What tech accessories should go into your emergency kit?

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With any discussion on emergency preparation, it’s never a bad idea to consult guides like the one posted by the Red Cross, or your own local law enforcement/first responder web sites.

We recently produced a review on the SpareOne Emergency GoPhone, a no frills back up phone designed to make sure you can easily make calls or share your location if you’re ever in trouble. Depending on what area of the world you live in, you likely face some kind of regionally specific disaster. Earthquakes, fires, flood, tornadoes, we often see similar recommendations for people when making an emergency prep kit. Water, first aid supplies, food, flashlights, pocket knives are all pretty common items to see, but what about our technology? What should we keep on hand to protect or support our electronics?

Power

During a minor situation, you’ll probably be able to power your phone for the day. Resorting to low power modes, activating airplane mode, or completely turning it off, we can greatly extend standby time. For situations where you might need to actively send or receive messages though, how long will you be able to keep that phone powered? Some kind of inexpensive back up battery should at least triple the amount of time you can use the phone over some kind of network connection. Just like your car’s spare tire though, you’ll want to check that battery regularly to make sure it’s still charged. It’s just a paperweight if it’s out of juice.

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Beyond that, if your situation is pushing into multiple days, or if you need to power several gadgets, some other kind of solution might be required. Portable solar panels can often charge an external battery and recharge a phone with several hours of sunlight. Hand crank solutions are a terrible option for fully charging a phone, but in a pinch, a couple minutes of cranking should give you enough juice to make a call or send some texts.

Protect

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A rugged case for your phone might not be a bad idea either. Supposing your phone survives the initial situation, protecting your communications gear afterwards is a good idea. You might be on the move, or there could be additional events like aftershocks after an earthquake. If you own a fairly popular phone, you should be able to find rugged and waterproof cases from companies like OtterBox, Incipio, BodyGlove, LifeProof, and others. If your phone is a little less common, keeping some kind of Pelican style waterproof storage box on hand will help protect your phone (and possibly that extra battery we mentioned above) when you’re not using it.

Also, never underestimate the practicality of a lanyard strap in preventing accidental drops. If your phone case has one, use it.

Back up

Of course, your phone might not have survived the initial emergency event. In those situations, redundancy is always an excellent idea. We’re always looking for ways to reuse or recycle old phones, and maybe one potential use is just doing nothing with them. Leave an old phone in an emergency prep kit just in case you run into trouble.

nexus5hardware4You don’t even need to pay for a separate line for that back up phone in most cases. Many countries will allow phones without a SIM card to make emergency calls to 911 (or the emergency number in your area). It’s not a bad idea though to keep a SIM pin tool and a SIM adapter on hand if you need those. Even if your main phone gets smashed up bad, you should still be able to swap the SIM. That wont help you though if your new phone has a Nano SIM and your old phone has a Micro SIM, but you don’t have an adapter.

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What have we missed?

We’re just scratching the surface on emergency tech here, focusing on some basics to protect your phone specifically. What do you keep in your emergency kit? What other gadgets might help you out when you’re in a tough spot? Drop us a comment below!

 

 

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About The Author
Juan Carlos Bagnell
Juan has been geeking out on personal computing since before PCs had GUIs. After studying Theatre in college, Juan worked with a contractor that supported servers and mobile devices for Department of Energy facilities. After moving to Los Angeles California, and working as a commercial casting director, he now dedicates his time to discussing the tech landscape as a consumer advocate. You’ll often see him pop in local news broadcasts. Passionate about mobile content creation, he recently published his first book on smartphone photography.