Disaster Tech

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Like many of you, I’ve been watching the events in Japan continue to unfold, and perhaps thinking to myself, “I’m glad something that devastating didn’t happen here”.

But what if it did, would you be prepared? I like to think that I am, but sadly, I’m probably not.

Yes, I have a first aid kit, and I’ve got some camping supplies, but it’s not organized nor is it handy. And it’s likely not enough, which is why the Canadian Red Cross created these handy plans.

Getting Prepared
The Canadian Red Cross has this excellent resource for building and maintaining an Emergency Preparedness Kit listing what you need to survive for 72 hours or more.

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Ok, step one is taken care of…or is it.
In my case, I’ve got pets so I need to extend my kit and plans a bit with this Emergency Pet Plan & Kit

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Now I’m set, except for some of the tech. Usually tech is the last thing you want in your kit; it requires power, isn’t easy to fix when it breaks, and doesn’t fare well when wet. Yet there are some exceptions.

Gearing up
These plans and kits all call for a battery or hand-crank flashlight and radio. And I’ve found one that suits my needs perfectly.

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The Etón FR160 self-powered safety radio uses hand crank or solar power to re-charge the internal nickel metal-hydride battery and features AM/FM radio and Environmental Canada weather band channels to provide emergency weather information/public alerts. In addition, the FR160 has an integrated LED flashlight, 3.5 mm headphone output and a USB port for charging cell phones.

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The unit is small, lightweight, and won’t take up valuable space in any emergency kit.

Of course, I tried it out, and yes, it does work well. Radio reception was fine, and the crank, while a bit noisy, did charge well.

And as a bonus, Etón Corporation contributes a portion of every Canadian Red Cross branded unit sold to support the mission of the Canadian Red Cross.

If you’re looking for more information on the FR160, you can check out the manual here (pdf).

And yes, this will find a home in my soon-to-be-complete emergency kit.

But I’m sure you’ve got some tech-thoughts on additions to my kit — what tech would you pack in your kit?

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How your mobile phone or tablet could save your life

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Believe it or not, there are many ways your mobile smart phone could be used when you find yourself in the middle of an emergency situation,  aside from the obvious — making a phone call for emergency assistance, I mean.

The recent events in Japan and New Zealand have shown that when disaster strikes, getting the most accurate information is likely the best way to make choices that could save your life.

Browser
Provided the event hasn’t taken out the local mobile network, your mobile phone’s browser will help, linking you with many local, national, and international news services, as well as many different channels of communication (email, voice chat, twitter, etc).

Hardware
f1.jpgBut there are other ways your smart phone can help. For example, many smart phone’s display screens are bright enough to be used as a makeshift flashlight when the power goes out. Color Flashlight is a leading Android app and Flashlight 4 is one of the most popular ones in Japan right now.

As well, most phones these days know where they are in the world, either by triangulating between communications towers, wifi sources, or built-in GPS systems. Tie this in with any of the popular mapping applications and you have a good visual understanding of where you are. Helpful when you have to find an alternate route or transportation system in an unfamiliar city.

An app for that? You bet!
As you can imagine, there are many things that you could need in an emergency. And, of course, there are some apps that can help.

During the Tsunami warnings following the Japan earthquake, information like that provided by this Hawaiian-developed Disaster Alert app helped keep islanders informed about the impending waves.

And after an event, finding people and shelter is a priority.

Google launched their Google Person Finder during the Christchurch earthquake, and updated it for the Japan event.

And the American Red Cross has released their free Shelter View app.

So as you can see, with just a few bookmarks, perhaps an hour of app-store browsing, and a few dollars investment, you can have a pretty good emergency preparedness kit all tucked neatly into your mobile data phone.

I think it’s time I started on mine, what have I missed that I should add?
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