Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Be ready with an ICE-QUBE.

Having dealt with three major hurricanes in 2004-2005, I am well aware how important it is to be prepared for disaster. Hurricanes aren't the only threat to our security. Terrorism, blackouts, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, snowstorms, volcanoes (thankfully, our homeowner's insurance does cover volcanic activity) or even a pandemic disease could leave us scrambling to survive.

That's why it's important to have an emergency kit, whether it's something you put together yourself or something you buy.

I was fortunate enough to win a small ICE-QUBE emergency kit from another blog, MommyPR and ICE-QUBE, so I have a chance to review it here. Now, I was expecting the Starter Kit, which retails for $19.99, so I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that they'd sent me their ICE-QUBE To Go, which retails for $149.00!

I'm copying the list of contents from the ICE-QUBE website and I'll give my thoughts next to each:

AM/FM Radio with flashlight, siren and hand-crank - this is a little different than is pictured on the website, but I wound the crank a few times and I was able to test the flashlight and tune in a couple of radio stations (AM and FM). It's not a really bright light to work by, but it would be nice for finding your way in the dark and you don't have to worry about finding fresh batteries. The radio got a clear signal for listening to news and official updates.
Energy Pills - it's a small package of pills. Not sure how well they work, but it's hard work cleaning up after a natural disaster, so hopefully they'll provide some pep.
Face Shield - this is one of those dust mask, cup style paper face mask. It will help filter some dust if you're clearing debris or dealing with smoke and ash. It could also be useful for some medical emergencies, though I don't know how well it will filter germs. Note: this is a different style than what is pictured on the website, and you get one, not several.
First-Aid Kit:
  Alcohol Wipes
  Antiseptic Wipes
  Burn Cream
  Cleansing Wipes
  Ice Pack
  Medical Grade Gloves
  First Aid Reference Guide
The first aid kit is all packed in a cloth case with a carabiner-style clip on one corner, so you can snap it on a belt loop or backpack. There's not a lot of any one thing, but it's a nice assortment to deal with minor injuries.
ICE Emergency Plan is a card that you fill out with contact numbers, such as work, school, family contacts, doctor and insurance company phone numbers, and pre-agreed information like where the emergency family meeting place is and who will be the family's point of contact out-of-town (this is where you tell everyone you know that if your hometown is hit by a hurricane, you're going to call Aunt Jane in Minnesota and then everyone can call her instead of trying to get through to you right after the storm).
Marker - I'm not sure how long this will stay functional in a closet, but it's good to have a heavy-duty marker to write your FEMA or Blue Roof number on your house or to make "no trespassing" or "danger" signs if you have serious damage.
Multi-tool - a handy small tool in a cloth case, kind of like a Swiss Army Knife. It could be good for pulling nails out of boards, and that kind of minor situation.
Mylar blanket - shiny silver for signaling for help. Great for keeping warm after a blizzard. Well, it's supposed to help you keep warm. Not living the frozen north, I don't know how well it would work. It is plastic, so you might be able to use it like a tarp to block a leak.
Rain Poncho - handy to have if you have to get out in the rain, although in a hurricane, it probably won't really keep you dry.
Rope - This looks smaller than what is pictured. It's more like cord than rope, but it's 50' of nylon that could be used to tie down a tarp or secure something that's in danger of falling.
Tarp/Tube Tent - It's made of a pretty thin material, but it's better than nothing to help block a leak or cover some of your belongings if they're getting wet. I can't think of many situations that would require camping out, but it could provide some shade if you're working outside in the sun. This may be something more appropriate to keep in the car in case something happens while you're on the road. It's bright orange, so it could be used as a signal as well. It is packaged with a small coil of cord.
Thermometer - this is a paper or plastic lay-it-on-your-head thermometer that is packed in the first aid kit.
Whistle - a nice shiny metal whistle to signal for help.
Waterproof Document Pouch - it's a zipper-sealed plastic bag, but it is thicker plastic and larger than what you typically get in the grocery store.
Waterproof Matches - box of matches for lighting candles, hurricane lamps, charcoal grills, gas heaters, or debris fires. Be very careful, especially if the water pressure is down after your disaster. It's really difficult to fight a fire without water.
Work Gloves - very nice cloth gloves. The fingers and part of the palms are coated with rubber or latex or something, which will probably make them a little more waterproof and give you better grip for moving things that are wet.
Waterbag - this wasn't listed on their website, but it's a bag that will hold 2.5 gallons of water with a pour spout included. If you have some warning, you can fill the bag with tap water to ensure you have an ample supply in case you lose water pressure or the lines break.

It's all packed inside this 8" cube and in a heavyweight plastic bag inside the cardboard box, to help keep it dry. The box has a handy plastic handle built into the top.

I did have to laugh a little at one of the press releases included with the kit, which starts out, "In a post 9/11, post Katrina world, Leslie Fastenberg asked herself a serious question 'Does my family have a real emergency plan?' After a failed attempt to use the products that were available, she created her own."

I don't know how any item in this kit is any better or any easier to use than any similar item you can buy in a store. You could probably put together a very similar kit for less than the $149 price tag of the ICE-QUBE To Go. That said, this is a very simple way to build a family emergency kit. Order the ICE-QUBE, stick it in a closet, and you're just about ready for any disaster (you'll still need to stock up on medications and canned food, for example). This kit would make a great gift for a housewarming, a student living on their own for the first time, or for newlyweds. The box is an easy size to store, helping you keep everything together for that time you need it.

The bottom line: if it's easier to spend $149 to have a good emergency kit than to take the time to go shopping and find all the items on the above list and pack it into your own storage tub or case, then by all means order this very functional kit. If you have less money, print the list and go shopping at your local hardware and discount stores. You'll find everything you need, it'll just take a little more time.

Be prepared. Be safe.

I just want to make clear for the FTC and the FCC and whoever cares -- I received this ICE-QUBE kit as a prize from a giveaway on MommyPR.com. I was not asked to review it, and I received no compensation for my time or my writing.