Posts Tagged ‘Batteries’

How to Light a Flare

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Accident in Darkness

Winter darkness makes accidents on the road hard to see and even more dangerous.

Having a good accident kit in the car can help protect YOU, and might help protect others if you come across an accident scene.

An accident kit is different from a car survival kit. The survival kit has stuff for YOU – warm clothing, flashlight, food, water, etc.  The accident kit has stuff for the CAR, like jumper cables, emergency reflector triangles, flat tire inflator, and flares.

Does your car accident kit have road flares?

When it’s dark, there’s nothing better than flares to warn oncoming vehicles of an accident, a stranded car or even an injured person. Flares are easy to get, easy and safe to store, and they last a long time. The problem that people have with ‘em is . . .

How to light a standard industrial flare?

Our CERT group had the opportunity to practice one evening with the police department. We hung around in our official vests, enjoying the cool evening and the chance to see each other again. When it came time to light the flares, however, some of us looked pretty dumb.

It’s not as simple as you might think!

Here are some guidelines that I took away from that evening.

1Have more than one flare so you can warn oncoming vehicles and direct them around the accident.

2-Pick where you want each flare to go BEFORE you attempt to light it. Once the flare is burning, you will not want to carry it around to be positioned! It’s BURNING and shooting off white-hot bits!  Some things to keep in mind:

  • If there’s spilled gas, don’t use a flare nearby at all.
  • Keep flares on the road so they don’t roll into a ditch or catch vegetation on fire.
  • Go to where you’ll place the flare, and then light it.

3-Remove the cap on the flare to expose the rough striking surface.

A flare has a plastic cap. Part of the cap contains a rough “striking surface.” Under the cap is the “igniter” end of the flare. You want to hold the striking surface in one hand and the flare in the other.

4-Light the flare by scratching it across the striking surface.

Extend both arms and scratch the flare across the striker in a movement going away from your body.

It’s rather like striking a very large match. Too soft a strike, nothing happens. Too hard, and you can break the “head” off the match.

In our group, most people had trouble getting the right amount of pressure and speed to get the flare to light. One person actually broke the head off the flare because he “scratched” too hard.

5-Place the ignited flare where you had planned to place it.

Put the cap back on the non-burning end of the flare. If you’re carrying it, keep the flame pointed down so you don’t get any drips on your hand.

Don’t drop the flare – you could break or extinguish it. Don’t place the flare in a puddle – it could go out.

If it’s raining, place the flare so any running water goes around the base of the flare and not directly against the flame end. You can prop it up to keep it dry.

6-The flare will burn for 10-30 minutes.

When you’re ready to extinguish it, break off the burning end and let it burn out. You cannot easily smother this flame.

(In our group, we picked up the burning flares and carefully tossed them a little ways down the road. When they landed the burning end broke off.)

After practicing, we all felt more competent.

It’s like so much else. Until you’ve practiced, you really can’t count on being able to make it work! So here’s a suggestion:

Buy a supply of flares and set up a practice. Even if everyone doesn’t attempt to light a flare, everyone in the group will clearly see how it’s done – and what NOT to do! A great CERT group exercise, and a great family exercise, too.

Hi-tech No-Flame Alternative  — LED, Battery-driven Flares

Obviously, First Responders use “real” flares because they work! Everyone recognizes just what they mean, and starts paying attention as soon as they become visible.

But not everyone is ready to handle industrial flares as described above!

If you find this just too challenging, consider a good alternative: plastic strobe light flares that are safe and comfortable to use.

These flashing, reusable flares come in two styles – stand-up flares with a tripod base, and round, disc-style flares that lie on the ground or attach magnetically to a car.

I personally prefer flares that are really bright and can be seen from all sides – so the disc style would not be my first choice.

In fact, here are flares that we own. (We also own reflective triangles made by the same company). I particularly like that they come in their own case; otherwise, the flares (and their bases) can get lost in the trunk of the car.

Click on the link or the image to get full details. (As you know, we’re affiliates at Amazon so this link will take you there.)

Magnatek LED Flashing Roadside Emergency Beacon Flares-Two RED Flares with Solid Storage Case

A couple of hints if you’re considering flares like these.

  • Each flare has 3 different settings, one of which converts it to a flashlight. Handy.
  • The flares use AAA batteries. If you leave the batteries installed in the trunk of your car for weeks and months, ultimately they will corrode. So, store the batteries in a baggie UN-INSTALLED but in the package with the flares. Of course, it makes sense to PRACTICE installing them as soon as you get the flares so you’ll be able to do it in the dark and when you’re nerves are frazzled because of an accident.
  • These flares also have magnetic bases so you could place one on TOP of your stranded vehicle for more visibility.


(This image – for one order — shows the front and back of the case. It’s misleading. Each individual case comes with two flares. If you want more than two, then you’ll have to order more cases.)

Another good idea for a stocking stuffer!  (A very large stocking, perhaps!)

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Again, a reminder to check the status of the batteries in your emergency lights, flashlights, etc. They ultimately do go bad if not recharged or replaced. Now’s a good time to do that.



Buy Batteries On Sale

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Is getting batteries “on sale” a good idea?

Check out this article before you buy! Price isn’t the only factor. In the world of batteries, it seems you get what you pay for, and you’d better know in advance just what you need.
Some Background on Batteries (Skim if you already know all this!)

How batteries work

Batteries use a chemical reaction to do work. Alkaline batteries, the AA, C and D batteries we all know, typically depend on zinc interacting with manganese (through an alkaline electrolyte solution) to produce electricity.

Other batteries use different chemistries to achieve a higher “energy density” so they will last longer and perform better. Some of them: nickelcadmium (NiCd), nickelzinc (NiZn), nickel metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium-ion (Li-ion),

In a regular alkaline battery, the reaction ultimately consumes the chemicals (leaving behind hydrogen gas as a “waste” product) and the battery dies.

When to recharge

While an alkaline battery can be recharged, the process is inefficient and dangerous because of the hydrogen gas buildup. Recharging non-rechargeable batteries can result in a leak or even an explosion.

Rechargeable batteries are designed differently. First, they use specific chemicals (most popular seems to be Lithium Ion, which is even being used in Tesla batteries) that can undergo a “reverse chemical reaction” easily and efficiently. They contain a catalyst to keep hydrogen gas from forming. They have vents to prevent pressure from building up during recharging.

As you might expect, rechargeable batteries are more expensive because you have to buy that extra “charger.” However, studies suggest that you will save money over time using rechargeables, but they need electricity to work, so IN AN EMERGENCY SITUATION you will probably want to have regular disposable batteries on hand, too.

Getting the most out of batteries

No matter where they are stored, all batteries will ultimately die. Eventually, the steel casing will corrode and rust and leak. (Heat like we’ve had over the past several weeks can speed up the deterioration!)

Still, there are things you can do to preserve the life of your device batteries.

  • Don’t attempt to recharge non-rechargeable batteries.
  • Remove batteries from a device that you won’t be using for a while.
  • Replace all the batteries in a device at the same time. (Clean the contacts with a cloth before you install the new batteries).
  • Don’t mix different kinds of batteries in the same device. Use the same manufacturer, same type, same manufacture date.
  • Store batteries in a cool, dry place. (Your car, in the summer heat, is not so good for preserving the life of whatever battery-operated device you store in there.)
  • Don’t mix loose batteries with metal objects – like in your pocket with change. They can short-circuit and burn or explode!

Oh, and that story about storing batteries in the refrigerator? Keep batteries cool, but there’s no need to refrigerate modern batteries.

My phone’s my most important survival tool! What’s the best solution for it?

The battery already in your phone or computer may have to be replaced as some point. If so, you’ll probably have to get whatever the manufacturer requires.

But, you’ll be recharging that device many times before you have to get a new battery! In an emergency, of course, electrical power for recharging may be out or you may be nowhere near a wall socket. One back-up option is a device that holds an extra charge, just ready for you to plug in to when you need it.

So let’s look at portable chargers or Power Banks.

Power Bank with Flashlight

My Power Bank has a flashlight, too.

If your goal is to extend the life of your electronic devices, consider a Power Bank,  otherwise known as a “mobile power supply,” mobile battery, external battery, spare battery, charging stick, or portable charger. These devices can keep you operating for days at a time!

If your time is worth anything, a power bank will be an inexpensive boost to your productivity and, in an emergency, to your peace of mind.

Power Banks are sized from something similar to a small flashlight to a device that resembles a small external storage drive. They all fit in a palm, pocket or purse, but may be a bit heavy to carry around all day. (Check the weight.)

As you compare them, look for:

  • Capacity (measured in mAh, or milliampere hours). The higher the mAh, the more stored power.

    IS THE POWER BANK BIG ENOUGH TO DO THE JOB?  Some negative reviews come from people who expect a small battery to recharge a much larger device. Doesn’t work!

    You want enough juice to reload your phone or tablet completely, at least once and preferably more often than that! For example, one power bank model declares its 15,000 mAh are able to charge an iPhone 6 more than 5 times. To know how much capacity you need, get the specs on your device from the box it came in, or search online for “technical specs.”

  • Output (measured in V, or volts). Generally, you want the power bank output to be the same as the input to your device. For example, your phone and Bluetooth headset probably each have 5V input.
  • How many ports? Some of the chargers can “feed” as many as 4 devices at the same time. (You’ll need the right cord for each device.)
  • What security against short circuits, over-charging or over heating?

The chart below will gives you a quick idea of features and options. These models range from $20 – $40 each; click on the name to go directly to more details on Amazon. And they all look pretty much the same, either flat (like a fat cell phone) or tubular (like mine, in the photo above).

Portable Charger RAVPower 22000mAh 5.8A Output 3-Port Power Bank External Battery Pack (2.4A Input, Triple iSmart 2.0 USB Ports, High-density Li-polymer Battery) For Phones Tablets and More - Black22000 mAhFlat - Wide14.4 oz5.8A Output 3-Port External Battery Pack
Portable Charger RAVPower 13000mAh (Powerful 5V / 4.5A Dual USB Output) Power Bank External Battery Pack - Black13000 mAhFlat - wide10.88 oz4.5A Dual USB Output (iSmart Technology) Black
Portable Charger, RAVPower 10050mAh Outdoor External Battery Pack Waterproof Dustproof and Shockproof Rugged (Premiun Bttery Cell) Built-in Flashlight; iSmart Technology - Black10050 mAhFat - wide7.36 oz2.4A Single Output, 2A Input and iSmart Technology
[Smallest but Powerful Enough] Portable Charger RAVPower 3350mAh 3rd Gen Luster Mini - External Battery Pack and Power Bank & iSmart for iPhone, iPad, Android and Other Smart Devices - Black3350 mAhTubular2.56 ozSingle Output Port

What are the best batteries for our other emergency devices?

Disposable batteries

Understanding all that basic information listed above, we have tested disposable batteriesEnergizer, Duracell and Kirkland (Costco brand) — multiple times for our emergency radios. These radios are used once a month for our Emergency Response Team drill, and then very lightly, so we don’t go through the batteries quickly at all. We do automatically replace them regularly (usually twice a year at the time change.)

Re results of our testing? There doesn’t seem to be too much difference in manufacturers, although our current favorite is the Duracell Coppertop with Duralock.   You can get what you need at your local hardware or big box store, or add them to an Amazon order. Some packages have both AA and AAA sizes in one.

Rechargeable batteries

For multi-use devices, like our emergency radios, we prefer rechargeable batteries. We’ve found that rechargeables are often specified BY NAME by the manufacturer of the product. If specified, use ‘em.Other raters for rechargeables have consistently come up with Eneloop NiMH. These are made by Panasonic, and come in AAA and AA sizes.

Panasonic says these can be recharged 2,100 times!  For that reason alone I would try them!



Solar chargers

Finally, don’t overlook the small solar devices designed to recharge your phone and/or other devices. Some emergency radios have small solar panels, and can recharge a phone.

There are also small, handy solar panels you can attach to your backpack and recharge while you go! They cost around $40. Here’s an example – click on the picture to get full details.

Whew, this is a lot of info, but given the fact that we all seem to invest in batteries on a consistent basis, it’s worth it to get the right battery for the job.
Oh, and buying on sale? A good idea if you know what you’re buying.

But buying just on price alone makes no sense.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

If you’re part of a Neighborhood Emergency Response group, you’ll need a budget for batteries for your walkie-talkies. Here’s an article with some ideas about financing your group’s efforts.




Emergency Communications for Neighborhood Groups

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

 A Vital Role in the Effectiveness of a CERT program

In a serious emergency where power is interrupted, landline telephones are often affected and even cell phones become unreliable due to central computer outage, damaged antennas and/or over usage by the populace.

So what is the answer for emergency communications for neighborhood CERT groups — to warn of dangers? Call for help for injured? Share news?

Emergency radio communications protocol

In an emergency use standard radio protocol

The answer for most teams becomes the two-way Family Radio Service . . . the inexpensive walkie-talkies that are used by campers, modelers, children at play and at a variety of club and athletic events.

The FRS/GMRS (Family Radio Service/Ground Mobile Radio Service) radios typically have 22 separate channels and the more elaborate ones have additional “privacy” settings on these channels that extend them into the hundreds of “channels.”

Two Classes of Radio for Local Neighborhood Groups

Simple Radios

We have equipped every one of our team members with a simple radio.  (The team leaders, who have the need to communicate with other leaders, have more sophisticated radios with slightly longer range.) Regular team members in each Division or neighborhood of 50-75 homes only have the need to communicate within their Division — over distances of less than a mile.

Having a less-sophisticated radio is actually an advantage since one that is too “sensitive” is likely to pick up interference from outside the immediate neighborhood, where frequencies are open to all citizens.

Each of our Divisions has two designated frequencies (primary and backup) and we have special frequencies assigned to team leaders for coordinated efforts. This allows us to manage everything from Search & Rescue Operations to First Aid/Triage, Security and Logistics, etc.

The two units we have found most satisfactory for our purposes are the Cobra/CXT425 (Approx. $20 ea.) and the Uniden GMR1635 (Approx. $10 each). These both perform well and are low-priced. Our homes are close to one another and the six neighborhoods all fall within a relatively compact area so these units work well for us.

You can see pictures and details on both of these radios in our new “Serious Survival Equipment” store. Check them out!

Radios with Wider Range

If your neighborhood/s and homes are spread out in suburban or rural areas, you may find it necessary to invest in more expensive units with greater range. We have tested all manner of these radios in a wide range of prices and “claimed” range of operation.

If the claims are accurate, they probably tested them on flat ground in deserted areas with little or no interference. From our perspective, all claims have to be treated as inflated! In other words, purchase several pairs and test them before you commit to a volume purchase.

In addition to the general communications, we have three licensed Amateur Radio Operators (HAM operators) on our team who are authorized (and equipped) to communicate with the emergency radio organization/s that work within our city and county. We also have a few Citizen Band (CB) Radios that have a somewhat greater range than our FRS/GMRS units.

Ongoing Emergency Communications Training

Radio Drills

We have monthly training drills on the radios and ongoing training for new team members.

You’d be surprised — or maybe you wouldn’t — at how easy it is for adults to forget exactly how to change channels and volume on a little radio that only has two buttons!  Children seem to have no difficulty.

We follow a standard radio protocol in our communications and in a real emergency have specific people assigned to record the subjects of messages for a log.

Radio Batteries

We also schedule battery-replacements along with our drills — typically, twice a year when the time changes.

We prefer to use regular (not rechargeable) batteries since in an emergency there may be no recharge capability. After several rigorous tests, we have concluded that Energizer brand batteries generally last longer than any others.

As you can tell, we take our emergency communications very seriously. We recognize that in a real emergency, time is of the essence and good communications within the neighborhood are likely to save lives and preserve property.

This post is part of a series. Don’t miss a single one — sign up now to get them all automatically!


Ouch! What I found in my Survival Kit!

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

As a part of National Preparedness Month, we’re going to be staffing a table at a neighborhood preparedness faire. So I pulled out of my car the emergency kit I had first put together after my Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.

Outdated CERT gear

Don’t use these!

Look at the photo and you’ll see some of the yucky things I found!

* Corroded batteries in my flashlight! (Upper right arrow) The kit actually has two flashlights in it. One was the high-tech model (from Sharper Image, no less) that holds AA batteries. Look closely and you’ll see the totally blown-out end of one of them! We find that batteries need to be replaced every 6 months if they are in a light or radio.

* Dried up and useless first aid items! On the left in the photo you can see the shriveled up antiseptic wipes and the stained band aid packages. Although they had been stored in a plastic bag, not one of them was usable.

* Melted and leaking pens! CERT training reminds you to have a way to write on a door when you’ve searched the room, write on a piece of tape to label someone, or write right on their skin. We assembled a variety of writing implements for these purposes, including crayons and permanent markers. Again, stored in a plastic bag, they melted and leaked. I could hardly get that one crayon out to be able to photograph it!

What’s the state of your Survival Kit? How about your CERT bag? (These are two different things, of course. Survival Kit is to help you; CERT bag is to help others.) Consider setting up a schedule to update and refresh your kits.

Use the twice-a-year time Daylight Savings Time change as an update reminder.

In addition to replacing old items, here are a couple of other suggestions for keeping your kit ready for use:

1. Best battery solution. Store batteries in a bag taped to the flashlight or radio. Whereas they seem to deteriorate quickly when stored INSIDE the device, they keep much longer when stored separately.

2. Rubber gloves. Your CERT kit will have disposable nitrile gloves — the thin rubber kind that your doctor wears – for use in an accident. These gloves are very fragile; replace every six months.

3. Environment. Think about where the kit is kept. I keep my kits in the trunk of my car – where temperatures reach over 100 degrees. Obviously, crayons aren’t going to be happy in this environment.

4. Backpack. If your kit lies in direct sunlight (in your car, for example), the duffle bag or backpack material will deteriorate over time. The first to go on my CERT kit were the carrying straps.

5. Clothing. I have a long-sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, and hat in my kits. While they don’t deteriorate, a wash and fluff keeps them more usable.

Reviewing and updating your kit takes only a few minutes – less time than it has taken me to write this article! You’ve made the investment – be sure to keep it tuned up.

What have YOU found in unattended survival kits that we should be warned about?  Let us know in the comment box below!

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Emergency Supply Kit — Portable Radio

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

A wide-spread emergency can result in a power outage that lasts for days or even weeks. Over that entire time, if you’re on your own, you’ll need an emergency radio — or perhaps more than one — to know what is happening outside your immediate area.

What’s the best radio for emergency purposes?

The photo below shows five radios that we have purchased and tested; find our comparison of these five emergency radios here. (Guess which one of the radios is a dud!)

What follows are the basics for any radio you decide to put in your emergency supply kit.

A portable AM radio will be your lifeline.

Five emergency radios

Which radio should you choose?

Local emergency services and radio stations will be broadcasting news that you will want. Be sure you know what channel they’ll be using!  (Put a label on each radio.)

 — Evacuation plans: schedules, staging areas, different routes, location and status of available shelters

 — Weather reports: temperatures, anticipated rain and/or winds

 — Location of areas to avoid: “hotspots,” traffic jams, roadblocks

—  Announcements from Police, Fire or other emergency services

Generally, all the above notifications will be broadcast over the AM band. FM and television signals are “line of sight,” so they can get blocked by tall buildings, mountains, etc., and usually dissipate after about 50-75 miles. AM signals, on the other hand, can bounce off the ionosphere and travel much further (even all the way around the earth!). So, in an emergency situation, you want a strong AM radio so you can tune in to local emergency transmissions.

Your radio needs to work for days or even weeks.

In a power outage, your radio won’t work by being plugged into the wall. It will need an additional source of power – typically batteries. When they wear out, how will they be re-charged?

  1. Replace the batteries with new ones from your supplies. Obviously, you have to have plenty of the right size: AAA, AA, D, C, etc.
  2. Recharge “rechargeable” batteries using a hand crank and generator, built into the radio.
  3. Recharge the batteries using solar power, either built into the radio or attached as a separate panel.

What combination of features will work best for you?

Check out our Emergency Radio Review. It has a series of questions that will help you select exactly what you need.  It also identifies the one radio in the group above that you should NOT buy!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team




Battery Power

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Batteries! Gotta have ’em!

If you are suddenly separated from your electrical outlets, you are going to quickly realize that the only real alternative is whatever supply of working batteries you have on hand.  You will require them for flashlights, communications, computing and virtually any electrical tool or device you require . . . even entertainment.

Energizer Batteries

Winner in test

Batteries come in a wide variety of sizes and values.  Most of the batteries that power flashlights, portable radios, popular games, etc. are all rated at 1.5 volts.  The bigger they are, the more amps they can produce (amperage = direct current flow). You probably have a lot of devices that require the small AAA and AA sizes and some larger equipment that requires the larger sizes C and D.

What about rechargeable batteries?

If you’re tempted to rely on rechargeable batteries, you might want to consider the fact that rechargeable batteries don’t last as long as their disposable counterparts and what source of power will you use to recharge them if the wall plugs don’t work?

If the obvious conclusion is the purchase and storage of disposable batteries, how many do you purchase, what sizes and how long is their shelf life? The reality is that these batteries have a limited life span and you will need more of some sizes than others.

Winner in our 2012 battery test?  Energizer.

Batteries kept in electronic devices or stored on shelves will gradually lose their power.  Some batteries deteriorate faster than others.  We have tested various brands in our neighborhood C.E.R.T. organization over a ten year period.  The Energizer Brand seems to be the best for long-term use.  (We have never had any breakdowns).

The other major brand we used to use, Duracell, has proven unreliable over long periods. The casings break down over time and the leakage ruins the electronic device.  If you go with Duracell, be sure to check your devices frequently after a year of use.  Duracell also makes a premium brand that is used by police and fire departments that may prove more reliable, but they aren’t available everywhere and are more expensive.

Joe Krueger
Emergency Plan Guide

P.S. We regularly test batteries and update our findings. This Advisory was written in 2012. Head over to the SEARCH bar and plug in “batteries” to get the latest.