Hippo Manchester
September 8, 2005

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Essential gadgets

Taking personal responsibilty for survival in a crisis

By John “jaQ” Andrews 

The ongoing disaster in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast got me thinking.

Am I prepared? I live near the crest of a hill way above sea level, but floods and other natural disasters can happen anywhere.

One thing that most items appearing in this column have in common is electricity. Obviously, the last thing on anyone’s mind in a catastrophe should be their DVD player, but gadgets can have a role in survival as well — as long as they don’t depend on a power grid. They should also be small, sturdy and useful.

Two gadgets I found should definitely be in your calamity backpack.

Hand Crank Radio & Flashlight

I actually do own one of these, so I’m half prepared. A radio has long been a standard recommendation for survival kits, but packing extra batteries can weigh you down — and worse, let you down. A dead battery benefits no one.

There are a number of models these days that incorporate a flashlight and radio, so you can listen for critical information and get light to find your way. My particular model includes a hand crank and solar panels, both of which charge the NiMH batteries inside. True, the batteries will not last as long as heavy-duty alkalines, but they can be recharged many times, for a much greater effective life. They won’t last forever, but can get you through an extended period without civilization’s amenities.

I got my radio as a gift, but at the time it was available at Christmas Tree Shops for less than $20. Other places to look might include L.L. Bean, The Discovery Channel Store, EMS and any other outdoor store.

More powerful radios will be able to pull in more distant stations, but will be larger and heavier and require more power, which means more hand cranking.

For a small and eminently portable model, check out the $20 Kaito KA006. It boasts an hour of listening time for every two minutes of cranking.

A more robust model is the Eton Grundig FR250 for $50. It includes a full AM/FM radio, seven international shortwave bands and a cell phone charger.

Both models are available at www.ambientweather.com and elsewhere.

Portable Water Purifier

The problem in a flood is not a lack of water, but a lack of drinkable water. Without a large supply of clean water, you may need to make your own.

A water filter can remove bacteria, but a purifier can remove both bacteria and viruses. In a worst-case scenario, it’s better to spend a little more on a purifier.

Many models are available at www.rei.com. Here are two.

The $93 First Need Deluxe Water Purifier cleans up to 125 gallons per filter, and is the only non-chemical water purifier certified to EPA Guide Standard for microbiological purifiers against bacteria and viruses. You can pump water through or use a gravity feed, and it backwashes for sanitary cleaning.

The $75 MSR SweetWater Purifier System requires a chemical additive for full purification. Its filter is good for up to 200 gallons, while the included purification solution is only good for 80 gallons.

Store extra filters (and purification solution, if necessary) for extended periods. Bottles to store your purified water are also necessary. The average adult needs between one half and one gallon per day, so one filter can last a single family a while, but extra filters can help others around you as well.