An unexpected blackout like the one I recently experienced can derail normal life and work plans in serious fashion. I found myself without power when a crazy typhoon-like weather system touched down in the Pacific Northwest with vengeance. When the power returned, I knew I had to get myself ready with a few must-haves for future blackouts...
When you don't know exactly when power will return, it's recommended to have a large capacity charging source for phones and other data devices (which can work as backup light sources too).
- Portable power pack. If you're fortunate to maintain a data/wireless connection via phone or tablet during a storm, the only missing piece of the puzzle is a way to keep your devices charged during an outage. I recommend something like the HyperJuice Plug ($143.96), since it can charge two USB devices at once, has a built-in wall plug available for various countries, and has a sleek and easy to use design. If you're not willing to spend quite so much on an emergency device, something like this PowerGen device ($29.99) might fit your needs.
- Light source. Before you use up those emergency candles, an energy efficient light source can help for navigation through a dark house without stubbing the toes. Camping lights are long-lasting and super-portable, making them a smart emergency light option. This LED flashlight ($4.99) with a hanging hook is extremely affordable; at less than $5 each, you can keep a couple for each person in the house. If you're looking for something a bit more powerful, you can even light a room with a battery-powered floor lamp ($15.97).
- Hand-crank radio. If your blackout is weather-related, listening to the local news report can be important, if not a matter of life and death in certain cases. A hand-crank device offers a reliable battery supply; a hand-crank radio (that also has some flashlight and phone charging capabilities) can be had for as cheap as $19.99 from Ambient Weather.
- Walkie talkies. In true disaster conditions, cell service can be unreliable, as anyone who's endured a major hurricane probably already knows. Walkie talkies are a retro alternative, for "just in case" preparation. Uniden sells a wide range of walkie talkies, useful for up to 50 miles range. Prices range from about $40-$100, depending on the radius you choose (just remember to check/replace batteries every few months).
- Food preparation. You're bound to get hungry during a blackout, and in more serious occasions where the power outage is widespread, ordering a pizza might not be an option. There are plenty of small stoves you can use to prepare food, like the BioLite CampStove ($129.95). You can add a camping coffeemaker ($28.80) on to that if you're caffeine-addicted. This small USB-powered refrigerator can help keep some small items cold during a blackout too - great for feeding infants or keeping health essentials cool if needed.
Of course, if you know a severe weather system is going to touch down in the near future, prepare in advance by charging all devices ahead of time, and make sure you've got a few extra batteries on hand for a blackout, alongside some of the these other emergency essentials. Ready.gov is also a great resource for all-around disaster preparedness.
(Image: Heather Katsoulis, used under a Creative Commons license; as listed aboove)