List Of Survival Electronics For Emergency Preparedness
I’m thinking about the various electronic devices that may be helpful in one way or another for general preparedness. Yes, I know, water and food are more important, etc.. I also know that EMP or CME could damage this stuff. However with that aside, lets brain-storm survival electronics.
We sometimes talk about the preparedness basics such as water, water filters, food storage, etc.., but this time lets consider the electronic ‘gadgets’ or electronic systems that may be beneficial towards preparedness.
Note: If you’re concerned about the potential effects of EMP on electronics, you might consider keeping some backups in a Faraday Cage.
[ Read: List of articles on EMP topic ]
Survival Electronics for Preparedness
This is not a complete list. It’s just intended to get you thinking about it. To present some ideas. Add your own recommendations below in the comments.
Alternative Energy – Solar Power
The first thing that comes to mind for me when thinking about survival electronics… Alternative energy systems (alternative from that of the ‘grid’). A solar powered alternative energy source. It’s the very first project I did after moving to my present location.
I live in a very rural area, well off the main road. Although I have electric grid utility here, I put together a solar power system (and battery bank) for peace-of-mind. And for a bit of self-reliance. The system itself is comprised of many survival electronics, so to speak.
- Solar Panels (converts solar to DC voltage/current)
- Charge Controller (utilizes solar DC power to charge batteries)
- Inverter (coverts DC to AC household voltage)
- Battery Bank (stores energy for overnight, etc..)
[ Read: Alternative Energy Topic on MSB ]
Alternative Energy – Generator
A portable generator. It’s an excellent temporary power source. Keep your refrigerator, freezer, and other such things running during a relatively short-term emergency. Some people go so far as to integrate a transfer switch into the electrical panel, choosing specific circuits for the generator to feed. Others will run an extension cord and feed appliances that way.
[ Read: Extension Cords For Generators ]
You can buy inexpensive generators with basic functionality. Or you might choose a generator/inverter that puts out smooth pure power (pure sine wave) which is better for electronic devices. They do cost a bit more.
Some generators are also designed to be extra quiet (costs more). My generators are this way. Very quiet (and pure sine wave). I was willing to spend the money for these attributes.
Handheld 2-Way Radio Communications (FRS/GMRS)
Portable handheld 2-way radios are great for emergency preparedness. We use these all the time around the property here. I can think of many practical uses for them among the list of survival electronics. One very useful function would be security during a time of “concern”. But in general, they’re nice for relatively short range comms. Up to several miles, depending.
There are all sorts of these radios. Some operate on “free” bands while others require a license. I own a variety of these radios. Though a “HAM” operator may scoff at the Baofeng, they’re inexpensive and function well. I own a number of them. I also have a number of Midland FRS/GMRS handheld radios (my first purchase many years ago).
Handheld Midland FRS/GMRS 2-Way Radios
[ Read: Best BaoFeng Upgrade ]
[ Read: Extended Battery For Mission Critical Operations ]
Ham Radio (Amateur Radio Communications)
There are a variety of radios for general communications. Ham radios are integral to survival electronics. Some involve knowledge and expertise to operate. ‘Ham Radio’ requires licensed operation (to transmit). It’s fairly easy to study and pass the exam for a “Technician” class license to get you started.
There are MANY bands for Amateur Radio operators. Each with their own characteristics for communications. Great distances can also be achieved via HAM Radios (depending on frequency, atmospheric conditions, antennas, and other factors).
It is a subject unto itself…
[ Read: HAM Radio – A Quick Primer ]
I added the CB Radio as its own unique communications device. Why? Because it’s generally good for local communications compared to some limitations with FRS/GMRS/MURS (all radios have pros and cons). Operating a CB radio requires no license.
For one thing, the frequency of CB (~ 27 Mhz) “hugs” the ground better than the aforementioned radio bands (462 Mhz). Therefore a pair of base stations with good antennas may communicate at greater distances.
There are many factors affecting ALL radios and their communication distance. They include frequency, antenna, elevation, location and environment, power, and others. However a good CB base station may reach out locally 15 – 50 miles.
I have this one in the truck: Handheld 40 Channel CB Radio
You might use the infamous Cobra 29 for a base station.
Weather Alert Radio
Especially if you live in an area where a tornado might spin up, or any other type of severe weather, you should really have a weather alert radio. The following is the most popular right now…
Battery Operated Portable AM/FM/Shortwave Receiver
A general purpose radio to receive information about what may be going on during an emergency situation. Local AM will be broadcasting information (if able) and you may gain more information while listening on shortwave/HAM bands.
Solar/Crank AM/FM Radio
A simple AM/FM/Weather radio with the ability to recharge via solar power or crank (wind up) will assure reception without the grid…
C. Crane Solar/Wind-Up Radio AM/FM/Weather/LED Flashlight
There are literally countless makes and models of flashlights! Every time that I look, I find another one that ‘I want’ ;)
Consider several types for varying purposes. Pocket / keychain / E-kit / headlamp / vehicle / general home use / a super bright one / etc…
[ Read: Headlamp or Flashlight? ]
There’s no substitute for a hand’s-free flashlight – a headlamp. This one also has an additional red LED for night reading while maintaining your night vision:
The most common size battery, the ‘AA’ size, is available as a rechargeable battery. I wrote about what I consider to be one of the best rechargeable batteries:
[ Read: Best Rechargeable Batteries ]
You can’t use rechargeable batteries without a battery charger!
Maha Professional Charger for 8 AA/AAA/C/D NiMH/NiCD Batteries
C. Crane Solar 11-in-1 Battery Charger
Okay, those were a few of the survival electronics to get you thinking…
What other electronic gadgets or electronic systems might be good for preparedness?
I like having a game cam. Many use Infrared and some can be viewed remotely. One caveat though, some do not allow the use of rechargeable batteries. There is a voltage difference as the rechargeable batteries are a slightly lower voltage. If you have a Beofeng radio, it provides the space for the extra battery needed to raise the voltage.
A game cam let’s you know whose around and when.
Paleo, Excellent idea. Game cam.
I keep them around the property in addition to any other security camera(s) that I may or may not have ;) I pull the SD cards once in a while to check the game cams. Usually just a bear in the middle of the night, or deer. Once in awhile some other 4-legged predators.
Rechargeable power tools. It takes a small amount of power to charge the batteries for the amount of work they can accomplish. Even some of the yard maintenance tools are pretty affordable and reliable nowdays.
Yard tools would be good. If there was no gas or diesel the yard around your house would be so over grown. We have the back property bush hogged twice a year. The grass around the house would be so high with no way to cut it. I just bought Mr. an Ego Trimmer. Has a 56 volt battery which can be used with other tools. The reviews on the Ego were better than Makita. Has a string rewind feature. Have to help Mr. keep his blood pressure down! Oh wait it would be me winding the string…………:-)
Compact power cell, uses can be jumping a dead vehicle, charging a “celly”. I have a small folding solar tri-panel that can recharge the power cell, or phones, or rechargeable batteries, or a computer. Power cell is in each vehicle, the other stuff in a Faraday cage.
We view those SD cards on a rechargeable DVD player that has both a SD slot and USB port, but also have a laptop stowed too. Both will also give you the ability to play a movie to distract the kids, in case the adults have to go in the other room for a private chat.
Nightvision scopes, goggles and monocular, as well Thermal Imaging Optics. And then everything on your list except CB, although not all of it is in a Faraday, so I may need to take another look at whether it should be. Solar panels, headlamps, battery charger…I really wasn’t thinking about being affected. So maybe you just caught a huge flaw in my plan!
Other electronic stuff-motion sensitive outdoor lighting, NVG, Infrared scope, ammeters to test the batteries for everything, video camera to record encounters from the ‘peaceful protesters’, cordless drill, nail gun, and saw.
Ohhh, don’t forget range finder.
I have a small solar power bank but my neighbor has a halo bolt!!!
Very versatile power bank and can even jump start a car or small suv! Has reg plug too so she used her hairdryer on low!
Small and weighs less than 5 lbs avg $100-$125
I am going to be getting one for myself
It took about 6hours to fully charge at our house with generator (she did not have generator during storm Isaias)
It is critical to be thinking “force multipliers.” When there is only a few of you, you will find yourself running out of daylight or hours in the day to do everything, especially when you are not specialized in something so it takes you 2-4 times longer.
Electronics that multiply your abilities and efforts are paramount. Consider things you’ll be doing:
Security- Cameras, thermal cameras, motion sensors, etc. around the property allow just one person to keep an eye on things while others sleep. Or if the circle of detection is robust enough and difficult to penetrate, then everyone can sleep knowing the system will awaken you.
Food production – you will spend a lot of time here. Solar powered electric fencing supplies can reduce the shrinkage of your food production to critters. Electronic scarecrow devices can reduce the loss of fruits to birds. Hand cranked grain mills are prepper vogue but have you actually cranked one to make a couple pounds of flower? A mill that can be run electrically is big.
Food preservation- freezers and refrigerators are big force multipliers. It takes time, work and supplies to preserve meats and when they are scarce, one needs to reduce loss to spoilage as much as possible. Do you think or plan gat EMP will kill them all? Maybe some of the electronic controls but it very likely won’t kill the compressor motor. So safely store a couple of the cheap eBay temperature controllers that beer makers often use on an old freezer or frig that has a thermocouple you put inside and the control box goes outside. Wire the compressor motor straight to this controller and you have cold again if you can generate the power.
Construction – try to have that done prior to a need but if you have to fix a roof, secure a door, etc. power tools are a force multiplier and time saver. Dewalt, Milwaukee and other brand have 12 volt chargers that can recharge your tool batteries from a cigarette lighter. A small couple hundred watt solar panel, charge controller and deep discharge 12v battery and you can recharge your tools. $300 or so and you are good to go.
Milwaukee, Stihl snd others make battery chainsaws too which are a HUGE force multiplier vs a hand saw or ax. While having hand saws in reserve is critical, strive to never ever have to saw firewood by hand. Splitting is a different story but cutting the wood takes so much time and calories to run your body, calories that might be in short supply. My brother in law has quit using gas powered chainsaws for all but the biggest tasks on his farm. The battery saws are just so convenient, light, and easy.
Lighting- yeah… candles, oil lamps, Coleman lanterns etc. are again prepper vogue. I have some but our plan is battery lights. LED technology has really changed the game. We have multiple ways to charge AA batteries including small solar chargers and headlamps, small torches and even little lanterns are very affordable, reliable and compared to the alternatives far more convenient and safer.
Medical equipment- we have otoscope, pulse oximeter, small ECG (wife has heart issues), thermometer that all use AA batteries. We keep these safely stored. Don’t need an electronic thermometer, a liquid one works fine but they are handy with small kids. I have been watching for a cheap oxygen concentrator to add to the storage. Note a primary treatment for covid-19 and other diseases and medical issues is oxygen and if you can generate power, you are not limited to tanks that run out.
Mr Bill, we recently purchased a few of the Stihl battery chainsaws and trimmers. They are awesome!! We also have new security cameras with night sensors that are super clear. You can tell exactly what is out there – two or four-legged critters. I am also very glad we purchased solar rechargeable fencing for the chickens. It can also be used for small pigs. So easy to move it around too. One person can move it all in about 5 min. We bought the Premier brand. Already paid for itself and we didn’t lose any meat birds we raised this year. The other layers free range snd we always lose a few to predators (mostly owls tho) every year.
I think everyone here has great ideas. And what a great article. I think I’m not the only one who feels time is short to get things done. And someone mentioned LED lights. I think I’ll get a few strings of battery operated Christmas lights to drape around.
Good comment on refurbishing a freezer or fridge with thermocouple etc.
Great article. . . . . I would add computer/tablet of some sort. Compact data management, screen for watching videos, speakers for listening to music.
May seem unimportant, but why not throw a small battery tester in your bag. If we had a long term grid failure (think EMP) we’d wind up scrounging around all over for (D-Cell, AA, etc) batteries, even stealing the out of the kids toys for a flashlight or something. And then we get
a handful, put them in something and it doesn’t work. Is it one battery or the whole bunch? It
would be a cheap benefit.r
A cheap multi meter would let you check batteries, ac voltage from a gen set and continuity in wiring or electronic circuits. Two would be better. Keep at least one in a faraday cage.
Great article and I very much appreciate the links as well as comments from others.
A couple things that people might want to consider for SHTF would be:
The two of these will help immensely even if cell towers go down and ensure communication among team members in difficult situations.
Ken’s article mentions battery chargers for your C, D, AAA and AA rechargeable batteries. Setting up a battery recharging station would be wise. If the grid goes down for an extended time, especially if it coincides with a true shtf, increased defensive posture, you are going to be burning through a lot of batteries running communications, radios, flashlights, etc. It could well coincide with limiting the time you run your generator in order to stretch gasoline resources. Having enough chargers (and spare replacement batteries) to insure you have the ability to get those batteries charged up during a 3-4 hour generator run-time window would be helpful, maybe imperative.
Know the charge time required by your chargers. Some of my AA & AAA chargers require 4 hours, some only 2 hours. Same with my power tools. Figure these things out now so you can know some minimum generator run-times. As a rule, most batteries don’t like interruptions in their charging cycles.
Hi Dennis, all of my aa, c, d battery chargers take 8- 12 hours. What brand do you use that charge in 2-4? I appreciate any help.
Km in NC,
My last two AA/AAA chargers were bought when I loaded up on Panasonic Enerloop rechargeables a couple months back. They were Panasonic four hour chargers. Two of my older chargers are Energizer two hour chargers. I have one other charger packed away in a Faraday can, don’t recall the brand or charge time.
I’ve been using the Panasonic chargers since I bought them with one of my orders of Eneloop batteries. So far, even though it says 4 hours, it has never took much more than two hours to show full charge.
Thank you, I will look them up.
During a recent storm, I had to use the generator. I found that the new freezer put me over its load rating. Instead of a second or bigger generator, would like to do an inverter and battery backup for some appliances. However, I cannot seem to understand how to make it work. Anyone have such a setup that can help with advice?
Mainly on inverter and charging system.
We have a set up with genny and solar. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a hybrid system. But more of a Heinz 57. Lol.
How big is your genny. How big is your freezer etc.
Km in nc,
Do your research. I have a small solar and small wind for back-up. It takes a significant investment to power a fridge or a freezer, even when diy. I can operate both with full sun and a little wind. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Realistically, I think I’d concentrate the power to my freezer and utilize ice and zeer pots as needed for fridge.
I haven’t actually tried it over long periods of time. It’s awfully easy to have the grid as a back-up. I really DON’T want an emp or cme. It would be a drastic change of lifestyle, for sure. I’d encourage you to hurry up, with all your preps. Good luck to you.
– Km in nc,
It is even possible to buy over-the-counter an inverter/backup battery arrangement. I have a couple of these that need new batteries I was simply given, that have too-small batteries and these have 150-watt inverters built-in and small chargers as well. My intent is to change them to larger batteries and have them for lights/communications backup power.
Basically, you have a battery, preferably deep cycle or marine type;
a charger, which can be a ‘smart’ charger for the least amount of fuss and bother, or some people use a trickle type charger to keep the battery at full, like some RV/boats use for the off season (Be aware, this is not the best set-up, just the cheapest to purchase; the batteries will not last as long);
and an inverter, which should be sized to whatever you intend to power. I have several, ranging from small 150-watt types, some of which are intended to plug into cigarette lighters in cars, which will provide at least minimal power wherever for charging electronics, powering razors, or other small appliances; a 400-watt, which gets used the most often; a 750-watt, which is capable of running a modern refrigerator; to a 1500-watt which will run an electric (corded) chainsaw, should that be what I need. You will have to do a little bit of research as far as what you need, and you will have to see what the wattages of the appliances you intend to run are. Check the nameplates.
– Papa S.
– Sorry, meant to say that OTC ‘back-up power source’ is a computer UPS (Uninterruptible Power Source). The ones I was given were primarily intended to give enough power to allow for saving what you were working on before shutting down when the power went out.
I have a jump start box that seems to be in use constantly.
It’s a wally world power start? Not sure.
It has a work lifte, 2 cig plug ins, 2 USB plugs with different power rates, an air compressor, a 200 watt inverter, and of course jumper cables.
I never really used the inverter. The other day I decided to test it out.
It powered a window/box fan for 5 hours before I finally shut it down. I also plugged in a 12 inch, 12 volt road pro truckers fan after the first couple hours at the same time.
I know some will say it’s too much of a gadget. But it has proven very handy to air up tires in very remote parts of the property. As well as being able to jump start everything from a 1950 something Harry Ferguson tractor, my camo bombed Urban Insult vehicle, to lawn mowers etc.
I only bought it to replace a much higher priced ac telco jump box that was on its last leg. But it hasn’t let me down yet. And I was very surprised the inverter worked that well for that long till I shut it off.
There are off the shelf units like papa smurf mentioned. Goal Zero is 1 of them. But the price is high for what you get.
Another thing about the different jump boxes available. And there are many available on amazon.
Is that you can recharge the jump box off your car or even a riding mower if need be in a pinch.
I know it’s not important in the scheme of things, but how about a portable DVD/Blu-ray player?
In a grid down EMP situation, other than a few ham radio operators that had their radios in a faraday cage, there won’t be anything going out over the airwaves or the internet. With a portable DVD player you’ll still be able to watch something from your collection, time allowing. And a portable player is smaller and easier to fit in a small faraday cage.
Between me and my brother we have about 800 movies and TV shows to go through. A few duplicates, but still a good variety to cycle through.
Recent lockdowns since March have just reinforced my theory for the need for periodic entertainment during SHTF. Books are great entertainment but during SHTF we’ll be working long hours and probably more physical than usual and sometimes you’ll just be too tired to read. And then there’s kids… Luckily they don’t have a problem with watching something 500 times. 😝 You might want more than one portable player unless you’re ok with watching Cars or Frozen 500 times. 🤦♂️🤣
Are there any phone apps that give one a live, real time update on local streets regarding protests, marches, riots, etc.?
I have 3 of these, they work and only cost 12.97
Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp Flashlight – 180 Lumen, up to 40 Hours of Constant Light on a Single Charge, Bright White Led + Red Light
Harbor Freight sells a $15 wireless motion detector alarm set that I really like. The receiver uses 3 C-batteries or a dc plug-in and the IR detector uses a 9v. Use it at the driveway, inside a mailbox, in the shed out back, etc.
– I do have a small (40-watt) solar panel in my Faraday can. It has a separate charge controller, and its wiring with it. Not much but something at least. I keep the big inverter in the Faraday as well, along with a couple of the smaller ones. I have two 12-volt marine-type John Deere batteries that are linked together for a small battery bank (BTW, John Deere will sell you a dry Marine battery with the never applied acid on the side, if you need to store one)
I can use my smart charger, or jumper cables from a running car, or a trickle charger to keep the battery charged (not really enough to charge a low battery back up) or if all else should fail, the solar panel will work. It’s not a lot of power, but it is some.
I am hoping to add a couple of 100-watt panels to my power generation capabilities this fall. I do have one 7.5 kw generator, but we are talking backup capability.
For my former UPS backups, I have a couple of 1.5-watt “battery buddy” solar ‘dashboard chargers’, that will provide enough power to listen, have a small LED light, and broadcast in an emergency. again, not much, but better than nothing.
– Papa S.
I also have a couple of the dash board solar battery maintainers.
I have 1 hooked up to a single wally world deep cycle battery. It powers my gazebo/outdoor living room/summer kitchen. I have a 12.volt ceiling fan, led lighting, small inverter that powers a 32 flat screen TV and OTA antenna signal booster.
I have another that I use to keep the battery in a 30 foot fifth wheel camper topped off so I dont have to have it plugged in all the time.
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I would also add a simple analog scanner The Bearcat BC125AT to allow you to monitor Police, Fire/Emergency, Ham, Marine, Railroad, Civil Air, Military Air, CB Radio, FRS/GMRS/MURS, via Close Call alerts.
If it alerts on frs/gmrs/murs, then you know opfro is nearby as all bubble pack radios have limited wattage and short stubby antennas, so that’s a useful signals intercept system right there…