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Geeky Storm Precautions

Some outside the box geeky storm help tips.

These few storm tips may be a bit late, but something tells me we could be in for a lot of rough weather over the next few months and years.

Many folks have written of practical things to do in advance of a storm....batteries, candles, water, fill the tub, and all that.

Here are some that are a little outside the box.

(1) Buy an inverter that works in the cigarette lighter of your car. Fill the gas tank and be sure your battery is charged. Use the inverter to charge cell phones, your laptop, batteries and other portable devices. You don't have to run the car the whole time, particularly if the weather is mild, but it is good to do so to keep the main battery charged.

(2) Buy rechargeable batteries. I use Rayovac and Eneloop hybrids. Hundreds of charges, they maintain a charge for a long time, and they save you tons of money. There are a lot of great deals on Amazon which include a charger (though you can use virtually any charger with them).

(3) Cell phone. Like that iPhone or Windows phone? Great devices they are, but guess what? Terrible battery life, especially on the latest high speed nets which suck the life out of them, particularly here in Northborough. My advice, learned the hard way, is to purchase a Samsung Droid. Its easy to slip the back off and replace the battery with one you can purchase on Amazon for a couple of bucks. Buy two or three and you're good for a week or so. If your home power and phone lines go (as in FIOS), you may have cell service. You want to keep access as long as possible. Oh, and get one that is easily charged from your laptop or the cigarette lighter in your car (with a USB plug in or inverter; Samsung, unlike Apple, uses el cheapo connect cables and plugs). You can even buy a very cheap little device that can charge individual cell batteries when connected to a power source. Unless the main cell systems collapse you can remain highky productive, especially if you get aps that read pdfs and MS files, allow note taking, etc. Don't forget to use your phone to take pics of the storm! Tie into the new Mass emergency warning system.

(4) Laptop or Netbook. Get one that has very long battery life. I have a netbook that runs about ten hours. And an extra battery for it. Ok, you may not want to work a lot, or you may, but here's the thing: if you have followed my advice you can easily charge your cell phone from it. No need to go out in the rain, get in the car, etc. I am sure to power off my netbooks and laptop as soon as the power goes down. That saves the battery for emergency uses.

(5) Supplemental lighting. Head over to Walmart and get some little lamps that run forever on a couple of AA batteries. A lot safer than candles or kerosene lamps (both of which are a good idea nevertheless). We have camp stoves, a heater and lantern that run on Coleman fuel, easily found at Rocky's or Walmart.

(6) For fun. Get an MP3 player that runs on batteries and a little speaker system that does likewise. You can light a candle, crack open some wine, read a Kindle (or use a Kindle ap on your cell phone), maybe light a fire, check your email and enjoy the storm.You might want to invest in one of those Eton or other radios that can be cranked or run off solar power. I have one but prefer a standard battery powered radio that has short wave and emergency bands. Suppose we have some kind of big time cyber attack....would be good to hear what the BBC has to say.

This all said, keep an eye out in case a neighbor needs help, and vote for candidates who want to do something about the global climate change that is going to make a lot of device makers rich. Let me know if you find one.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Gary Kelley November 01, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I have a power inverter for my car...and it's nice in the face of darkness to have a little light. I run an extension cord into the house, and power a CFL light. Also, have a crank radio so I don't feel completely isolated. Overall in this area we did pretty well with Sandy, certainly compared to New York and New Jersey, and Charlene's info was great. A little forward prep makes a big difference.
Chris L. November 01, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Ron, I share some of your frustrations with National Grid. Their layout in Northborough seems to have no rhyme or reason. Such as: why are streets that connect to Main(Rt 20) fed from Westboro, and not the substation on Allen? Also, why is there no failover for that portion of the grid? I found out this past summer...when there is a car accident with a pole down near the 135/9 intersection, it can take down a large chunk of southern Northboro. How can I be 1000 ft away from a main road and not have the transformers on my street switch over to that feed? National Greed needs to step up their "smart grid" implementation. As far as the geekier stuff: on the newer 4G phones, there is an option to stop searching for 4G networks, if you're in a non-4G part of town, or if the towers go down. I normally get 2-3 bars of 4G in my house, but none when the power went out. Turning off 4G search mode will save you battery. Another good way to charge your cell phone: If you're not going to be using your laptop during the storm, but its fully charged, you can plug your phone in that way, and gain a little battery life without having to go to your car.
Ron Goodenow November 01, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Thanks guys. Keep the ideas coming. The next time there is a storm warning I can restart the thread, which will hopefully contain a lot of tips. We'll probably have to discuss keeping the house warm. The 4G advice is very good. My 4G Windows phone was stolen, but before it was gone I turned it down because my battery was getting killed here. The AT&T guys actually recommended that. My son in law, who works for Google (sad fate :-) has a closet full of Google Droids and he gave me one. It has a lot of features that can be turned down, including networks. I have an ap which helps do all that. Gary, I assume you do not keep your car running the whole time you are using the inverter. How often do you start it and recharge the car battery? One other thing. Its a bit esoteric, but if one owns one of the old Kindles that has a keyboard and free web access you can go for days in terms of email and web surfing. I was lucky to get one of those. In last October's storm it was a life saver because our power was out for a couple of days. And Chris, maybe you can answer this. I have a big Cyberpower UPS connected to my main computer. It has a USB port. Could I charge some batteries or cell phone off that?
Chris L. November 01, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Yes, most newer UPS models comes with USB ports for that specific purpose. I'm lucky, or I thought ahead. I have the RAZR Maxx. My battery went down to about 35% before I had to go to work and charge it there on Tuesday morning. If I turn off 4G and kill most of the background apps, I can get 30-36 hours of light use on a full charge.
Ron Goodenow November 01, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I have used Samsung phones for years but in a moment of weakness purchased a NOKIA Windows one with a non-replaceable battery after I put my Samsung in the wash. When that disappeared off my breakfast table at a California hotel in August I got the Samsung and immediately ordered three batteries from Amazon, as well as a separate little USB charger. My wife has an iPhone and is always scrambling for a last minute charge. I wouldn't be surprised to see one of these companies come out with a 'storm resistant' phone that is waterproof and has easily replaceable batteries -- like the little Pentax camera I have. They do want to get rich but this would be a good marketing ploy. I see one that has a big red button for calling 911 and another that is 'moisture proof'. Maybe LL Bean or one of those companies will put some pressure on. Or maybe there is one and I don't know about it. I have also been checking out solar chargers, but they seem to be slow and pretty cranky unless one gets one of the more expensive models. And there isn't much sun in a hurricane. Oh, and if you do have an inverter it is best to not run your car in the garage unless you have one of those big 911 button phones to use as you fall asleep! Though some newer cars are very clean don't take a chance.

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