Hope is not a strategy.  Things may all work out, or they may not, its best to prepare prepare for both possibilities.

Modern society is full of upside in the form of technology, energy availability, creature comforts, health, food availability, and general safety.  However, there is a companion to all these wonders, the downside.  This is what happens when things go wrong and the modern systems we rely on malfunction.  Sometimes these downside events are minor inconveniences (ex. short power outages) whereas others has lasting and painful impacts (ex. aftermath of Super Storm Sandy).  Since life is generally easy and safe for most people, we tend to ignore the downside.  We would be wise to look at it more closely though so we can better prepare ourselves for when things go wrong.

A while back, I clicked on a link that took me to an article on the Downsideblog.  You can read that post by going here but I wanted to mention some key principles of being a “Downsider” in our modern world:

Downsiders are interested in being civil under all conditions, of keeping their heads when all about them are losing theirs. Downsiders have intellectual insurance. Downsiders are about figuring out how to live indifferent to fashion. Downsiders are about maintaing personal integrity tested in the worst of times. Downsiders are the enemy of panic.

Listen, bad things are going to happen from time to time just as they have throughout human civilization.  One of the most important activities you can do to safeguard yourself, your family, and your community is be prepared.  Being ready will enable you to weather the storms that will invariably strike and have the confidence to be strong in the face of adversity.

One thing you need to have handy is a radio, preferably one that can run from multiple power sources.  This will come in handy during an emergency when power is out, allowing you to get news and updates so you can be informed.  I’ve owned an ETON Solarlink FR360 like this one for a few years:

So what do I think?

Its a really handy item because it can do a lot of things and comes in a nice, small package.  It has a Ni-MH battery that can be charged by the solar panel, the hand crank, or an option AC adapter.  It can also use AAA Alkaline batteries as an additional power source.  All of this means you have multiple ways of powering the unit in the event that one fails.  The FR360 also has a USB plug that you can use to recharge your cell phone or other battery-operated device.

Also, this unit has AM, FM, and NOAA band capabilities.  The digital tuner is used for the AM/FM radio while the NOAA weatherbands are on a side dial.  You only get about five minutes of radio time per 90-second crank so keep that in mind if the alkaline batteries aren’t available.

Lastly, the Solarlink has some LEDs built into one side of the unit that provide some illumination.  They aren’t particularly bright but they are good enough in an emergency.  The lights have multiple modes which can be used in an emergency to signal for help.

I keep one of these handy in my safe room and have taken it camping with me in the past.  Its a great tool to have and I strongly suggest you either purchase this unit or something similar to it.  Being in touch during an emergency is a great capability to have, especially when there is no power.  The ETON Solarlink FR360 is worth the $50 or so you will spend on it, particularly since it does well as a radio, charger, and light source.  I use it and recommend it.

Overall Rating:  7/10

Click here to purchase the Eton FR360B Solarlink AM/FM/NOAA Radio (Black)

Alas, this Blackout requires electricity to amplify the instruments.

What do you do during a real blackout?

I read a helpful article over at Resilient Communities a few days ago that addresses this topic.  It is a worthwhile read and has some good perspective on how more blackouts and brownouts may happen in the future.  There is a lot that goes into power distribution, management, and service, all of which affect its availability.

One other helpful hint, sign up for Twitter and find the accounts for your utility companies.  This can come in handy when there is a blackout and you aren’t able to use your computer, router, and monitor.