Tag: walkie-talkies

Buy Batteries On Sale


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 (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 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, options and prices. These models range from $20 – well over $100. Click on the image to go directly to more details on Amazon.


10,000 mAh. Two different charging speeds. Slim and lightweight.

20,000 mAh. Charge multiple devices at once.

About the size of a small book. LED lights show status. Charge laptop 2 1/2 times, phone 11+ times.

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 somewhere between $20 and $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.

Walkie-talkies for emergencies and much, much more!

Boy with walkie-talkie
Walkie-talkies not just for emergencies

It’s one thing to make your lists and carefully assemble all your emergency supplies and equipment. I assume your stash includes walkie-talkies, or hand-held battery-operated radios.

But if you really build preparedness into your lifestyle, you’ll find yourself using walkie-talkies for emergencies but also for every day tasks!

We use walkie-talkies for emergencies but also for so much more!

If you haven’t considered getting radios for your own stash of emergency supplies, consider the following list of how you might use them if you had them.

Manage traffic using walkie-talkies.

Just yesterday Joe and I were asked to help direct traffic at a drive-thru food distribution taking place right down the street. (It was a last-minute call.) We grabbed our fluorescent-striped vests (always important for both visibility and authority), a couple of walkie-talkies each, and jumped into action. I stood at the distribution point, Joe positioned himself at the assembly point around the corner, and we made sure cars approached slowly, on the correct side of the street, etc.! Safe and easy because we could keep in constant touch!

Pickup at airport.

We always carry walkie-talkies when we’re picking up somebody at the airport. Joe drops me off and continues around the loop. (No parking and waiting allowed.) I run in, find our guest, keep Joe apprised of the timing, tell him exactly where we’re coming out – and he swoops right up in front of us! There’s no dialing, no answering of phones, etc. Joe just listens to my commentary so the pick-up is smooth and easy.

Convention contact.

In the days before COVID, we regularly attended industry conventions. Since the purpose is to network, that means you can easily get separated – one person stays to talk with a vendor, while the other cruises on down the aisle. Pretty soon you have lost each other in the crowd. But, with a handy walkie-talkie, you can let the other guy know right where you are. Again, no need to dial, no crossing your fingers hoping there’s reception within the conference hall. Works perfectly.

County fair.

This same concept works for any kind of fair, outing at a theme park, etc., but with an improvement: You can let the whole family know, all at once, that you’ve decided to take a rest by the Snow-Cone stand.  

Parking assistance.

Last week I watched as a neighbor tried to back his new camper into a parking space. (There was no option for a drive thru!) He was having a tough time. His wife was trying to help, but he couldn’t keep her in view because of the sharp angle. (And her hand signals weren’t too clear, either.) Joe and I have used walkie-talkies for years to safely back RVs (and RVs towing cars!) into campgrounds, storage areas, etc. It’s a lot easier to tell the driver when the hitch is just 6 inches from crunching into the corner of the rig than to try to SIGNAL it!

Tracking racers.

Our CERT group often participates when the city sponsors a long-distance race. People with walkie-talkies are positioned along the course and report as the runners come by, if there’s an emergency, etc. All the course monitors can hear as the race progresses and be ready as contestants approach. We’ve used walkie-talkies to track cars passing checkpoints in a hill climb, too.

Sporting events.

When you are in line at the stadium concession stand for hotdogs and beer, and your youngster needs to head to the bathroom, send him along with a walkie-talkie and instructions to check in at the top of the stairs, at the door to the restroom, etc. He’ll be fine – and you won’t have to worry.

Explore safely.

Part of the joy of camping is heading off into the trees just to see what there is to see! As a parent you want your kids to have that experience. But as a parent you naturally worry that they could get lost, injured, etc. Send your kids off with walkie-talkies so they can keep in touch with each other AND with you. Then let them all know when it’s time for lunch. One call is all it takes to reach the whole pack.

Car convoy.

If you’re traveling with a couple of cars it’s good to be able to agree to a stop, warn about something ahead on the road, report that you’ve lost sight of the other car, etc. Walkie-talkies are instantly available for messages like that! Now safe driving habits include not having to REACH for a phone and not having to use more than ONE FINGER to activate the phone. That’s why walkie-talkies are usually not included in legislation defining “distracted driving.” (At least, that’s what I’ve been able to discover. Check with your own state.) It’s best, of course, for the radio operator not to be the driver.

Construction and plumbing.

We occasionally find ourselves trying to figure out where there’s a break or an obstruction or a leak in a pipe. Picture Joe outside at the sewer cleanout, me inside at the sink.  “OK, turn on the water!” “OK, now turn it off.” No yelling. Easy and efficient. Or picture me on the roof, cleaning off dead branches. “Can you hand me up the leaf blower?” Again, no yelling!

I think you get the message! Walkie-talkies rock!

Of course, our walkie-talkies are our main resource for emergency communications. We fully anticipate that a wildfire could cause a complete communications shut-down. So we’ll be holding our monthly neighborhood group radio drill this very evening.

But having and using the walkie-talkies on a regular basis makes them even more valuable. If you haven’t yet considered adding them to your own supplies, now may be the time. Perfectly good ones are available for around $30 a pair.

Our walkie talkie reviews page goes over 6 things to watch for, and has links to examples of different styles and their costs. Our favorite for regular usage is the first in the list.

We think everyone can take advantage of walkie-talkies for daily living!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Let us know how YOU use walkie-talkies — for everyday and also for emergency communications. Really, these are some of the most valuable and useful tools available! (They make great gifts, too.)

Earthquakes in California

Map of Active earthquakes in Southern California
Best source for earthquake news – USGS

A “robust sequence” of earthquakes.

That quote above is from the eminent seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones. If you’ve watched the news about the earthquakes in California, you’ve seen her.

Here’s a quick report from our community in Southern California.

We’re in Orange County, along the coast in Southern California, about 160 miles from the earthquake epicenter at Ridgecrest, which is more in the center part of the state.

But even here, we felt both of the largest quakes – the 6.4 on July 4th, and the 7.1 yesterday on July 5th. No comparison – that second quake was MUCH bigger! 

When it started, I was seated right here at my computer. The chair seemed to be moving left and right. Then it was definitely moving left and right! That died down, and then things started shaking. The whole house started bumping, rattling, creaking, clunking, blinds banging and banging against the windows! Happily, our lights stayed on. I moved away from the computer and monitor and my bookshelves, but nothing fell.

In the end, things gradually returned to normal. Today, the only damage I could find in my house were three new hairline cracks, perfectly aligned about 4 feet apart, from one side to the other of the tile kitchen floor.

Our neighborhood emergency response team got into action.

We are always preparing for earthquakes in California. Here in our community, several people quickly made phone calls, and we were also able to connect via email, but our main communications took place via walkie-talkies. Within about 5 minutes, neighbors were checking on neighbors and reporting in. Two of our team members monitored the news (using ham radio, too) and shared what they were learning. That info was passed along via the walkie-talkies. Within about 20 minutes, everyone had reported in to our “Command” channel: “People in the streets, no damage.”

What happened in Ridgecrest was far worse, and is a reminder about being prepared.

We should be prepared for any emergency with basic supplies:

  1. Sturdy shoes
  2. Flashlights and lanterns!
  3. First Aid kit
  4. Water
  5. Non-perishable food (in non-breakable containers)
  6. Blankets

In earthquake country, you want to stash these items throughout your house.

An earthquake isn’t like a storm, where you probably have some warning to grab your survival kit and head to shelter. In a quake you will still be at home afterwards, and so you want to be able to get to your supplies even if parts of the home are damaged.

And talk over a plan for contacting family members after an emergency. Be sure to include an out-of-area contact number.

Now, in my case, our out-of-state contact person, my brother – was somewhere on a boat headed to Alaska! So we need to set up a secondary contact right away.

What comes next?

We’ll be operating for a while based on what we learned last night about earthquakes in California. For us, the good news is our neighborhood volunteers were prepared and DID WHAT THEY HAD TRAINED TO DO.  

If you are interested in building a neighborhood emergency response group, or strengthening the one you have, we have resources that can help! Check out our website: https://EmergencyPlanGuide.org! and if you have specific questions, please be in touch directly. We have some real experience — even more today than before — and we’d love to share.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Day 6 of Summer Vacation: A time for some shorter and lighter Advisories as a welcome change-of-pace! (Or at least, that was the plan!)

Power Outage — Another Chance to Practice


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:



Stocking Stuffers for the Whole Family


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


 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 brands we have found most satisfactory for our purposes are the Uniden and the Midland.  These both perform well and have a variety of models. 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 get details on each of these on our walkie-talkie review page.

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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