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Hurricane season gadgets help before, and after, the storm

Coming off of a relatively mild 2013 hurricane season, it's easy to get lackadaisical about emergency planning. But don't get caught off guard. Here are some products to help you be prepared.

Hydration

You should store at least a gallon of water per person per day. (And don't forget to add rations for your pets.) Drinking water should be kept in a clean container, not in old milk jugs which can harbor bacteria.

The 5-gallon Fold a Carrier by Reliance is made of high-grade, BPA-free, durable polyethylene. The container has a handle and a spigot for easy dispensing, and can be collapsed for easy storage when not in use. $8.99, amazon.com.

For even more water, the WaterBob Emergency Drinking Water Storage lets you hold up to 100 gallons of water in a heavy food-grade plastic that's placed in a bath tub. The water can be siphoned out for use and will stay fresh for up to 16 weeks. $24.70 including shipping, waterbob.com. A siphon is included.

For those who prefer to be cautious with every sip, try the Grayl Stainless-Steel Water Filtration Cup, which works like a coffee press: You pour 16 ounces of water into the outer cup, and press the inner cup with the filter to force the water through. The filter cartridge kills 99.99 percent of bacteria, and cuts down on bad taste and smell. The lid has a tight seal to prevent leaks. Available in black or steel finish. $70, rei.com.

Power source

When a storm knocks out electricity, there's no telling how long you may be left in the dark. No power means no air conditioning, lights, stove or microwave, and, most of all, no refrigerator. But with a generator, you can keep some basic appliances running.

Generac GP 5,500-Running Watts Portable Generator has covered circuit breaker-protected outlets, a low-oil shutdown safeguard, and a large-capacity fuel tank with a gauge. It comes with a 20-foot heavy-duty extension cord with four 20-amp outlets. $649, lowes.com

Make sure you run the generator at least 10 feet from the house and away from openings to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. As a precaution, consider installing alarms to detect the odorless gas, such as the battery-powered Kidde Code One Battery-Operated Carbon Monoxide Alarm. $30 for a two-pack, homedepot.com.

Keeping your smartphone charged is challenging without electricity. Here are some options to keep your phone charged:

The EnerPlex Surfr phone case has an integrated 2,000 mAh battery with a thin-film solar-charging panel. The manufacturer says it doubles the battery life of your phone. It's available for the iPhone 5/5s and 4/4S, and Samsung Galaxy S4 and S3. $69.99-$99.99 at goenerplex.com/shop.

For a multitasking device, try the Eton FRX5 S Smartphone Charging Weather Alert Radio, which is a rugged charger with a 2000mAh rechargeable lithium battery with a solar panel and a hand-crank generator. Connect your phone or tablet with a USB cable. It's also a weather radio, flashlight, emergency beacon and alarm clock. $130, shopetoncorp.com.

Need more backup power? The slim and portable Anker Astro Pro2 is an external lithium polymer battery pack with a capacity of 20000mAh. It can fully charge most laptops once, or smartphones about nine times. $100, amazon.com. Smaller-capacity packs are also available. Make sure you fully charge the power pack before the storm.

Hurricane apps

In addition to the old standbys — WeatherBug and the Weather Channel — you should have a hurricane specific app for your smartphone or tablet to track an approaching storm.

Hurricane by American Red Cross (free, iOS and Android) tracks the weather and gives location-based alerts. It also lists where the open Red Cross shelters are in case you need to evacuate your neighborhood. It gives tips on what to do before, during and after the storm. After a storm passes, send out an "I'm safe" status on social media sites to reassure your friends and family that you're okay.

iMap Weather Radio ($10, iOS or Android) sends out weather alerts and notifications, even when your phone is asleep. It also tracks where you are if you're on the move, or set up to five fixed locations to watch out for your family or friends.

And while you're at it, download First Aid by American Red Cross (free, iOS, Kindle Fire and Android), which is another must-have app in case you need to treat someone with injuries. You can also call 911 directly from this app.

Light

When there's a blackout, the Eton Blackout Buddy Emergency LED Blackout Flashlight and Nightlight is there to help. Keep the device plugged into an outlet to charge. When it's dark, it's a nightlight. Or unplug it and use it as a flashlight. $29 for a two-pack, amazon.com

For a brighter light source, try the Coleman Lantern Twin LED High Performance. The design is classic Coleman, but it comes with two bright, long-lasting LEDs that puts out 580 lumens of light on the high setting. The weather-resistant lantern can run for 100 hours on low and 15 hours on high, and uses eight D-cell batteries (not included). $69, homedepot.com

Cooking

Need to light a fire? Replace traditional firestarters, like matches and lighters, that are vulnerable to moisture, and use this compact Swedish Fire Steel. It creates 5,400-degree sparks that can ignite a pile of grass, paper and other flammables in any weather. This Army model is good for up to 12,000 strikes. Bonus: The striker handle is a whistle. $15.99, target.com.

Can't live without coffee during the power outage? You don't need a fancy coffee maker to have a good cup of joe. The Melitta Pour-Over Brew Cone ($3, walmart.com or a grocery store) makes one cup at a time. Pour hot water over some ground coffee in a No. 2 cone filter, and let it drip into a cup.

The Camp Chef Butane Single Burner Stove can cook some warm meals without electricity. It has an 8,000 BTU burner, a matchless ignition, adjustable heat control dial and a refillable butane reservoir. $24, walmart.com.

Hurricane season gadgets help before, and after, the storm 05/12/14 [Last modified: Monday, May 12, 2014 8:47pm]

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