Power outages: Things we should consider for next time

While Connecticut is still picking up the pieces and many are without power, I would like to share with you from a technology perspective some products or services I think will be vital in a future storm with massage outages.

1. One of my closest companions during the past 3 days was my battery powered radio. I thought WTIC did a very comprehensive job providing LOCAL coverage by being flexible with their standard programming lineup. However, in the future I would like a radio with a flashlight built it and also a radio that I could charge up by winding up a built in crank in addition to battery power. I’ve believed in C.Crane products for a long time, so this battery powered / wind up radio with light is most appealing to me

2. Flashlights are good, but what about a lantern? I will make sure that I have a lantern that doesn’t need to be plugged in. The following model, from C.Crane seems very attractive because it runs on LED lights and can either be wound up (10 to 15 minutes of light from 60 seconds of winding) or pre-charged ahead of time. It also comes with a 12 volt adapter and can be charged up and used inside a car. The CC LED Lantern will also charge cell phones (certain models), but I don’t know how wise it would be to do this if the lantern is not plugged into a power source such as your car.

This battery powered LED lantern from Amazon is highly rated and runs on 3 D batteries

3. Have spare batteries on hand.

4. Corded phone: With all home phones going cordless and becoming progressive more advanced, we still have a need for a plug in phone. A cordless phone will not help you during a power outage. Sadly, a local big box store that was open on Sunday had no corded phones in stock. So I found 2 models on NewEgg.com that are affordable and require no power source. See below….

5. Re-consider phone strategy:
A growing percentage of Americans have gone with a cell phone only strategy. This is fine so long as you know how to text message and you live in an area where cell phone towers do not go down. Text messaging uses less of a cell phone tower’s capacity than calling, a critical distinction in times of crisis. Verizon and ATT, though costing more (generally), have more towers and thus by sheer numbers would be less likely to go down. FYI: Sprint customers can roam on Verizon towers for free, however T-Mobile can only roam on ATT for 911 calls. It may be time for you to get a car charger for your cell phone if you don’t have one already!!

If you have been using Comcast Digital Voice for your home phone, find out how long your battery backup system is meant to last. When Digital Voice came out in 2005, the cable modem / phone adapter promised to provide you with 8 hours of phone service if your power went out. As of about a year ago, Comcast began distributing a new model of modem / phone adapter (known as an EMTA) that promised a higher capacity batter backup. Know exactly which one you have and see if you can exchange for the better one.

If you don’t want to deal with Comcast’s phone system, which has more variables, it may be time to reconsider ATT’s POTS (plain old telephone service) which is now quite competitively priced and may give you more piece of mind.

6. Finally — it may be time to re-consider all of these bundled package plans that you have gotten yourself into. I’m not saying this in the wake of the hurricane and many of you know that I have said this for 3 or 4 years now. Cut the best deal you can on individual services and don’t depend on a bundled offer which is often limited or too good to be true. When you have all of your services with ATT or all of your services with Comcast, you are limited in terms of your flexibility if you need to make changes (add or remove services). If you need to add a service with one of your providers, it helps if you have an existing service with them (in terms of time frame) instead of starting off as a brand new customer. Furthermore, don’t rule out local companies like Hartford based DSL provider Netplex when lining up your services. http://www.netplex.net

7. In conclusion — you may be wise to consider a laptop for your primary computer. The old argument — oh the screen is too small — oh I don’t like the mouse on it is really a flawed argument at this point. We can hook up a monitor to your laptop and a regular keyboard and mouse while you are at home — to make it seem just like a desktop. However, you also have the flexibility of unplugging it to take with you for maximum flexibility. While you may not have had power at home and internet access — places like Starbucks, McDonalds, Panera, hotels, and public libraries provided free wireless internet for their customers — a service that any modern laptop can access. Furthermore, you can take a mouse in your bag when you bring your laptop out. Dell and Lenovo (IBM) laptops sell “docking stations” with their laptops that make the desktop at home setup very user friendly. I’m still checking to see if their is a 3rd-party product for Apple portables.