Bad weather and power outages are sure things. The outage may come from a tornado or hurricane, or even a suicidal squirrel in the transformer behind your house. When the threat of a possible power outage is near, you'll have a difficult time finding the emergency supplies you need. Now is the time to get ready. Let's go shopping. Now.
Shed light on the subject
Flashlights are fine — and you ought to have a couple — but what you really need are battery-powered camping lanterns. They produce a broad swath of light that makes it easy to cook, read or do normal household chores.
Newer lanterns use multiple LED bulbs and produce more light, yet let your batteries last longer. Most of these lanterns have various brightness settings, powering up more of the LED bulbs as you move from low to high power.
I like the Coleman Twin LED Lantern. But that's mostly based on the fact that I've used it with good results. And the Coleman name is iconic when it comes to lanterns. Truth is, it's hard to go wrong, no matter what brand you choose.
But stay away from the camping lanterns that burn fuel. There's no need to put up with the fumes and the possible danger of fire.
Power when you need it
Your best friends in a power outage are batteries. And an outage is no time for rechargeable batteries. When stored unused and fully charged they still slowly lose power. So plain old alkaline batteries are the best choice. Even when stored for two or three years they keep their charge.
That's why it's smart to buy in bulk; just make sure you have the right kind of battery for each device you may need in the outage.
Let's hear it for radio
Radio broadcasters deliver up-to-date information about storms, traffic conditions and school closings. But you need a battery-powered radio to tune in.
Battery-powered radios that let you tune in to local AM and FM stations are inexpensive and easy to find. But I suggest buying a battery-powered AM and FM radio that also tunes to the government's weather radio stations that constantly broadcast forecasts and storm warnings.
Calling for help
Most of us have cell phones these days. And if you have a UPS (uninterruptable power supply) for your computer you already have a way to keep that phone charged, even in an extended power outage.
When the power goes out at my house I turn off the computer and other devices that are usually connected to the UPS. That's to preserve the battery in the UPS. It comes in handy during a long outage as a supply of AC power. There's not enough juice to power appliances, but it's an oasis of AC for keeping batteries charged.
If your primary home phones are wireless. they're useless once the power goes out. So make sure you have at least one old-fashioned wired telephone. Even when power lines go down the phone lines often are functional.
E-mail and the Web
You may need to do some work from home during a long outage. So e-mail and access to the Web can be handy. In my home, the iPhone offers all that. A UPS has enough power to keep a phone like that charged for weeks.
But I also keep a laptop computer charged and ready to go. I can do my work using the laptop, then power up my DSL modem and wireless router using a UPS to get online with the laptop and send it off.