High tech disaster kits

(FOX19) - Tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes. No one wants to think about disaster striking close to home, but experts say you need to be prepared. That includes having a kit packed with must-have supplies to help you weather any storm.

Lori Cheek always hoped she would never have to use her disaster kit. Then, a storm hit.

"There was no power. There was no phone signal," says Cheek. "I couldn't get on the Internet."

Thankfully, Lori had food, water and a solar powered radio.

"If I can't get in touch with anyone, I can at least know what's going on around me, find a safe place to go," explains Cheek.

Experts say that every household should have an emergency preparedness kit.

Now, disaster-themed apps and gadgets are competing for space among traditional supplies.  The American Red Cross says a kit with added high-tech help can provide everything from bright light to a lifeline.

"High tech items can help you stay in touch with family members, can allow you to tell everyone in your social network that you're safe," explains Anne Marie Borrego of the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross recently launched a series of free disaster apps.

"Tornado App, Hurricane App, Wildfire App, and Earthquake App," says Borrego, "all designed to help people manage their way through those disasters and also prepare for them."

Plug-free battery chargers can now keep your smartphone or tablet powered for days. You can also buy a backup cell phone that's charged by a double-a battery.

C-net's Dan Ackerman says, even the old-school crank radio has received an upgrade.

"You can use regular batteries with it. It has a rechargeable battery that you can charge via a hand crank or a solar panel, so there are three ways to keep it powered up," says Ackerman.

The pop-up LED lanterns last 100 hours and can fit in a small bag. You can also turn a water bottle into a lantern with a unique cap.

"It's got a solar panel on the top and a lamp on the bottom, so it soaks up solar power and stores it," explains Ackerman. "If the lights go out, it'll turn on, and you can use it like a flashlight."

If you invest in emergency gadgets, check that they're fully charged every few weeks and store them with your other supplies.

"In maybe a waterproof plastic box or case, or the individual battery backup items, you can seal them in plastic bags," suggests Ackerman.

Finally, the Red Cross stresses NEVER substitute tech tools for disaster kit basics like food, water, batteries and first aid.

"Each kit should definitely contain at least three days worth of supplies for each individual member of the family," explains Cross.

Lori Cheek's so-called "go-bag" helped her ride out the storm safely, and continues to give her peace-of-mind.

"You never know what's going to happen and it's better to be prepared," says Cheek.

Disaster gadgets and apps run anywhere from free to upwards of $100. When making your choice, consider where you live, your family's needs, and your budget. Also, be sure to read product reviews.

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