Lesson from Hurricane Irma: Get a UPS to Keep Phones Charged, Provide Peace of Mind

I moved from Miami to Atlanta just a few months ago, so took great interest when Hurricane Irma slammed through Florida in September. In fact, I was fairly glued to outlets such as The Weather Channel (TWC), anxious to get the latest news.

Fla. Gov. Rick Scott made several appearances on TWC and other stations and seemingly every time I saw him he was encouraging residents to make sure their cell phones were charged before they lost power. His rationale was that once the power went out, smart phones would be the best way for residents to get news and information about the disaster situation.

His advice was sound, but he could’ve gone a step further and encouraged folks to get a backup power supply that would enable them to not only keep cell phones charged, but also operate equipment such as their Internet routers and even televisions.

The devices, known as uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), have long been used in data centers, hospitals and other facilities where being able to survive a loss of power is critical. Those are generally large UPSs, capable of powering a bank of servers or an MRI machine for at least a few minutes, until backup generators take over.

But now UPS technology is available in smaller devices suitable for residential use. And they are useful not only for hurricanes and other natural disasters, but the far more common brownouts and blackouts that last only a few minutes or hours.

By now most people likely plug valuable electronics such as TVs and computers into power strips with surge protectors that defend against any irregularities in the power supply that can damage sensitive equipment. UPSs typically have that same surge protector function, but add to it outlets that have a battery backup capability, to keep devices running even when the power goes out.

What’s more, the latest UPSs from companies such as APC by Schneider Electric also have one or more USB ports that enable customers to charge phones, tablets and the like. Depending on the UPS and phone model, you could get between 9 and 12 complete phone charges out of a fully charged APC Back-UPS unit. That’s enough to keep your phones alive even through an extended outage like many Floridians saw with Irma.

If you like, you can also use the devices to power your Internet router, cable modem and TV. That’ll drain some power but if you’re confident the outage won’t last long, it can be a great help. For example, it’s enough to keep home office workers connected to the Internet and productive through an outage, or just enable you to watch the end of a show if that’s your choice.

That kind of peace of mind doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, either. The entry level price for Back-UPS devices is less than $50 (or $75 for models with the USB port) and they’re available online or at brick and mortar stores such as Best Buy, Office Depot, Staples and even Lowe’s.

At my house, I’ve got my DIRECTV box plugged into a Back-UPS device and can tell you it saves some aggravation after those short power blips because the box stays alive and doesn’t have to reboot. It’s a small thing, but I smile every time it happens.

To learn more about the various Back-UPS devices, go to our web site. You’ll find options including the low-end BN450M/BE425M, which has 6 total outlets (2 surge protected); the mid-range BN650M1/BE650G1 with 8 outlets; and the BN900M/BE850M2, with 9 outlets and 2 USB ports. The BN models are available only through retail partners.

I’m confident you’ll find a Back-UPS model that fits your needs, and helps you ride out the next power outage, whether it’s a full-fledged storm or just a blip.

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