Be Ready for the End of the World, or an Emergency of a Lesser Sort

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Correction Appended

We may have only a few hours to live. On Friday, the Mayan calendar will come to an end, leading some to predict that the world will spiral into chaos. It could be the end of days. Locusts could swarm the earth, destroying crops. Tornadoes the size of Florida could shred Europe. Thousand-foot waves could crash over Idaho. Zombies! Flesh-eating viruses, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together.

Or just maybe, as with every other predicted apocalypse before it, nothing will happen. We could just wake up on Friday, roll out of bed, grab our coffee and go to work. Another day in the life.

Either way, it's probably better to be safe than sorry. You'll want to be prepared for the end. And if it's not the end, these supplies will help you when the next subapocalyptic event happens: another hurricane, perhaps, or a blackout, earthquake, blizzard or typhoon.

Given that most of our lives are now hyperdependent on things that require power, you should stock up on batteries. Lots of them. Amazon sells packs of 20 or 48 AA or AAA batteries for as little as $10. Solar panels, or at least devices that incorporate them, are a must too. The WakaWaka solar lamp, $40, can provide up to 16 hours of light on a full charge.

Sometimes sunlight is in short supply. The Etón BoostTurbine 1000 is a power generator that can be hand-cranked to charge a cellphone or other gadgets. If you're hiding from zombies in a basement and your iPad is about to die, just plug it in and crank the wheel, and you can finish that game of Angry Birds. Cranking for one minute will give your cellphone enough power for a 30-second call.

There is, of course, a chance that your phone will not work, so if you want to get around and communicate with people, be prepared to travel back in time. Before cellphones, there were these things called maps that were made of paper, or plastic. Be sure to have a few showing your local city and state highways. If the power is out, there might not be any Twitter or Facebook either -- gasp! -- so you'll have to leave notes the old-fashioned way: with a pen and paper. Don't forget tape. Duct tape or electrician's tape has a multitude of uses.

You might want to pick up a pair of two-way radios too. The Motorola MH230R has an astounding range of 23 miles and can operate for up to 10 hours on a charge. These walkie-talkies can also pick up all seven weather frequencies from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

You will want some canned food: tuna, spaghetti, fruit, pinto beans, vegetables and some soups. (Buy a hand can opener, too, as your electric one needs electricity.) You can also order freeze-dried foods from a camping store. Don't forget food for your lovable pets.

Studies show that humans can last a couple of weeks without food, but most people can last only three to five days without water.

If you have the money, invest in a Lifesaver Bottle, $230, which can filter out bacteria, chemicals and toxins from your water supply. A less expensive alternative is the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, $25, which is essentially a fancy straw that, it is claimed, removes 99.9 percent of waterborne parasites. Some people swear by tomato juice, which will quench your thirst while providing nutrition.

You will need a stove to warm up all of those wonderful canned foods. Jet Boil Sol Advanced Cooking Stoves, $100, are go-to items for campers these days. They have an all-in-one top from which you can both cook and eat. They also have a one-button starter, and are compact for easy storage. Get a few extra fuel canisters.

Cash is king in a catastrophe. In 2003, during the New York City blackout, I was caught in the subway when the power went out. When I finally emerged from the tunnels, escorted by the police, I realized I had only $14 in cash on me. Credit cards and A.T.M.'s were useless. Keep a wad of bills and change in your apocalypse kit.

In case you have to hit the road to flee a zombie invasion, grab some Mylar thermal blankets, $10 for a pack of 10. They look like tinfoil, but can actually hold in 90 percent of your body heat. There are also Hothands hand warmers, which can be purchased in packs of 40 for $20.

In the unlikely event of a nuclear emergency, it would be good to have some potassium iodide tablets, $8 for 14. These little pills can reduce the chance of thyroid damage.

You will be amazed how dark it can be at night without a dozen light bulbs glowing in your living room, so stock up on flashlights. You can get a couple that require batteries, but also have backups that don't need them, even though these might not be quite as bright. Forever Flashlights ($30) can be shaken up and down to create power. They actually do work: shaking for seconds will generate up to five minutes of light.

If you think the world might take a while to wind down, you might want to invest in a generator. They start at around $300 and go up into the thousands. Don't forget to pick up fuel to run it, though. And you might want to make sure your fire extinguisher is working, in case fireballs start falling from the sky or the toaster goes berserk.

Take a look at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Ready.gov Web site, which tells you how much water and food you will need for an emergency and offers a list of things you should always have at the ready. The agency recommends water canisters or sealed jugs so you do not have to drink from your bathtub.

Finally, don't forget to have a camera fully charged and some extra batteries so you can document your particular angle on the apocalypse. This way, when society finally rebuilds itself, you'll be able to post those awesome photos on Twitter and Facebook.

Correction: December 20, 2012, Thursday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of NOAA weather station frequencies picked up by the Motorola MH23OR two-way radio. It picks up all seven, not 11. (The radio also picks up four VHF marine frequencies.)

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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