We've had at least three power outtages in the last two months, so I've become a bit of an expert at figuring out how to get my family power and light when they're not being delivered through an electrical cord.
* Stock up on flashlights, batteries, water, dry food, pet food, and candles before you need them. We were caught completely by surprise during the last storm, which knocked out power to our neighborhood for three-and-a-half days. Luckily, we had many of the devices I review below on hand; by the time we found an open store the next morning, they'd been cleaned out of almost all useful emergency supplies.
* Put emergency supplies where you can find them easily. I keep two big bags full of battery-powered lamps, candles, flashlights and some snacks at the ready in the family room near our television set. The TV won't work during a power outtage, but everyone knows where to find what they need to read or get around in the house.
* Create a checklist that's relevant to your family, and review it with everyone in your household. Hopefully, in most cases, you won't have to leave your home just because you lose your power. It's a good idea to keep a bag packed with copies of your most important documents, medicine, and other essential items in case you need them.
Rechargeable batteries are terrific, but if your plug-in recharger uses electricity, it won't help you much during an outtage. Keep a couple of solar-powered rechargers on hand to re-power the different sized batteries you may need. Or choose one versatile device, like the one pictured here, which is designed to charge 11 different types of batteries. A built-in meter shows you the strength of the sun, the strength of the current out-put from the solar panel, and the time required to fully charge the different types of batteries you have. A built-in blocking diode prevents the reverse flow of electricity from charged batteries during storage. A polycarbornate transparent cover makes the charger weather resistant. Though ideal in a power outtage, you can also use a recharger like this if you're traveling, camping, boating, or anywhere else where you don't have access to electricity.
It's pretty easy to power-up a solar flashlight - as long as you have sunlight and can set the light out where it gets full exposure for a few hours. This one to the left is actually two lights in one: an LED spotlight plus an adjustable LED lantern. You can recharge it by using its built-in solar panel or by drawing DC power from your vehicle's cigarette lighter socket.
HAND-CRANKED FLASHLIGHTS & RADIOS
Hand-cranked flashlights and radios are particularly convenient not only if you lose power, but if you have no sunlight for recharging your devices. I have a version of this model that I purchased after one outtage too many, which I keep in a handy kitchen drawer so I can find it any time I need it. What I like about it is that it has a great radio, built in flashlight, and a port so I can re-charge my cell phone as needed.