One of the most essential needs for survival preparation is the means of communicating with relatives and friends. During a disaster, establishing and maintaining direct communication regarding the safety, location and status of your friends and loved ones is critical.
Having a designated meeting area is a well established and recommended tactic. However, until all are accounted for, the need to communicate directly becomes crucial to our peace of mind. Now imagine being isolated during a disaster and your cell phone battery is dead, or at very low power level.
Assuming cell phone service is functioning , we want to use these devices to contact those we care about, and stay in touch as long as possible. Cell phones are also useful for critical news updates that can be life saving, or contribute to a safer bug-out, for example.
Today’s smart phones are excellent tools for these purposes. However, they have one particular weakness during a disaster that might include a power outage: They run on batteries that have a relatively short energy life.
Most smart phones today, with average use, will last five to six hours. Assuming your smart phone is fully charged at the time of a disaster (and bug-out), with average use your device will be an expensive doorstop within 24 hours.
There are some solutions on the market in portable form that can be included in a bug-out scenario that would provide additional life and energy to your smart phone during a critical needs timeframe.
The company FatCatGear (fatcatgear.com), owned by the US-based consumer products company Infora, offers a range of travel chargers and accessories that would be suitable for disaster survival.
In testing, the company’s mid-range PowerBar 4200 ($79.95 retail) seemed like a worthy travel charger. With an upcoming trip to a very cold climate in the mountains of Utah, the 4200 would have an opportunity to keep a smart phone functioning longer — or frustrate its owner.
According to the manual, the 4200 can accommodate all popular cell phones and smart phones, with the exception of the iPhone 5.
It is interesting to note that one of the device’s features is that it is pre-charged up to at least 65% of its energy capacity. In fact, upon purchase, the 4200 did immediately begin charging a smart phone. Its ultra-thin lithium polymer technology makes for a slim, pocket-sized profile, weighing only four ounces and being slightly smaller than the largest Android.
The 4200 provides protection against over-charging, over-discharging and short circuiting your device. It is packaged with a series of tips to fit all devices, plus a USB charger connection, enabling the device to gain power directly from a laptop. The 4200 requires a four to seven hour “plug-in” to fully charge itself (depending on charging current), with this charge providing up to two full smart phone charge cycles.
The device has a battery indicator that registers power remaining in 25% increments. The manufacturer recommends charging the 4200 at least once every three months for optimum performance.
In use, the 4200 performed exactly as promised. When the Android phone battery displayed a low power warning (below 25% remaining), the 4200 provided the smart phone with a complete charge despite the harsh climate, with plenty of energy still remaining. The device fully recharged overnight from a laptop several times during one week without an issue.
FatCatGear also makes available a portable solar panel that can charge the 4200 anywhere there is sun. This is of particular interest in a disaster scenario.
With so much emphasis on communication during a disaster, having a dependable charging device included in your bug-out bag would seem to be a wise investment.
The company also manufactures the PowerBar 9600 ($129.95 retail), with significantly more energy storage capacity. In fact, this model can even provide a complete charge to an iPad.