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Family Finances

7 Must-Haves for Your Emergency Kit

When disaster strikes and the grid crashes, candles will get you only so far.

Four lamps in one

A rechargeable lantern will light up a room, but what about the rest of your house? Rather than stockpiling multiple lamps, get the $55 Coleman Quad Lantern. Featuring four detachable light panels, each with six bright LEDs, the Quad is four lanterns in one. Each panel has its own on/off switch and recharges on the base, which uses eight D-cell batteries. Also consider the Coleman LED Rechargeable Lantern ($46). Though it doesn’t split into four lights, its rechargeable base means no battery hassles.

SLIDE SHOW: See the 7 Must-Haves for Your Emergency Kit

Battery-operated TV

A portable, rechargeable TV, such as the Axion AXN-8701 ($84.95 on, is handy for checking the latest news updates. The 7-inch LCD set receives local digital stations and runs up to 1.5 hours on battery power. It’s easy to reposition the Axion’s built-in antenna for better reception, or you can switch to the free-standing external antenna to pick up weaker signals. The car adapter is handy for roadside viewing or using your vehicle as a power supply.

Portable power pack

When the grid goes dark, a portable power station is a quick-and-easy way to run the gadgets you need most. The Duracell DPP-300EP Powerpack 300 ($132) does double-duty as home and auto charger. It delivers 300 watts of power through one DC and two AC outlets. That lets you run a laptop computer for 2.5 hours and a cell phone for 15 hours, for example. Plug the Powerpack into an AC outlet and it’ll stay fully charged for emergencies. It has a detachable LED flashlight, an air compressor for pumping up tires, and jumper cables for starting a car battery.


Radio that won’t die

A disaster-rated radio must keep working even after its batteries give out. The American Red Cross Solarlink FR600 Eton Emergency Radio ($87) is a rugged, water-resistant unit with multiple power sources. You can run it on solar power, by using a hand crank, or with off-the-shelf AA or AAA batteries. The radio can receive AM, FM, shortwave and weather-alert broadcasts. It also has a USB port for charging certain cell phones, as well as an LED flashlight, a flashing beacon and an emergency siren. The handle makes the unit easy to carry or hang.

Mega generator

Backup batteries and portable power packs won’t keep a major appliance running during a lengthy outage. If you’ve got a freezer full of fillets to keep frozen, a heavy-duty generator is the answer. The ETQ TG32P12 ($500), from Eastern Tools & Equipment, is a 3,250-watt power station with a 7-horsepower engine. Its 4-gallon fuel tank provides up to 13 hours of run time (at half-load). Weighing a hefty 111 pounds, this beast is only marginally portable -- although the included wheel kit does make the ETQ TG32P12 somewhat easy to roll into action.

Potable water

In a serious emergency, water from the municipal supply may not be safe to drink. The Katadyn Combi ($200) is a portable water-purification system that filters out bacteria, protozoa, sediments and other contaminants. Its two-stage carbon-and-ceramic filter produces about 1 liter of drinkable water per minute. Katadyn’s optional faucet-mount adaptor ($55) makes the Combi convenient for home use, too.

Grandma’s phone

Cordless, cellular and Internet phones may be popular, but the venerable corded handset has one distinct advantage: When paired with land-line phone service, it’s the odds-on favorite to keep working during a blackout. The AT&T 210 Trimline phone is a sturdy, no-frills model that lists for $40, although we found it for as little as $10 online. Land-line phone service is cheap, too, provided you avoid the extras. AT&T, for instance, has a $9 monthly plan that includes a limited number of local calls; Verizon offers a $3 monthly deal with an 8-cents-per-minute rate (in some areas) for all direct-dialed local calls.