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07. 31. 2008

Emergency gadgets for earthquakes


As you may have heard, we had an earthquake here in Southern California on Tuesday, July 29th. Measuring a "mild" 5.4 on the Richter scale, it was enough for our house to shake for minutes, the water in the pool to wash over the sides, and to scare us out of our PJs. Seismologists have drilled into us Californians that there is a 99% chance that the big one will hit in the next 30 years, so the common thought that comes to mind is: "Is this it?"

URGENT NOTE: The Red Cross has just established a "Safe and Well" website for today's earthquake so make sure to register, or if you can't find a loved one, input that info under "Search" function. For the best information on what do do after an earthquake, check out this page on the Red Cross site.

Experts recommend that you be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days in case of a natural disaster. You need to store your household disaster kit in an easily accessible, yet safe location (i.e., where it's least likely to have the house come down on it). We have our state-of-the-art EQ kit in a plastic garbage can with wheels so we can move it around - in our case, probably into the middle of the street.

Fortunately, it wasn't the apocalypse this week, but what better time than now to think about adding technology that is going to be invaluable in a disaster?

Take the Eton Microlink emergency radio, which I first saw at CES. It's got what you want/need: a solar power source, a hand-crank for power in case your batteries are corroded or your arm gets tired, a self-powered AM/FM/Weatherband, a flashlight, and cell phone charger. Thanks to the weather bands, you always stay on top of alerts and can tune into the FCC and EAS public alert systems. Potentailly life-saving, this is the key component of our quake kit.


Since water is critical and all your plastic jugs are going to naturally evaporate part of their contents (as we discovered this week), the iStraw is going to be your new best friend. The lightweight polycarbonate straw, fitted with a special membrane, uses micro-filtration technology to clean your water. If you've tried chlorine tablets, you know how icky the taste can be, and with the iStraw there's no aftertaste. After three days we'll be drinking our pool, so I got one for every member of the family. $19.95 at iStraw.


We also added a miners-type head lamp to the kit. Statistically, an earthquake is more likely to happen at night (don't ask me why), and since we're going to be without power, light is going to be crucial. I favor this head lamp from
Discount Lights and Knives because the beam is visible up to 2,000 yards, you get up to 48 hours of light from one set of batteries, there's a hinged attachment to position the beam and adjustable straps, and best of all, it frees up your hands.
$54.46 at Amazon.

The ultimate gadget in our EQ kit? The "putt putt," the nickname for our generator. Honda makes the best - quiet, efficient and safe - but it's around $700 bucks. Check around and you can find cheaper models with fewer amps. Try Pep Boys - they have a PowerPro 5500 watt Generator for $399. Hot drinks (think coffee) and hot food (soups, dried food packets from REI) are going to be a huge comfort with 3 days of no electricity. Come over to our house for hot toddies. Speaking of which, add brandy to your first aid kit. (My friend suggested tequila but I don't think it has the same medicinal qualities.)

Beyond your basic kit, make sure you have a "Go-bag", which you put in a backpack in case you have to evacuate quickly. Prepare one Go-bag for each family member and make sure each has an I.D. tag. Also, be sure to laminate photos of the all family members in case of a worst-case scenario. Considering that we live in a state where we spend most of our time in cars - even with the gas crisis - we make sure to have all the essentials in our car. I always pack a map and runners, in case I'm stranded wearing high heels, not that finding me in spiky heels is likely to happen.)

To refresh your memory, here's what the S.F.emergency site, a place well versed in tremblors, 72 hrs recommends you put in your "Go-bag" :

Radio ( battery operated)
Dust mask
Pocket knife
Emergency cash in small denominations and quarters for phone calls
Sturdy shoes, a change of clothes, and a warm hat
Local map
Some water and food
Permanent marker, paper and tape
Photos of family members and pets for re-identification purposes
List of emergency point-of -contact phone numbers
List of allergies to any drug (especially antibiotics) or food
Copy of health insurance and identification cards
Extra prescription eye glasses, hearing aid or other vital personal items
Prescription medications and first aid supplies
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Extra keys to your house and vehicle
Any special-needs items for children, seniors or people with disabilities. Don't forget to make a Go-Bag for your pets.

Personally, I like the Red Cross "Deluxe Backback kit" for $69.95, and also Coghlan's Survival-kit-in-a-Can, which is waterproof, airtight and contains 38 essential items, such as a compass, fire starter, first aid items and something I never thought of - fish hooks. Check out all their items for first aid and emergency survival.

Whatever you do, don't put it off, no matter where you live. Now excuse me while I break into the emergency brandy.

Posted by Evan    Category: current affairs | devices | feature | home | misc gadgets | on the web
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