Posts Tagged ‘walkie-talkies’

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.




Power Outage — Another Chance to Practice

Friday, August 21st, 2015

The power went out tonight at 7:16 p.m.

It was still pretty light outside, but the house was instantly, shockingly dark except for the hall, where the emergency lights glowed.

Lantern for power outage

Lantern in the bathroom

Grab flashlight from cupboard. Track down phone number for electric company. Regular phone doesn’t work, so punch through six different choices on cell phone to get recorded message: “Widespread outage. Estimated time to service restoral — one hour.”

Turn on walkie-talkie, request check-in from emergency team members.

“Division One, do you read?”

“Division Three, do you read?”

“Division Five, do you read?”

Finally, some answers trickle in. Somewhere somebody from outside our network is using the same channels, so they annoyingly insert themselves into our conversations.

Getting darker quickly, now. We pull out two of our lanterns. They work great!

A friend comes by in his new golf cart, and he and I make a circle of the neighborhood. People are leaning out on their porches, gathering in little groups on the street. Much laughter. Doug and I check the front gates: they’re open, as they should be. We meet a couple of stray people who are scrounging up and down the street for flashlights or batteries from their neighbors.

Overall, the feeling of a block party!

Full dark. The new golf cart has no lights (!) so we creep along. I have my trusty flashlight, of course, and use it to alert people that we’re approaching. As we pass house after house, Doug and I discuss people who we know have oxygen or CPAP machines, and wonder how they are coping.

We totally miss the people straggling out from the community center. As it turns out, the automatic doors there shut down tight, and the emergency bars were difficult to figure out. Fortunately, a number of the exit doors have push bars.

Back home. Another call to the utility. “Restoral in 10 minutes,” they say. We’re dubious. I pass along the latest via the radio. Streets are now empty, dim lights visible in most of them. Over the fence out on the main street, we see the flashing lights of the utility trucks and hear the workers calling to one another.

“Street lights up on our street,” comes the report from Division Four. Nothing here. Suddenly, rather like a Christmas scene, lights start popping on. Yellow street lights, red and blue TV screens, white porch lights. It’s over! Only ten minutes after they said it would be!

Such a relatively benign “emergency.”

Yet some people found it more than just an inconvenience. One woman described how it brought back shocking memories of war for her. One friend had just had surgery, and she woke suddenly to a blackout. Very frightening.

So, another day passes and we have the chance to “test” our readiness. I’m betting and trusting that everyone will be more prepared next time! How would you have fared?

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We’ve talked a lot about emergency items. Here are a couple of our most popular posts:



Good Radio Communications Key to Successful CERT Operations

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Walkie-Talkie Update!

If you’ve been following us here on the Emergency Plan Guide you know that we place communications at the top of the priority list. Without a well-designed Communications Plan and reliable, easy to operate hand-held radios (walkie-talkies), you simply don’t have a fully-functional team. Over the past three years we have reviewed and recommended several models, depending on your geography and the models available.

Sample Communications Plan

Sample Communications Plan showing Channels

In our case we have six Divisions, each with 60 homes each. Each Division operates on a channel that corresponds to the number of their Division (1 through 6) and Division Leaders communicate with Incident Command on Channel Seven. Special Teams each have dedicated channels (9-22). The image at left shows how we’ve laid out our plan for each Division.

We No Longer Recommend the Compact Motorola FV150 Radios.

One of our favorites, the low-cost (under $10 ea. In packs of two) Motorola FV150 is no longer readily available, and the cost has gone up. We bought dozens of these at nearby Target stores and ordered them from Amazon with free shipping. We favored this compact model because it was both low cost and low power . . . which meant that it was ideal for apartment, condominium and manufactured home campuses where residents were close together and line-of-sight was the dominant terrain.

High power wasn’t necessary for our Block Captains and, in fact, was a detriment in that interference from nearby users could interrupt emergency broadcasts.

However, these units did have one major flaw that became apparent with use. They presented something of a challenge for senior citizens who weren’t raised on Mario Brothers or other digital distractions. Operation of these units was simply too complex for many people.

We Also No Longer Recommend the Cobra CXT425C.

We favored this model specifically because it was higher power, albeit more costly ($16 ea.) than the Motorola. We issued these to our Division Leaders because they communicate across the campus with the Incident Command Center and Special Teams, such as Search & Rescue, Logistics and Damage Control, etc. (These units come with rechargeable batteries that will likely be a useless convenience in case of an extended power outage. We use regular AAA batteries and supply extras to all of our 70+ Team Members.)

These Cobra units are ideal for communicating between Divisions and Incident Command and, especially during busy multi-tasking, the Cobras incorporate a privacy convenience. While this extends their versatility, it’s a feature we rarely use.

The problem for us? These models are only sporadically available through Amazon at this price and, when they are, it recently has required a bulk purchase of several in order to get them. While they are available elsewhere, the price is higher and the added shipping makes the purchase unnecessarily expensive. Fortunately, we have found an alternative that serves both purposes.

The Uniden 16-Mile 22 Channel Rechargable FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio Pair – Black (GMR1636-2C) is Both Compact and Easy to Operate and Has The Same Long Range as the Cobra.

We are, in fact, in the process of replacing all of our Block Captain’s Motorolas with these and issuing them instead of the Cobras for our Division Leaders and Special Teams Members. At less than $30 for a set of two, they are well within our budget and we recommend them for your team as well. These are actually an upgrade from the earlier version, but the only difference of any real consequence is that they come with rechargeable batteries and a dual plug charger.

Our first round of purchases were limited (by Amazon) to a maximum of 18 units. Our most recent purchase was not restricted in any way, so it may just have been a supply/demand situation.

As mentioned previously, we operate all of our radios with regular AAA batteries. Unfortunately, one of our local sources has discontinued sale of their Energizer line in favor of the new red-topped Duracells. While we have just begun testing these new Duracells, our experience with the Coppertops was not as good as the Energizers. While they both go bad if left in the units for extended periods, the Duracells seemed to corrode more often and at a higher rate than the Energizers. The corrosion usually destroys the units.

Hopefully, you find this information valuable. As we have said repeatedly, these radios are the most important purchase you’re likely to make in setting up an operational CERT program.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Interested in learning more about our experiences with walkie-talkies? Take a look at these pages on our site:




Stocking Stuffers for the Whole Family

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Traffic was CRAAZY today, and it’s not even Thanksgiving! Everywhere the news is about early shopping (plus some football games, of course).

If you’re ramping up for some holiday shopping of your own, I’d like to suggest the following . . .

Emergency survival kit items

“Makin’ a list . . .”

Small, very cool, dual-purpose gifts

By which I mean, gifts that are fun to receive and even to play with, but which have a much more lasting value because they become important items for a survival kit!

Here are seven such treasures, each under $25

If you need a shopping list, just print out this page!  If you want to shop (which I recommend!), click on the links below each item description.

Clicking the links will take you to Amazon, where you can compare and combine items for the best possible pricing plus free shipping. Just so you know, if you buy from Amazon, we may receive a small commission.  It doesn’t change the price you pay.

 *  Headlamp – Of course you have a flashlight in every car and hopefully one in every room of the house. And, we hope, with at least 200 lumens. Now, consider how handy a HEADLAMP will be when both arms are full of blankets, children, toys, or other supplies!

LE LED Headlamp, 18 White LED and 2 Red LED, 4 Brightness Level Choice, LED Headlamps, 3 AAA Batteries Included

*  Magnesium lighter – Hold a fire-lighting contest for all your teens on Christmas Day. This 3-pack of magnesium lighters gives you the chance to compete – and learn an essential skill!

The Friendly Swede Magnesium Emergency Fire Starter Blocks (3 Pack), Black

*  Paracord bracelet – Totally cool, totally comfortable, and very handy in an emergency, these bracelets contain 17 ft. of strong cord and come in just about any color you – or family members – could want! This link is to a braid-it-yourself kit, which would be a great holiday activity. Or pick out an already-made one.

Paracord Planet 550lb Type III Paracord Combo Crafting Kits with Buckles (ZOMBIE)

*  Tin of hard candies – Chocolate melts, caramels ooze and stick, mints crumble. But hard candies withstand all sorts of weather and when you need a pick-me-up in an emergency – or on the long drive home after the holidays! – this will do the trick. Top quality, top flavor.

Cavendish And Harvey Candy (3 Pack) Fruit Hard Candy Tin 5.3 Ounces Imported German Candy (Orange Drops)

*  Swiss Army Knife, the classic – We all love our Swiss Army knives. Whether you get this simple, efficient one or a giant, every-tool-in-the-toolbox version, it will be a welcome gift. And a great addition to a survival kit.

Victorinox Swiss Army Camper II Folding Camping Knives, Red, 91mm

*  Walkie-Talkies — Favorites of children, parents and CERT members, these handy radios work for fun games around the house, at the mall for keeping track of the family, and in an emergency when all other phones are out!  (We have several pairs, with pre-arranged channels in case we are separated.) (As you shop, consider the range figures as approximations only, achieved under “optimal conditions!”)

Midland LXT118 22-Channel GMRS with 18-Mile Range, E Vox, and Channel Scan (Pair)

*  Water Bottle with Built-In Filter This may not fit in your traditional Christmas stocking, so add it after everything else has been opened. We know water is essential, but bottled water gets old, and is really heavy. What you CAN pack so it will always be ready is a reusable water bottle with built-in filter.

LifeStraw Go Water Bottle with Integrated 1000-Liter LifeStraw Filter

Now, if you’re VERY detail oriented . . .

. . . you will have compared this list with the photo and you will have discovered two discrepancies. First, the list contains a water filter bottle that isn’t shown. (Too big to fit in the sock, and too big to fit in the picture!) and Second, the image shows a radio that’s not listed.  This happens to be one of our favorites, so I included it because I do as often as I can.  Find out more here on our radio review page.

Do you have recommendations we can add to our list of “Favorite Survival Kit Goodies Under $25?”  Send them along!


Your Emergency Plan Guide team


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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.

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