Of the 1,272 federal disaster declarations issued in the last decade, more than half were classified as major disasters. These include calamities such as floods, hurricanes and tropical storms, winter storms, and others. In the last 10 years, every state has had at least two events designated as a major federal disaster.
“Most major disasters displaced hundreds or thousands of people from home and work, and nearly all involved a temporary or prolonged loss of major services and necessities, including power, communications, and running water,” said Jonathan Bacon, director of marketing at Wilson Electronics, a maker of communications equipment in St. George, Utah.
“We began thinking about what has changed in technology and society, and how that would affect what we would want to have in an emergency ‘go-pack,’” Bacon said. “A lot of what we would take with us hasn’t changed, but some of what we’d desire today had not been invented 10 years ago. We came up with six items that were either invented or radically improved in the last 10 years. We call it the 21st-century Survival Kit.”
1. Cell phone signal booster: “We’re all extremely dependent on smartphones for voice and data communications. Portable cell phone signal boosters help to transmit and receive calls and data via cell towers unaffected by a disaster. In a severe situation like Hurricane Sandy, where all communications were compromised for several days, having a cell booster could save precious hours of driving time to find a strong cell signal.
2. Batteries: Two portable lithium-ion batteries, each with a minimum capacity of 10,000mAh, is enough for one battery to fully charge at least three smartphones or to power a tablet, net book or cell booster for several hours.
3. Portable solar panel: “These solar panels weigh only about a pound and are very practical for charging portable batteries and devices,” said Bacon. He recommended a panel capable of producing at least 10 watts of power and one amp of current.
4. LED headlamp: Also powered by rechargeable batteries, the latest generation of these types of lamps have adjustable brightness to maximize battery life and can be made bright enough to cast light more than 100 feet.
5. Two-way FRS/GMRS radios: “When even a booster can’t find a cell signal, these radios provide a communications range up to 30 miles,” said Bacon.
6. Microbial filter straw: This is used for drinking water that may be contaminated with bacteria, organic and waterborne chemicals, and other harmful elements. One filter straw can filter 30 gallons of water.
“A lot has happened just in the last 10 years to make keeping in contact and avoiding health risks easier under adverse conditions,” said Bacon. All of these products are readily available, weigh less than five pounds total and take up little room in a backpack.