We live in New Jersey. That means we get to worry about hurricanes in the fall and blizzards in the winter. Losing power is no fun. Especially when you are looking at days or potentially weeks without any electricity. I never though weeks without power was a possibility until having lived through Super Storm Sandy. I was lucky and never lost power but close relatives weren’t so lucky. They were out from a few days to two weeks. Amazingly, they all wanted to stay in their house even without power, which also meant no heat. Most heat is provided via natural gas in New jersey but unfortunately your furnace is run by electricity so even though the gas lines were not effected, it didn’t matter. Some tried to get a bit of heat from the stoves but for the most part their homes were as cold inside as outside.
This article is going to talk about how to prepare using your mobile electronics. There is a lot of information about the other essentials out there like water, food and shelter. We’re going to talk about the other essentials which are smartphones and tablets.
First thing to check is your apps. Be sure that you have essential applications downloaded and that you are knowledgeable on how to use them. Nothing worse than opening the app for the first time when it’s urgently needed only to take ten minutes to figure it out. Remember that apps are going to need a network to communicate properly. Although your power is out, there is a good likelihood that cellular service may be available as the transmitters typically have battery backup. Here is a list of apps I found useful while sitting out weather events:
- Power Utility Apps – We use a company called GPU also known as JCP&L here in New Jersey. An application is available to report and monitor a power outage. I have used the app top report an outage, it then gives you confirmation and time to restore as well as a status in terms of where they stand. The app also has a map of nearby outages and the number of customers effected. Naturally, the more people effected, the more priority it should get. Most large public utilities have an app like this. I have found it to be indispensable.
- Weather and News Apps – This is an obvious one. Stay on top of the weather and the local news.
- Twitter – During Sandy, a major power outage means that gas stations can’t pump gas. There were a few stations that had power either because they were located within one of the few areas that had power or had an onsite generator. Lines were a mile long. New Jersey instituted gas rationing. Twitter allowed me to stay on top of where the gas was and the size of the line.
- Flashlight – Some operating systems have this built in, others need an app to be downloaded and there are plenty that are free. You will use this smartphone feature even if you have a conventional flashlight.
- Cable TV app – We use Cablevision and they offer an app that let’s you watch TV over the internet. Entertainment becomes important when cooped up for days. Be aware of your data plan because it’s easy to exceed your plan’s minutes with video. I know that Comcast has a similar app as do many other cable companies.
As an outage exceeds a few hours, your devices will begin to get real low on battery power. During Sandy, I remember malls and stores setting up free power stations within their facility. People would go to the mall to stay warm and charge their phones, tablets and laptops. I now appreciate the alternative means to power your devices versus plugging into the wall.
The Anker 2nd Gen Astro E4 External Battery holds a series of lithium batteries to deliver up to 13000mAh of power to your devices. The battery has two ports with each delivering over 2AMPS which is what you need to charge any smartphone or tablet. Be sure to charge the battery fully before the weather event hits. Just add a USB cable and plug into your phone or tablet. This battery holds a lot of power and will fully charge your devices several times. This battery accompanies the article in the upper left corner.
For extended outages, the Anker 14W Dual-Port Solar Charger with PowerIQ Technology is a true solar-powered source. No electricity is needed. I have seen other batteries with a small solar panel molded onto the face. They work poorly recharging because the panel is so small. This one has a series of four large solar panels to make this one of the few usable portable solar solutions. There are two USB ports built-in which will power most tablets and smartphones. During the day, put it in the sun to fully charge the internal batteries of the power source and keep doing this until you get power back. The panels will fold up when not in use to make this a truly portable accessory.
Keeping prepared and not waiting until the last minute makes a world of difference. A lot of us in New Jersey found out about this the hard way. I won’t do that again.