Modern human civilization has become so reliant on technology that we almost can’t cope at all without it. When was the last time you had to deal with a power outage, and how long did it last? A phone with a cracked screen or terrible phone reception when you really needed it? While technology has made things a hell of a lot easier, anyone who wants to be prepared (whether it’s for a disaster or just a bad day) should know what to do when technology fails.
Here are some alternatives for when your tech fails you…
1. Signal Boosters (for strengthening phone signals)
It doesn’t always take a large-scale disaster for terrible cell phone reception, as many who live in rural or secluded areas (like near mountains or forests) will tell you. The answer to this is called a signal booster (or network repeater), which works through an external antenna to boost your signal. This is something everyone should have as part of their tech-kit. If you’re already having problems with signals, it can only help. (“Can you hear me NOW?”) Read more about signal boosters at the FCC here.
2. Power Banks (for on-the-go charging)
It’s almost like the Murphy’s Law of batteries that they will strike out when you need them. For when you’re stuck without electricity (or just not near a place to charge your phone), you should always have a power bank for your phone. These can usually be plugged into USB for charging, or they come with a small solar panel that you can put in a sunny spot for a while and you’ve got backup battery life for when you need it most.
(A note on power banks: Make sure that you periodically charge it if you’re going to keep it in storage as a back-up.)
3. Solar Power (for almost everything)
There have been huge leaps in solar technology over the past couple of decades, and anyone who is serious about sustainable and off-the-grid living should look into it. Have your house fitted with solar panels. You’ll save on your electricity bill in the long run, and you won’t be in the dark should anything happen. (South Africa saw years of the load-shedding phenomenon: Scheduled power cuts to ‘reduce the load’, which pushed many citizens to switch over to solar power for good.)
If you don’t want to go that far, you still shouldn’t underestimate the power of the sun. For example, take a look at this portable solar kettle, the Global sun oven, or even this solar powered fridge. If you’re in an area that gets enough sun, you have no excuse not to make use of solar power.
4. Generators (for, well, generating…)
Generators present another alternative to grid power, and places like restaurants, hospitals, airports, and farms are well-acquainted with their use in the event of a power outage. Power goes off? Everything just switches right over to the generator system and vital things like life-support can continue uninterrupted. Generators are not necessarily cheap, but they are worth it: Take a look at these portable Diesel generators on Amazon.com, for example. (Often, most households do not need something huge, but just something to run their essentials on.)
A safety note on generators: They do emit toxic gases, so do not store generators too close to a house, and especially not in an enclosed space.
5. Backup Technology (just in case)
Keep and store your old technology, just in case your primary tech should fail. (This is as true for emergencies as it is for daily life: Have you ever dropped a phone in the toilet just before an important meeting or phone call?) This applies mainly to things like phones and laptops: An old phone can still be used to make phone calls, one with a cracked screen might still work as a Wi-Fi hotspot when you’re in an emergency.
(When storing old technology for an indefinite amount of time, keep in mind that it’s best to store these things with the batteries out.)
6. A Little Tech Know-How
I highly encourage people to familiarize themselves with at least the basic workings of the technology they use on a daily basis. (This doesn’t mean you have to become an engineer to buy a microwave; what it means is – make sure you read the manual.) While I’m no IT expert, I keep myself up to date on the latest computer news, operating systems (and how to fix technology myself when something goes wrong). This little bit of added experience has saved my ass many times – once, when the only saving grace was a full re-install and there was no expert in sight.
A little tech know-how will go a long way, and it can be applied to almost everything.
7. Back to Fire Cooking
How are you going to cook without electricity? This seems like a very simple question, but when posed to a lot of people they have no idea how to answer it. (Try that for conversation at the next parent/teacher meeting!) Familiarize yourself with how to prepare food on a fire: There are great videos on YouTube that’ll guide you through this (some even focus on old-timey cooking methods and recipes, like how to make your own baked beans in a pot over a fire). Look around, read some of our articles on off-grid cooking, and put what you’ve learned into practice.
8. A Place for “Old Methods”
So-called “old methods” – anything where you are able to do something at home – have their place, and should be essential skills for all frugal people. Grow your own food, learn how to bake your own bread, preserve and bottle meals ahead of time, and so forth. These are useful skills for many reasons, and it’s a lot of fun.
Bonus Tip: Stock Up On Useful Items
As a last quick tip, it can’t hurt to stock up on things like candles, batteries, firewood, and anything else that would be useful during a power outage. (Check out this lights out box.) Rather have them and not need them, right? Use the comment section below to let us know what you’ve done as alternatives when you couldn’t rely on modern tech to get the job done.