Every springtime, I reassess the electronics communications gear that is available to help Oklahomans prevail in difficult, severe weather situations. Electronics manufacturers change, replace and discontinue things all the time, and so, every year I take a fresh look at what folks can actually get in order to keep themselves and their families safe.
Many times, the most immediate need in such situations is minute-by-minute weather information, especially if electrical power is knocked out before yet more tornadoes arrive. Battery-powered radios are great, and should be part of every communications kit, but weather information coming from radio stations cannot compare to what you get from local TV stations. When tornados are in the area, you want to see on a map where they are located, even if electricity to your home it cut off. You need a battery-powered TV.
You also want a TV that uses replaceable batteries, rather than non-replaceable rechargeable batteries. What if you have no electricity in your area, and no way of recharging them? Too bad for you.
Every well-prepared Oklahoman has a good-sized stash of AAA, AA, C, D and 9-volt alkaline batteries in their survival kit (don’t you?). When the batteries in your flashlights, radios and TVs run down, you simply pop in a fresh set and get back to surviving. That’s why you need a portable TV that uses replaceable, rather than rechargeable, batteries.
Portable TVs that use replaceable batteries are hard to find, though. My favorite, the RCA Model DHT235, is no longer made. If you can find one used on Amazon or eBay, buy it, fast. Otherwise, the NAXA NDL-257 Boombox combines a TV, CD/DVD player, AM/FM radio and can read USB drives and memory cards. It uses replaceable alkaline C-cell batteries and is available from Newegg and Amazon.
The wimpy little antenna that comes with these devices is OK for casual use, but for serious, emergency TV viewing, you need more. I use a rabbit-ears style antenna; the Model ANT121F, made by RCA. Price is about $15, and it does a superb job of pulling in all of our local stations.
Rechargeable devices like laptops and cell phones are wonderful, but still not ideal in an emergency situation. You need to be able to recharge them when normal electric services have failed. If you have a functioning automobile, that means you have a functioning power generator. Make sure you have car chargers for all your devices. If all you have is AC wall-type adapters, you can still use what is known as a power inverter.
Power inverters for this purpose plug into your cars power outlets (formerly known as “cigarette lighters”) and provide you with a standard, AC wall-type outlet. They are also are inexpensive; you can get a Schumacher SL-2 410-watt power inverter at Walmart for $25. Keep in mind that devices like this are not made to power major appliances like coffee pots or desktop computers. Be careful not to connect too many things at the same time, and don’t start or turn off the car while your delicate electronic devices are charging. With an inverter like this, you’ll be fine running and charging your laptops, phones and iPads.
Your kit should also include an all-in-one 12-volt battery system that can jump-start your car, like the Schumacher SJ5. This handy unit also has a built-in flashlight and USB jacks to charge your cellphone or tablet/iPhone. $50 at Walmart, it is a must-have for every severe weather survival kit.
Even if you have none of these, if you have a sunny day, you have yet another alternative power source: solar. Check out the AllPowers website at allpowers.net and get yourself a folding solar panel kit. Remember, more watts equals more power capacity, and the 18 volt versions will run small laptop computers, as well. Este paratus!