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Let There Be (Some) Light - Blackout Preparations - Lights, flashlight, more!
by Denise McCluggage

Always Carry a Flashlight When Traveling

The question of recent interest to many travelers: "Where were you when the lights went out?" may well be followed with: "Will you be prepared when (if?) they go out again?"

When the lights went out in times of yore when more people were smokers, someone could be counted on to be carrying a matchbook bearing the name of a bar or restaurant. The matches therein provided a brief but welcome flare of orange. But fingertips burned, the match shook and darkness closed in again. Still a matchbook is better than nothing.

But there are solutions much better than matches. Here are some rules to make sure you can at least brighten the corner where you are if caught in a blackout.

Rule One: Always have a flashlight with you.
Your tote-along flash needn't be one of those police-issue things as long and as heavy as a baseball bat. Useful lights come palm size, or the size of a fountain pen, a key fob or even a quarter.

Check out the Sapphire lights. Their intense little beam is said to be visible for a mile. (See Resource for Lights below.) Some sprawling resorts provide guests with thumb-size lights they pinch to brighten the path to their lodge. These squeeze-to-light jobbies can be activated with your teeth, which is useful when you have a two-handed task to perform in the dark like untying a knot or unlatching a door.

Other squeezable lights are credit card size and nearly as flat. They are good to have for reading theater programs and finding dropped objects on the car floor as well as for holding back at least a portion of a sudden, scary blackout.

Rule Two: Always have several flashlights with you.
Safety lies in numbers. If you have a number of flashlights you're more apt to lay a hand on one when darkness descends. And, too, small lights are not generally known for long life under the steady use that a blackout might demand. Tuck the little ones here and there - into a corner of your purse, a compartment of your briefcase, your raincoat pocket. And use them as zipper pulls on your luggage or your windbreakers. Or on a key ring.

Rule Three: Consider your computer.
A laptop as a light source might not be an obvious association, but it is a superior one in many ways. The screen casts a soft, widespread glow unlike the more focused beam of a flashlight. That general lighting is perfect for a group of benighted people suddenly cast into darkness. The light is not as bright as a flashlight but the area covered is much, much wider. And without any nervous darting about or dazzling anyone with brightness.

Laptop batteries vary in life expectancy but few last more than three or four hours. Make sure you keep yours as fully charged as possible and know its life expectancy. You can never tell when your laptop might be pressed into rescue service to, say, lead a band of grateful guests down a stygian hotel stairwell. It could happen. Just be ready.

Resource for Lights: If the small-flashlight supply at your local stores is limited, fret not. The website features a staggering selection of coin-sized to palm-sized small lights ranging in price from $8 to $80. The Sapphire mentioned above is there as are many, many others.