Monday, August 2, 2010

Preparing for the Big One With a New Gadget

My new emergency radio.

Ever since that big earthquake we felt on Easter Sunday in Southern California (a 7.2 on the Richter Scale, centered in Mexicali), I've been reminded how vulnerable we all are in California to the next Big One. I've tried to take simple precautions: I've been careful, for example, not to set things around the house where they would fall on my head in a quake.

And I've secured the two-hundred-year-old clock from my father's family to both the table it sits on and the wall it leans against. (During the Loma Prieta quake in 1989, my parents reported that it flew across the room, landing on its back and cracking its wooden case. That was lucky: the glass in the front was undamaged.)

The clock that survived the Loma Prieta Earthquake. It still shows the big crack at the back of the case where it fell.

People who have never lived in an earthquake region think earthquakes must be the height of danger. Actually, many more people are killed in automobile accidents, industrial accidents, hurricanes, and from things like influenza than have ever been killed in earthquakes.

But, since I lived through three hurricanes one summer in Central Florida, I have come to realize that the difficulty with a big emergency, like a hurricane or a quake, is not so much the event itself. It is the aftermath, when none of the usual systems are working. Until you have had to live for a time without potable water coming from the tap, and electricity working at the flip of a switch, and cold food and ice always available in the refrigerator, you have no idea how difficult this can be.

That is why emergency plans always warn us to be prepared to live without these things for at least 72 hours, which is the time it takes for FEMA and other government agencies to safely begin response and recovery.

With this in mind, I've bought myself the dandiest little emergency radio you ever saw! It is made and designed by Etón Corporation, which I have learned is the company that now produces most of these things. Mine is called the Microlink FR160 and it is only slightly larger than my iPhone.

The size of the new radio, compared with my coffee maker. Yes, I know the percolator is ancient. But it makes such great-tasting coffee, I can't make myself get rid of it. If only it were solar powered, like the radio!

The Etón has a hand crank that charges the battery and a solar panel that will do the same. It also has an emergency light, and a plug for both a headset and your phone charger. During the hurricanes I lived through, most of the cell towers were out of action for the first couple of days, so the phone charger plug may be superfluous: but you never know. Did I mention this amazing invention cost just $22? It was designed by a company right here in California (Palo Alto, to be exact) (but unfortunately, made in China).

The small hand crank is easy to use and 90 seconds of cranking gives you almost an hour of battery time. The radio has AM, FM, and Emergency bands.

The solar panel means you can leave the radio outside in the sun during the day and you will have about five hours of battery time. That little black button turns on the radio's light

How Silicon Valley will survive for several days without the ability to text, send email, and Google, one can only speculate. But in Florida, when Hurricane Charlie brought down every single power line for miles around, plus all the cell towers, I found my battery-powered radio to be my lifeline.

I'm hoping this handy little Etón Microlink FR160 will do the same if I have to face an earthquake emergency in California of similar proportions. I certainly hope I won't. But my father helped write my hometown's emergency plan: so I'm required, like the Girl Scouts, to be prepared.

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Laura said...

I have several hand-crank radios around the house, plus a flashlight next to each bed. I haven't been in California during a major earthquake, but friends have told me to keep a pair of sturdy shoes next to my bed, in case windows shatter.

But what I really want to comment on is your coffee percolator. I remember my mom making coffee every morning and listening to the coffee brewing. And that wonderful aroma. I've thought of getting one, but I'm just an occasional coffee drinker, and frankly I'm in the process of paring down my "stuff".

Have a great day!

Robin Chapman said...

You know, my sister and I used the percolator during the funeral receptions for our parents and we kept saying to one another how much better the coffee tasted than the coffee we made in our drip coffee makers. I was going to toss the old thing, but it really great--made in the USA of course. I just have to remember to unplug it because it doesn't have an automatic off-timer on it!

Jack said...

Thanks for the info about the Etón Microlink FR160, Robin. As you remember when you were with KGW here, Portland sits on a spider's web of fault lines, there are homes and Oregon Health Sciences University and the Veterans' Hospital sticking out on the side of the West Hills, and the Cascadia Subduction Zone is a couple of hundred years overdue for a big release. It's worth adding that those so inclined would do well to check into HAM radio, since they're frequently the sole operating communications infrastructure when things go bad.

Robin Chapman said...

Also: and I forgot to mention this: have a regular, old-fashioned connected-to-the-wall phone standing by to plug into your jack. When I went through the hurricanes in Florida, those were the only phones that would work, naturally, when the power was out and cell phone towers were down. I have a special closet in the breezeway between the house and the garage where I am storing this stuff. Hope it survives the Big One, so I can use my emergency equipment. The little eton radio is good around the house anyway. It also has an emergency band.