by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Tech for winter storm preparedness, but not just tech.
In order to be prepared for this and the eventual outages and other problems associated with such weather phenomena it is important to have supplies to had to get through any eventualities. Some supplies to have at hand are obvious, such as canned foods, as well as dried foods, toilet paper, and means of alternative lighting and also, if you do not happen to have a wood stove, an alternative for cooking meals. Medical supplies, such as a good first aid kit (and the knowledge of how to apply first aid) also are an absolute must.
Then there are the tech supplies (tech for lack of a better word) that also come in handy or, to some extent, are very important.
When a storm, or any other (natural) calamity, hits, it is important to receive information from the authorities. While in the US the so-called weather radio service operates and special radio receivers can be gotten to listen to those AM, FM and NOAA digital radio stations in Europe, at least not in the UK, no such service exists and one has to reply on ordinary radio frequencies, such as the BBC or the public radio services in other countries.
As mains power may be knocked out and, even though you should have enough of the right kind of batteries to hand as well, a good idea is also to have a hand-crank radio as a standby. There are a number of different makes on the market, obviously, and the choice is yours. My recommendation, though, would be one of the Freeplay range.
Storms and other weather or natural calamities may knock out power and also telephone communications and that way neither your landline nor your cellphone will be of much use. Using flags to communicate with your neighbors or a Morse lamp may not be that reliable. So what then?
In towns and cities things are a little easier, probably, but if you happen to live in the villages or even more rural then you may want and need to other means of communicating with others and this is where two-way radio comes in.
For those who are not radio hams – and then they do have restrictions on who they can communicate with (only other radio hams, on the given frequencies) – there are two other options (aside from illegality of using more powerful kit on commercial frequencies) and those are PMR (FRS) and/or CB Radio.
The PMR is a UHF radio service that has but a limited range, especially with the license-free radios while CB Radio still works on the old shortwave (HF) range in the 11m band, that is the 27MHz range, and the range of those radios are dependent on whether legal or illegal power is being used and in all cases on the conditions and the antenna. However, the range is a fairly good one and can be thus a good means of communication.
Drawback on both those systems is, however, the fact that they operate on open frequencies and that the transmissions are not permitted to be scrambled (at least not in Europe) and thus there is no privacy unlike with your landline or cellphone. However, for staying in touch with your neighbors, especially in rural areas where you are not living next door to each other, license-free radio services, such as the ones mentioned, even though there is not the same privacy as on a phone, are extremely useful and important during any such situations. This is also a way that you can find out what is happening in other areas.
While some people, even among the survival writers, believe that the landline will be happily working still when the power is out this is rather questionable as often today your landline phone also depends on electricity in your home and, if the local exchange does not have power then, more than likely, the wired telephone network will be down as well.
Your cellphone, especially a smartphone, will be useless very soon, the latter more than the old-fashioned ordinary cellphone, as the battery will need recharging every now and then. There are, obviously, some options to keep your cellphone operational for some time, either by use of a so-called power-bank, which is, basically, a rechargeable battery that often has enough power to recharge a cellphone at least twice from empty. Another alternative if to have some sort of hand-crank generator that lets you charge your cellphone and other USB devices. But, if the power is out in your area then, more than likely the cellphone network may be down as well, unless they have serious alternative power backup.
Unless you want to rely on candles or have oil lamps and a supply of lamp oil then you may want some battery-powered flashlight and other lighting. In fact, if you have to go out in the dark you may want a flashlight or two anyway.
With today's much improved LED technology such, even powerful, flashlights have become rather cheap by comparison to some years back and beat the old-style flashlights that use(d) incandescent light bulbs and, generally, also are much better as regards to battery consumption, and their lumen output are much higher than any of the old style flashlights.
Now you can also get hand-crank flashlights and also emergency and camping lamps that are also a good idea to have, especially the latter ones, in case of any disaster at home.
Obviously, if you are using any kind of battery-powered devices, whether flashlights or other, you will have to have some spare batteries in store to keep those devices going. Always remember that you may not be able to (1) get to a store and (2) that they may have run out of stock (of any kind). Most stores, especially the larger kind, all work on the just in time principle which means that if there is a run on supplies and there are disruptions the shelves will soon be empty and might stay that way for a while.
There is a lot more that you should do to prepare for a storm or other natural (or man-made) calamity and much of it is common sense rather. Handling things a little like our grandparents and theirs did things in that there is always some food at home and other necessary supplies, and not just simply during the storm season, is the way to go.