Many in Ontario experienced power outages this May 24 long weekend following a massive passing storm. Chances are you might have found yourself furiously searching for candles, flashlights, and other items to keep things going.
While many people were seriously injured, sadly even died, as the result of falling trees and flying debris, others were lucky enough to get by with just a lack of power and a few branches here and there on the property. As I write this, some regions throughout Ontario, Quebec, and other surrounding areas are still without power, several days later.
While this article will do little to help you right now, here’s a list of tech and other related items to keep on hand in the event of the next blackout.
A Cooler And Frozen Ice Packs
When the power goes out, a few hours might not do much damage to your perishable food as long as you keep the refrigerator door closed. But go beyond a few hours and it means rotting food that is unsafe to consume. Always have a cooler on hand along with some frozen ice packs. Grab these ice packs before they begin to defrost, pop them in the cooler, and move some items over to the cooler to keep cold. This will at least buy you some time until you’re able to purchase bags of ice to keep food at a safe temperature until the fridge is working again.
While a back-up generator isn’t feasible for most, if you live in a region where the power tends to go out frequently due to storms or other conditions, it might be worth investing in one. This will keep the home running through any blackout, including heating during the winter, air conditioning during the summer, and appliances.
Portable Phone Charger
I always keep a portable charging bank charged up and ready to go in the event of an emergency. In fact, my portable charger was able to keep my phone charged during the Saturday of the long weekend when we lost power for about six hours. In the event of a serious emergency, you can always use your car and a charging cable to power up the phone long enough to let family and friends know of your safety status.
Solar Powered Chargers
Solar powered chargers are a good option for keeping devices going in the event of an extended power outage. All they require is the sunlight to give them a boost. While it will take long to get a full charge, it will be enough to keep essential items powered up on an as-needed basis until power returns.
A flashlight is a must for every home. Consider having multiple ones, including one that runs on easily accessible user replaceable batteries and/or solar power. Make sure the battery compartment is easy to open and that you keep a selection of batteries on hand and all times in an easily accessible spot, like that “anything-goes” drawer in the kitchen.
Another alternative source of power is a hand crank that you simply rotate in a 360° motion rapidly to gain power. It will take a really long time to get the flashlight powered for longer than a minute or two. But if you need a quick burst of light, a hand crank is a solid last resort option. Some flashlights run by batteries, solar, and hand crank, offering multiple power options.
A good idea is to keep the flashlight in the trunk of your car. Grab it to use indoors in the event of a power outage, but store it in the car as part of an on-the-road emergency kit as well.
Propane Fire Pit
A propane fire pit can be useful for warmth during a power outage, though you’d have to use it outside. But you can also use many of them to heat up food as well. Head outside and cook up all the hot dogs and hamburgers that are about to spoil in the fridge for dinner while you anxiously wait for power to return.
Click Heat Pads
You might have seen those click heat pads before and thought they were gimmicky but not useful. But they can come in handy in a pinch. The pads come in a variety of sizes and designs and use non-toxic gel material inside. Click it open and it will begin to heat up instantly, ideal to place overtop your clothing to keep you warm if the power goes out in the dead of winter. Once the power is back, simply boil it in water to return it to the original state and use it again and again.
Battery Operated Fan or Space Heater
A battery-operated fan can be a lifesaver in the event of a power outage during a hot and humid day. Conversely, a battery-operated space heater will keep you warm and toasty if there’s no central heating due to a power outage. While most fans and heaters run on electricity, you can find ones that function on a battery. They are typically small in size, but if you grab a few of these and keep them in storage for emergency purposes, they will pay off in spades. A bonus is that when you find you’re extra hot while working away in your basement home office, even with the AC running, you can use one for supplemental cooling. They can also come in handy during indoor events in the summer when AC is not running (like in most public schools).
Smartphone Personal Hotspot and Signal Booster
If you have a generous wireless data plan, you can use your phone as a personal hotspot for your laptop until the power, and Wi-Fi, are back up and running. The connection will allow you to continue working away with a decently quick connection that leverages your phone plan. It’s not something you’d want to do while transferring massive files or streaming video continuously. But for a day or two, you should have no issues. I have a 6GB data plan where I work from home 100% of the time and rarely ever use it. So for power outage days, or days if the Internet is on the fritz, I can confidently use my phone’s hotspot without worry of overage charges.
To further enhance the experience if you live somewhere that cellular connectivity isn’t always ultra-fast, grab a cellular signal booster from a brand like Surecall. During a several-day-long power outage due to this storm, WiFi HiFi’s John Thomson headed out to the mountains in Mont Tremblant where he resides with his van, a Surecall booster, a folding chair, and his laptop to keep connected until the power came back on.
Grab the items on this list and keep them in a safe spot where you can access them in the event of a power outage to keep things going. (Keep the flashlight in that kitchen drawer so it’s easy to find in the dark!) The great thing about most of these tech items is that they can come in handy for other everyday use as well.