Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How's The Dark?

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." Mark Twain

We just went through the edge of hurricane Irene.  And, like the quote above, if you're naked in preparation, you'll have little influence on your circumstances.  I didn't go overboard, but I was reasonably well prepared.  I knew I wasn't going to have to worry about flooding.  And, with an apartment above me, it wasn't likely that a tree would be coming into the space I live in.  With that in mind, here are a few things I thought might help for the next time there's a similar emergency, with power outages.

First and foremost is water and food.  If you prepare, that doesn't have to be dry tasteless stuff and plain water.  Which means you can create your own celebration.  I had ice packs and a cooler for a few coldcuts and cheese to make sandwiches, bread, chips, cookies and water flavored with a little Mio.  Party time!

You always need light.  At a point when I could afford it, I had done some research and decided on a fenix LD01.  It's not cheap (I've seen prices between $31 and $42, depending on the version), but it's very small, very bright (some have several settings), and it uses a single AAA battery.  The bulb has a 50,000 hour expected life -- most of us won't live long enough or in tough enough circumstances to ever get to replace the bulb.  And the casing is strong metal, built to last in tough situations.  I'm still on my first replacement battery in the over two years I've had the light.  And I really make use of the light.  Unless I lose it, I'm expecting it'll outlast me.

I'm big on being able to communicate.  Which is why I really like my Blackberry.  It has multiple forms of communication, better battery life than most other phones, and when you get to somewhere around 20% battery left it will selectively shutdown some phone features to conserve battery life.  It took 19 hours to go from 95% to 20%.  I made a number of calls, received a number of text messages from the city, communicated with friends via Blackberry Messaging, and (toward the end of that period) tried internet radio to try to get an update on the local situation.  So, it did really well for that many hours off the charger.  I bought several things to help with keeping the phone going.

First was a Motorola P790 portable charger.  It's a rechargeable unit that can then be used as an extra power source or to partially recharge your phone.  And it worked well.  In under an hour my phone went from 20% battery to 55%.  Plenty of charge to go till morning with minimal use, if I had to.  Fortunately, power was restored before then.  Input for the P790 is USB to miniUSB connector.  They assume you have that type of cable for your phone.  If you don't, you'll need to get one.  Output is a miniUSB connector.  Most modern phones use microUSB connections, so you'll need an adaptor.  But all three can be had for as little as $21 plus shipping.

When I found the P790, I was looking for solar chargers for my phone.  None had the power out to handle my phone, but were recommended for other phones.  So one of those might be an alternative choice.  As well, there are a number of light/radio combinations that power from batteries recharged by hand cranking, some supposedly able to charge a phone from hand cranking.  I'm going to research those more thoroughly.  But be aware that features (some include solar power, too), pricing and quality vary widely.

One of the best ways to pass the time in a power outage is reading.  A good reading light, along with either a book or a good eReader allows you to enjoy your time in the dark.  Most portable reading lights last, use LED bulbs and are light.  If need be, the one I have could double as my flashlight.  I have a Kindle, which was fully charged when the power went out.  I have a number of books on it and it'll last weeks on a charge.

I haven't really gotten into disaster preparation.  Just some things to make an unpleasant situation more palatable and comfortable. So don't be naked in your preparations, but be "clothed" so you influence the impact of your circumstances.

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