LINCROFT, N.J.-- The heavy demands of the holiday season can be a busy time for all. Managing family obligations and handling seasonal preparations alongside regular day-to-day activities can make disaster preparedness less of a priority. In fact, the onset of winter is a critical time for safety preparation, and several items that are critical in emergencies also make good holiday gifts.
A weather radio is a recommended purchase, preferably one developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Consumer Electronics Association. These radios broadcast National Weather Service forecasts and severe weather warnings 24 hours a day on the NOAA’s radio network. They cost between $20 and $200. Portable and handheld radios generally cost less than desktop models. FEMA recommends that the radio has an alarm, can run on batteries, solar power or a hand crank, and has an external or wireless output for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or blind, allowing connection to an alarm or other attention-getting device, such as a personal computer or text printer. Visit www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr for more information and to find a list of frequencies used for weather alerts.
A solar charging unit for charging and powering electronic devices is also recommended. These range in size from pocket-sized units to fold-out panel arrays and are powered by the sun, making them useful on clear days when electricity is unavailable. Prices start at less than $10 and can exceed $200.
A regular car charger can serve the same purpose. Pricing for these is more closely tied to size, starting at $3 and going up to $70 for multiple-device units. For any charger, make sure that it is properly adapted for the devices you will be using. Cell phones, tablets, cameras and computers have different connection points to external power supplies. More than one unit may be necessary.
Generators can serve as backup power sources in emergencies. A generator that produces a minimum of 4,000-5,000 watts of power is recommended. Contact an electrician to find out how much power your home needs. Generators in the 5,000-8,000 watt range can cost as little as $600 and as much as $4,000, and some may require additional accessories which will cost extra. Portable generators cost less than stationary standby models.
To cook food or heat water, pick up a camping stove. These outdoor-only stoves use propane, butane or other solid fuels. Butane- and cartridge-fueled stoves are less expensive ($10 to $50) than their propane-powered counterparts, but they usually only have one burner and those fuels are less effective in cold weather. Dual-burner stoves are more likely to run on propane and cost between $30 and $100. Single-burner propane stoves range from $20 to $60. You’ll also want to have enough fuel on hand for your stove. Small propane tanks cost between $3 and $6, packs of butane cans cost between $6 and $12 depending on the size of the pack, and solid fuel cartridge packs cost between $8 and $20.
Tea kettles are better for boiling water than pots or pans because they are enclosed and the metal interiors allow for more even heating. Most kettles suited for outdoor use are made of stainless steel, enamel or aluminum. These range in price from $15 to $75.
Ready-made first-aid kits can be purchased for use in the home or car. The Red Cross sells its own at www.redcrossstore.org and many retail stores also carry them. A pre-assembled kit with enough supplies for a family costs less than $40. Visit www.ready.gov/build-a-kit for lists of recommended safety kit items.
If you need both hands free to work, search or dig in darkness, consider a head lamp. Most head lamps are mounted on an elastic strap that can be wrapped around a hat or worn directly on the wearer’s head. A consumer-grade lamp can be purchased for less than $100.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. Follow FEMA online at www.fema.gov/blog, www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema.