High-tech disaster kits


Lori Cheek always hoped she'd never have to use her disaster kit.  Then, a storm hit.

"There was no power. There was no phone signal. I couldn't get on the Internet," said Cheek.

Thankfully, Cheek had food, water and a solar-powered radio.

"If I can't get in touch with anyone, I can at least know what's going on around me, find a safe place to go," she said.

Experts say that every household should have an emergency preparedness kit.  Now disaster-themed apps and gadgets are competing for space among traditional supplies. 

The American Red Cross says a kit with added high-tech help can provide everything from bright light to a lifeline.

"High tech items can help you stay in touch with family members, can allow you to tell everyone in your social network that you're safe," said Anne Marie Borrego with the American Red Cross.

It can also feed you important news and information.  The Red Cross recently launched a series of free disaster apps.

"Tornado App, Hurricane App, Wildfire App, and Earthquake App, all designed to help people manage their way through those disasters and also prepare for them," said Borrego.

Plug-free battery chargers can now keep your Smartphone or tablet powered for days.  You can also buy a backup cellphone that's charged by a AA battery.  CNET's Dan Ackerman says, even the old-school crank radio has received and upgrade.

"You can use regular batteries with it. It has a rechargeable battery that you can charge via a hand crank or a solar panel, so there are three ways to keep it powered up," Ackerman explained.

Pop-up LED lanterns last 100 hours and can fit in a small bag.  Or, turn your water bottle into a lantern with a unique cap.

"It's got a solar panel on the top and a lamp on the bottom, so it soaks up solar power and stores it. If the lights go out, it'll turn on, and you can use it like a flashlight," said Ackerman.

If you invest in emergency gadgets, check that they're fully charged every few weeks and store them with your other supplies.

Ackerman suggests, "In maybe a waterproof plastic box or case, or the individual battery backup items, you can seal them in plastic bags."

Finally, the Red Cross stresses, never substitute tech tools for disaster kit basics like food, water, batteries and first aid.

"Each kit should definitely contain at least three days worth of supplies for each individual member of the family," said Borrego.

Cheek's so-called "go-bag" helped her ride out the storm safely and continues to give her peace of mind.

"You never know what's going to happen and it's better to be prepared," she said.

Disaster gadgets and apps run anywhere from free to upwards of $100.  When making your choice, consider where you live, your family's needs and your budget.  Also, be sure to read product reviews.