internet. This, to me, sounds like the end of the world. What am I supposed to do without my cell phone? Better yet, how will the Red Cross be able to do their job effectively without the help of modern communication?

Enter Disaster Services Technology, or DST, the unsung heroes of the Red Cross. This team of tech savvy volunteers is able to bring back communication through satellites; enabling the Red Cross to do what they do best-help people get through disaster.

Here, students from the DST training are seen setting up satellites.

Here, students from the DST training are seen setting up satellites.

Currently, there are 25 volunteers from our region (as well as L.A., San Diego and Sacramento) participating in a 3 day training. One of the ten trainings Red Cross National Headquarters is putting on. The best part: no background is required. That means any Red Cross volunteer can become part of DST.

Ed Finley, Customer Service Officer for DST with National Headquarters, said of the training, “They’re taking it from cradle to grave.” During a DST training, students experience what it would be like doing this job during an actual disaster (minus the actual disaster, of course).

Inspired to become a volunteer yourself? Visit redcross.org for more information.

A Red Cross volunteer is learning about satellite use and maintenence.

A Red Cross volunteer is learning about satellite use and maintenence.

There’s an app for that!

I don’t know about you, but I’m addicted to my iPhone. Sometimes I think it’s glued to my hand. If you’re anything like me, then you love apps. I’m going to share some great apps for various smartphones that keep preparedness at your fingertips and can help you find information during an emergency. Best of all, they’re free to download!

Before I delve into the wonderful world of apps, I would like to stress cellular/data coverage will likely be limited (at best) during a disaster, so here are some great tips to get tech ready.

First up is the American Red Cross S.O.S. app for Android, which provides emergency care information, complete with videos featuring the voice of Dr. Oz. While there isn’t anything similar for other platforms, the British Red Cross has a first aid app for Android, Blackberry, and iPhone. It features instructions for administering first aid (many with videos), preparedness tips, and knowledge challenges. For the iPhone, the American Red Cross produced a shelter finder app that lists available shelters throughout the United States and shows them on a map – like a portable version of this site.

FEMA created an app for phones and tablets of the Android, Apple, and Blackberry persuasion, which gives safety tips for disasters and helps you build a kit and plan your emergency meeting locations. It also features maps of recovery centers and shelters, as well as links to FEMA social media sites. (Another low-tech way to stay in touch with FEMA is by signing up for their text alerts.)

These are only a few of the apps I’ve found helpful. I also have news and social media apps to get info and stay in touch during a disaster. Well, what are you waiting for? Go explore!