Build Emergency Kit Before Disaster Strikes

David Uffington

November 10, 2012

Recent storms brought home the fact that we need to be prepared for emergencies, especially in the winter.

Unless you have a storm on the way right now, your best bet is to assemble your emergency supplies one step at a time. Watch for sales, and stock up when the items you need cost less.

Flashlights and lanterns: Before buying a new one, read the fine print. Many handheld flashlights now have the specs right on the label: how many batteries it takes, the range of the light beam, the lumens (higher is brighter) and how many hours it will run on a set of batteries. Compare the features. Don’t spend extra for a torch-type flashlight that will send its beam 100 feet but only for five hours if what you really need is one that will light a room for many more hours. Be sure each member of the family has one for moving around the house safely.

Hand-crank radio: These require no batteries, only arm muscles to wind the crank to charge. Many of them come with a set of adapters to charge your cell phone as well.

Battery-operated TV: Before you buy one, go online and read the comments from others. Many of these tiny televisions are finicky about receiving signals, only get a few channels or are otherwise hard to operate. Be sure of the return policy if you buy.

Generator: Let history be your guide here. If you’re in an area that frequently loses power for long periods, a generator can help keep a few of your appliances going, such as refrigerator and freezer, thereby saving the cost of replacing all your food. If you lose power now and then, but only for a short time, a generator might not be cost effective — unless you need it for heat.

Outdoor grill with propane tank: When the power goes out, grills are handy not only to cook meat before it goes bad, but to heat pots of water for tea, coffee, instant oatmeal and other prepared foods like soup or macaroni and cheese. One benefit of propane is that you can instantly turn it off and not have wood or briquettes still hot if the wind blows.

A word about candles: Don’t. For safety, use flashlights instead.

David Uffington regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Write to him in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send email to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.