The next generation in high-tech disaster help
Stephanie Graham, Courtny Gerrish
Photo: Video by tmj4.com
MILWAUKEE - Lori Cheek always hoped she'd never have to use her disaster kit. Then, a storm hit. She recalls, "There was no power. There was no phone signal. I couldn't get on the internet."
Thankfully, Lori had food, water and a solar-powered radio.
"If I can't get in touch with anyone, I can at least know what's going on around me, find a safe place to go," she explains.
Experts say that every household should have an emergency preparedness kit. Now, disaster-themed apps and gadgets are competing for space among traditional supplies. Anne Marie Borrego with The American Red Cross says a kit wth added high-tech help can provide everything from bright light to a lifeline.
"High tech items can help you stay in touch with family members, can allow you to tell everyone in your social network that you're safe," she said.
Those items can also feed you important news and info. The Red Cross recently launched a series of free disaster apps.
"Tornado app, hurricane app, wildfire app, and earthquake app, all designed to help people manage their way through those disasters and also prepare for them," Borrego says.
Plug-free battery chargers, can now keep your smartphone or tablet powered for days. You can also buy a backup cell phone that's charged by a Double-A battery. C-Net's Dan Ackerman says, even the old-school crank radio has received an upgrade.
"You can use regular batteries with it. It has a rechargeable battery that you can charge via a hand crank or a solar panel, so there are three ways to keep it powered up," he said.
New pop-up, LED lanterns last 100 hours and can fit in a small bag, or, turn your water bottle into a lantern with this unique cap.
"It's got a solar panel on the top and a lamp on the bottom, so it soaks up solar power and stores it. If the lights go out, it'll turn on, and you can use it like a flashlight," Ackerman explains.
If you invest in emergency gadgets, check that they're fully charged every few weeks, and store them with your other supplies. Recommended storage areas are waterproof plastic boxes or cases, or plastic bags.
Finally, the Red Cross stresses, never substitute tech tools for disaster kit basics, like food, water, batteries, and first aid.
Borrego recommends, "Each kit should definitely contain at least three days worth of supplies for each individual member of the family."
Lori's so-called 'go-bag' helped her ride out the storm safely, and continues to give her peace of mind.
"You never know what's going to happen and it's better to be prepared," she exclaims.
Disaster gadgets and apps run anywhere from free to upwards of $100. When making your choice, consider where you live, your family's needs, and your budget. Also, be sure to read product reviews.