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  • In Case of a House Fire...Plan Ahead

    House FireOn the night of March 30, 2016, a fire ripped through a block of apartment buildings in Brooklyn, N.Y. Though no one lost their lives, at least 35 families were displaced. Three buildings burned and two others were damaged.

    The New York Times described the struggles of the next few days for several families.

    “How the days, even weeks, after a fire play out for someone it has displaced are largely determined by what that person can grab in the seconds before escaping,” wrote Times reporter Michael Wilson.

    The American Red Cross helps at about 70,000 house fires every year in the United States, an average of one every eight minutes, said Rich Woodruff Red Cross Communications Director for the Utah Region of the American Red Cross.

    When they’re thinking about preparing for a fire, many people remember 72-hour kits or go bags. Some even remember to gather extras like diapers and prescription medication. Here are a few things Woodruff said people tend to forget when they’re planning for rapid evacuation.

    First, have an evacuation plan and rehearse it. Map two exit routes and arrange meeting places in case household members get separated from each other. Also arrange meeting places and phone contacts out of town in case of a widespread emergency. Ready.gov has templates to make planning easier.

    “Let’s say at 3 a.m., the smoke alarm goes off, and you can’t see well. Instead of panicking, you have a predetermined route,” Woodruff said.

    Second, plan for pets. Pets are often overlooked in peoples’ emergency plans, Woodruff said.

    When packing a grab-and-go kit for household members, pack one for pets. Pack things like food and a water bowl. Make sure each pet has identification, like a collar or microchip. The Red Cross has a pet first aid app and other pet preparedness information.

    For a few days after the Brooklyn apartment fire, according to the New York Times story, one resident, Luke Moffitt, worried about his cats. He’d opened a window on the way out so they could escape, but he hadn’t seen them. He was lucky. When firefighters allowed him to enter his apartment, he found them inside. A building superintendent who raised pigeons on the roof of another building lost all of them.

    hard drive connected to the computer with vital documents House Fire

    Third, keep digital copies of important papers either in the cloud or in a place like a safe-deposit box. These include papers like wills, vital records, financial and legal information and ownership records. One of the greatest struggles for people displaced in the Brooklyn fire was finding and recreating vital records, the New York Times story reported.

    For example, the Red Cross gave out preloaded debit cards to fire victims, but adult family members had to have identification to receive them. The Rondon family had five adults and an infant living in their apartment. Only one adult, away during the fire, escaped with his ID. Two others found ID copies by calling an employer.

    The Quinones family needed their son’s birth certificate and proof of residence to get into temporary housing. They got a letter from their son’s pediatrician since they didn’t have a birth certificate. They had to get a form signed by their landlord and notarized since they had no lease on hand. A few days later, demolition workers recovered their battered file cabinet that contained birth certificates and other important papers.

    On average, people have two minutes to escape from a burning house, Woodruff said. When the Brooklyn blaze began, one man was on his way to the shower. He escaped shirtless and shoeless, no phone, no wallet. Emergencies aren’t convenient. But preparing for them can make the aftermath a little more bearable.

    The Red Cross has emergency preparedness apps like first aid, emergency alerts and preparedness for kids.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner house fire

  • 5-minute Evacuation

    My wife and I recently celebrated our 18th anniversary at a local bed and breakfast. While eating breakfast we met a very nice lady from Santa Barbara. She is a ballet dance instructor at UCSB and was in town for a regional dance competition. I asked her if the current fires were close to her home, and she said that she had been evacuated the day before. (The fires have completely burned 77 homes and damaged an additional 22. 30,000 people were evacuated and have now returned, but they are to remain ready to leave again at a moments notice.) She said that she was given about 5 minutes to get what she needed and leave– possibly never to return.

    This got me thinking about how can we prepare for this type of emergency. If you were given only 5 minutes to go through your house for the last time, would you be prepared to do so? I asked some of our seasoned employees here at EE what they would recommend doing to be prepared for a situation like this.

    They consistently mentioned the following 3 recommendations (click on the hyperlinks to read more on each topic):

    1) Have a family evacuation plan.

    2) Sustain life by having some type of emergency kit (including water) near an exit.

    3) Preserve and protect your valuables, such as important documents or special family photos. You need to decide what is most valuable to you and your family and then come up with a way to protect it.


    Here are some excerpts from a letter we just received from one of our customers:

    Dear Emergency Essentials,

    I just wanted to thank you for your company and the great products you provide. I decided about two months ago that our family should purchase 72 hours of MRE food…It arrived about a week ago. Little did I know the timing couldn't have been better.

    In the past three days we have experienced six fires in our valley. Sunday, we got our 72 hour kit and food ready to go in our car. Monday, half of our ward in Saugus and part of the adjacent Stake in Canyon Country was evacuated. We were only block away from the evacuated area. Luckily our area did not evacuate and the others in our ward were able to go home the same day. But, a few in the other Stake lost their homes. Then later on Monday, another ward in our Stake a few miles away in Stevenson Ranch had to evacuate immediately with a new fire. The fire went by fast and the fire department was able to protect all the homes. Then on Tuesday a fire started just down the road from us, but was put out quickly with two helicopters…

    …It was so comforting to know we had our kit, food and a safe place to go.

    Thank You,
    Laura, California

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