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Handy tech to have during an emergency

Over the years I've learned that having some well-designed kit close to hand can make all the difference during an emergency (small or large). Here's a look at some of the tech-related kit that I've found most useful over the years.
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1 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Introduction

Emergencies can come in all sizes. You can have the big stuff – like floods, or fire or storms – that makes the headlines, or you can have a small-scale occurrence just affecting a few people.

I was caught up in a thunderstorm today threw thunderbolts that took the power out and high winds that brought down a few trees. Nothing big, but it made me glad that I had my emergency gear in order, not just for my own safety and comfort, but so I could help others and call the relevant emergency services and utility companies to get things sorted.

Over the years I've learned that having some well-designed kit close to hand can make all the difference during an emergency (small or large). Here's a look at some of the tech-related kit that I've found most useful over the years.

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2 of 12 Ultra

UPS and/or surge protection

I've lost count of the number of times my power line has either cut out or been hit by lightning, and without a decent UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) I hate to think how much of a toll this would have taken on my electronics.

I recommend getting a UPS with enough capacity to run your PC gear at least long enough for you to be able to turn the PC off. A good example of a decent consumer/home office grade UPS is the Xfinity Pro Series 2000VA 1200W device.

Failing that, get a surge protector. While that won't protect you from power cuts and brownouts, it will prevent lighting and power surges from killing your gear.

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3 of 12 EagleTac

LED flashlight

Having the ability to throw some light on a situation always makes it seem better. And when you're constantly diving under desks or delving inside PCs, having a flashlight that fits into your pocket is very handy. I prefer to go with an LED flashlight these days because they last much longer than incandescent bulbs and the batteries last a lot longer too.

There are plenty of LED flashlights to choose from, starting at the high end like Surefire, going all the way down to a cheapo plastic thing you can pick up at a gas station for a dollar.

I've just picked up a new LED flashlight – the EagleTac D25A – and it seems to tick all the boxes for me. It has variable output, it's small enough to fit into my pocket, it’s powered by a single AA battery, and it's tough enough survive daily use. 

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4 of 12 Leatherman

Multitool

Why lug a toolbox around with you when you can have a toolbox that fits in your pocket or on a belt?

I'd never suggest that a multitool can take over the job of a proper toolkit, but a proper toolkit is only any good to you if you have it with you.

There are countless multitools on the market, ranging wildly in terms or price, quality, and features. Since I live by the adage of "buy cheap, by twice" I prefer to pay a little more and get a quality item. This is why I always carry a Leatherman tool with me. The company offers over 30 to choose from. I like my multitool to have a pair of solid pliers, decent screwdrivers, and a pair of scissors. 

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5 of 12 ioSafe

Data backup

A data backup is something you can live without – until you need it! And backing up your precious data onto a second hard drive inside your PC just doesn't cut it any more. You need to be covered not only against drive failure, but PC failure, PC loss or theft, and total loss of your stuff from the likes of fire or flood.

To make sure you are protected from data loss from a disaster such as fire or flood you either need to have an off-site backup (either in the form of an over-the-web backup if you have the bandwidth for it, or by backing up to an external drive and taking that to a secondary location) or you need a solution that can withstand fire and flood.

ioSafe have a range of products designed to protect your data if the worst does happen. These solutions don't come cheap, but if you or your business relies on the data you have, it may be a small price to day.

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6 of 12 Duck Brand

Duck tape, plastic ties and superglue

All essentials for fixing things that are broken. These might seem trivial, but they won't seem that way when you need any of them!

Might be worth throwing a small can of WD40 in there too. Not only is it great for loosening stuff off, it's a fantastic water displacer and can be used – at a pinch – to dry out things like hard drives and circuit boards. It's not idea, but it does work.

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7 of 12 Huawei

3G dongle

Information is power, and while your main access to the web might be down, you might be able to connect using the 3G/LTE network using a dongle or hotspot device. It might not be good enough for you to steam films from Netflix, but it can allow you to get access to news, weather and other information.

You can pick these up either from phone stores or online. Personally, I think it's best to get an unlocked on so you can ick and choose the provider you go with based on price and service in your area.

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8 of 12 PortaPow

Solar charger

If you live in sunny climes then a solar charger is a great way to keep devices topped up. If I can use one of these in the UK then unless you're living down a hole you should be able to make use of one!

I have a Powermonkey Extreme pack (which comes with a battery pack) and a 7W (5V x 1400mA) Portapow solar panel. Both are awesome pieces of kit that have searved me well over the years.

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9 of 12 Anker

Portable power pack

It's easy to forget how much we rely on mains power to keep out devices running. But what do you do when the lights go out?

This is where a portable power pack can come in useful. This can be used to keep your cellphone and other gadgets charged up.

I'm a big fan of the Anker Astro external battery packs. You can get these in capacities ranging from 6000mAh to a whopping 12000mAh. 

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10 of 12 Ortlieb

Waterproof bags

If you live somewhere that's prone to flooding then having a waterproof bag for your gear might be a good idea. If bad weather is on the way, pop your precious gear inside a dry bag for safety.

I've used an Ortlieb dry bags to keep delicate electronics dry in some of the worst weather conditions and they've never failed me.

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11 of 12 Cobra

Generator

If your power needs go beyond what a solar charger can offer then you need to think bigger. If you have the space then a gasoline generator is idea, but you have to run this sort of thing outdoors because they are smelly and a fire hazard.

An alternative is a 12V inverter that you can run from your car battery to provide household power to run a range of devices. One of the best inverters out there is the Cobra CPI 2575 which can push out a whopping 2500W and is kitted out with a raft of safety features.

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12 of 12 Paramount

Skills

Latest review

There's no point having all the kit if you don't know how to use it. I've seen people superglue their hand to their face, struggle for ages trying to start a gasoline generator that didn't have any gas in it, slice their hand open with a screwdriver, and set to work reading instructions while a storm approaches.

Don't be those people! Learn to you’re your kit in in comfort, when the lights are on and you have a favorite beverage close to hand. That way, using your kit will become second nature and you won't have to learn how to use it when you're cold, in the dark, or the floodwaters are rising. 

Don't, whatever you do, just pack this stuff into a box or store it in the garage and not look at it until you need it! Use it. Practive your skills.

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