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  • Houston Flood: A Lesson Learned

    The recent flood in Houston, Texas has many stories of loss and destruction. But there is another side to the story that many people don’t think about. It’s the lesson of learning.


    For the Sillitoe family, this lesson came at the expense of their home and many of their belongings. Two feet of water rushed into their home during the night. Roy Sillitoe and his wife Rebecca did what they could. At first, they tried to stop the water from entering their home by shoving towels under the base of doors and they used buckets to fill the bathtub. But when the water kept coming in quickly, they started moving what they could to higher locations. Roy wasn’t sure what exactly it was he and his family needed to do. They managed to save some of their children’s toys, but other keepsakes were ruined.

    Despite their loss, Roy feels that his family will be fine. In fact, he believes that being a part of all this was good for his kids. He said that “they can see how we respond to it and stay positive.” Among other things, Roy feels that this disaster has been an effective learning tool for his children. “It’ll happen to them in their lifetime, sometime they’ll have to suffer something tough. So this is good.”

    Teaching about and preparing our kids for disasters can really give them a leg up in the future. Roy’s family had to go through a major disaster before the learning experience came. Although it’s good to learn from these disasters, it is likewise important to learn before these disasters happen. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to take some time this month to practice your prep.

    By practicing for disasters, you’re accepting the fact that a disaster can affect you, but you’re also proving to yourself that when it does come, you’ll be ready. There’s no need to wait until the disaster arrives before you start evaluating your emergency plans.

    The time has come to stop ignoring the possibility of being effected by a disaster. Live Science wrote an article on why people don’t learn from disasters. In that article Gene Whitney of the Committee on Increasing National Resilience to Hazards and Disasters (say that ten times fast) said that “despite repeated disasters, the public continues to turn a blind eye to the risks.”

    Prepare to FailWhy do we keep doing that? There have been countless times in which we have seen disaster after disaster wreaking havoc on cities, communities, families, and individuals. We see it happen, but for some reason we don’t think it will happen to us. That’s where we need to start changing our mindset.

    Roy Stillitoe’s mindset following the flood was that of education. He found his experience an unpleasant one to be certain, but he also saw the benefit for his children. They could learn from that disaster. Although it took a flood, he hopes his children will remember their experience in the future so they will be better prepared for other disasters that will inevitably come knocking (or just barge right in).

    That is something most people don’t generally do. A survey done by Robert Meyer (in the same article by Live Science), a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania, said that “we [ie. people] underattend to the future, we too quickly forget the past and we too readily follow the lead of people who are no less myopic than we are.”

    Why don’t we plan ahead for disaster? We attend to the future in other ways, such as going to college to get a good job, move from a one-bedroom apartment to a three bedroom house to have more room for your growing family, and even have life insurance, because we want our loved ones to be provided for, just in case. So why don’t we look ahead for disasters?

    Meyer believes that we need to change our behavior. He feels that society needs to makes safety a norm, beginning with education in the school system. But since it isn’t necessarily being taught in the school system, we can start by teaching it in our home. And again, one way to do that is to practice, practice, practice!

    Roy Stillitoe and his family learned some valuable lessons in disaster planning because a flood came through their home. I hope we can all take that one step (or more) further and learn those lessons before disasters come. Go out and not only learn what you should do during specific disasters, but actually pretend that the disaster is actually happening. Practice living in a tent for a day or two. Practice eating only your freeze-dried food (hey, at least you’ll still have good meals). Practice using your emergency gear in any way you can think of. Knowing what to do is only half the battle. Now you’ve just got to put what you know into practice.


    Practice Your Prep


    In what ways have you practiced using your prep? Let us know in comments!

  • Preparing Dads for Disasters

    “Everyone had one thing in common… they all love their kids and were all equally concerned about being prepared for future disaster.”

    Preparing Dads - FishingThat was the scenario in Ohio at a disaster preparedness training for fathers as put on by the U.S. Office of the Administration for Children and Families. It was designed in preparing dads for the unexpected. As Father’s Day fast approaches, perhaps it’s time for fathers – and father figures – to sit down and think about what more we can do to help prepare our families for disaster.

    Now, I’m not a father just yet (although I will be by Father’s Day), but when I think about all I need to do to help my growing family be prepared, it can be a little bit daunting. I want to make sure they have food, water, and shelter if a disaster hits. In fact, there are 12 areas of preparedness that fathers can prepare their family with: water, food, shelter, heat, light, power, sanitation, first aid, communications, cooking, tools, and planning. This post will address each area briefly and what fathers can do to help their family prepare.



    First on the list is water. Without water, we can only survive for about three days. Kids and adults alike need 1 quart of water (about 0.25 gallons) for every 1,000 calories eaten. Storing water is pretty easy. You can start by filling pop bottles with tap water and storing in your basement or somewhere out of direct sunlight. You can also find water in cans and pouches, or use larger jugs, barrels, or large reserves. No matter what your living conditions are, there’s always room for at least some water storage.



    Preparing dads - FoodFood is next. We can last longer without food than we can with water, but again, without food, we’re still in a heap of trouble. I might be able to skimp on meals here and there, but kids are going to need to eat regularly – and in good amount – to stay healthy and growing. Food storage was once regarded as old, musty food stuffs like raw wheat, dehydrated milk and bags of sugar stacked in dark corners in big metal canisters. Well, today is nothing like your great Aunt Ruth’s cellar. Freeze dried fruits and vegetables are actually good enough to eat anytime, even right out of the can. Just-add-water meals include whole entrées like Fettuccine Alfredo and Beef Stroganoff. And even powdered milk is made with processes that perfectly preserve flavor. And, freeze-dried food is packaged to last up to 25 years, so it’s going to last until you need it (unless you get the munchies and pop open that can of freeze-dried strawberries). Today’s kids can be picky eaters. Fortunately, food storage isn’t what it used to be.



    Preparing dads - ShelterHaving a good shelter can really make post-disaster life so much more enjoyable. I’ve actually written some great articles about shelter (if I do say so myself), so I’ll just link you to those. The first one is called 4 Reasons Why You Need An Emergency Shelter, and provides information as to what shelters protect you from (hint: it’s more than just rain). This next one explains how tents became the go-to after the Nepal earthquake, and what that means for us. In a nutshell, shelters are right up there in importance with food and water. In short, shelter is not only a great way to keep yourself and your family out of the elements, also provides a feeling of family safety and security, a comfort to your children.



    Even in the summertime, nights can be cold. In the winter, every time can be cold. Making sure your family stays warm is an essential part of emergency preparedness. If the power goes out, how will you stay warm? My wife has told me stories of a time when she was a teenager, living in Kentucky. They had a crazy ice storm that knocked the power out for days. After a couple days of cooking food with a small, propane stove and bundling up in blankets, they decided to abandon ship and stay with friends who actually had power, and therefore heat.

    Thinking back on her experience, I want to make sure that if we lose power for an extended period of time that my family will have the resources to stay warm. Having something like an indoor-safe propane heater, or other alternate heat source, would have been a welcome relief to my wife and her family during that ice storm.



    Family of four outdoors with solar panel, portrait, elevated viewThe stove cooks the food, the fridge keeps the leftovers cold and the microwave nukes leftovers back to life. There are lights, heat, computers, phones, tablets…and all of it works only when they power is on. When it’s gone, everything changes. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to get power when you need it.

    Solar panels are getting to be a lot more economical to have around as an alternate power source. Other sources to consider are battery-powered devices (make sure to stock up on batteries, though), power packs (big or small), or hand-crank battery packs. Then, of course, are the full-fledged back-up generators. Any of these options can help you through a power outage.



    Speaking of power outages, light is one important thing we are without when power goes down. And if that outage is due to a nighttime disaster, you will be left in the dark in the very moment you need light most. Kids need light for all sorts of things: doing homework, reading Harry Potter, not to mention, just to feel safe. After all, isn’t that what night lights are for? Having light when you otherwise wouldn’t can provide your children (and you) with comfort. Candles, rechargeable lanterns, and outage-sensing emergency flashlights are all inexpensive and easy to keep around the house and in your emergency kits. Then, when your child turns on a flashlight, you can tell him, “You light up my life.” Awww, such a tender moment. I’m glad we could share that together.



    This is one many people don’t generally think about. Sanitation is vital for maintaining good health. Options for personal necessities should be planned for when access to the bathroom is not possible. Also, with kids running around, playing in the dirt and getting into who-knows-what, keeping hands and faces clean might be a tad more difficult than you might think. Give sanitation and hygiene some thought and minimize health issues.

    I recently posted another article about how good sanitation can save your life. It’s a good read (again, tooting my own horn), and should provide you with important information on how to stay sanitary.


    First Aid

    Not to be confuse with Second Aid, which is much less effective than First Aid. Even just knowing how to respond to cuts, sores, and other owies can prevent additional harm and prevent infections. First aid prep can be as simple as having band aids (preferably of the Star Wars variety) to having a complete medical kit. Check out fema.gov for a list of things you should have in your first aid kit.



    Preparing dads - CommunicationsHaving a way to stay connected to the world around you will help you know what the situation is like, when you can return from an evacuation, and just letting your family know you’re OK. We can’t predict earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, or other horrendous disasters, but we can prepare our families to cope and survive as best as possible. By knowing what communication options are available to you before and after a disaster, you’ll have more confidence that you can know how to protect your loved ones. Confidence can be contagious, too, so that’s never a bad thing to have in an emergency, especially if you have children. They need to see their father and mother confident that all will be well.

    Be sure to establish a meeting place where family members can meet up after a disaster or in case of an emergency. A local school or church are usually good options. Or, if for some reason you can’t all gather together, find someone you can all call or text, so you can all be accounted for and know each other is safe.

    It is important to note that if you’re all separated, this common third-party person you will contact should live outside the affected area. After all, if you choose someone who lives within the affected area, they may be having just as many problems as you are. And, if you’re trying to get in contact with someone, it’s always best to text. During an emergency or disaster, phone lines can be tied up or even down. Text messages have a tendency to get through when phone calls can’t.

    Having communications equipment will help you stay in touch with your family and the world. Walkie talkies are always a good idea to have on hand. Emergency band radios are also something to consider. These radios will keep you in tune with other radio stations so you can know what’s going on, where help is, and other vital information following a disaster. Some emergency band radios, such as the Kaito Voyager Pro, can even notify you when there is a severe weather warning in your area. Definitely a good source of information, and information can be a total game changer in an emergency.



    Preparing dads - CookingRemember the story I told about my wife and their ice storm? Do you remember how they had to cook their food? It definitely wasn’t their stove or oven. It was a portable propane stove. What might have happened to my dear sweet wife had her parents not been prepared with an alternate source of cooking? In reality, they probably would have abandoned their designs of holding the fort a lot quicker. But still, what if that ice storm had made it impossible to leave? Things could have been very different for them.

    Having an alternate source for cooking is another great way to prepare your family for disaster. Be prepared with an alternative way to cook, such as a portable stove, kettle, sun oven, grill, or anything else you can think of that works for you and your family.



    Have you ever been in a situation where you needed a certain tool to fix something but you don’t have it? That’s happened to me, and it sure is annoying to have to go out to the store and pick one up. Needing a tool you don’t have during an emergency won’t necessarily end as well as just going to the store. I like to keep a 4-in-1 Mini Folding Shovel in the trunk of my car for the next time I hit the ditch and have to dig my car out of the snow. Tell you what, the first (and only) time that happened all I had were my hands. I don’t recommend it. Having other tools, such as knives, screwdrivers, gloves, duct tape, and anything else you can think of can be the difference between a quick fix and a long wait for help.



    Lastly (but certainly not leastly) is planning. Planning is one of the most essential parts of emergency preparedness, because without a plan, implementation might never happen. The Journal of Family Psychology suggests that “parents have an important role in disaster preparedness through individual and family disaster planning and by addressing the concerns their children experience in anticipation of disasters.”

    That’s smart talk for “Parents, plan ahead so when a disaster happens, your children won’t freak out.” Although planning is down here near the bottom of this post, it should really be one of the first things you do. Remember Benjamin Franklin’s wise words: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”


    These the 12 areas of preparedness are what every father should plan for. Your family is counting on you to keep them safe. Your role as a husband and father is more than just going out every day to work and bring home the bacon. Among other things, it’s to prepare and protect them from the disasters that are coming, so they will be safe, healthy, and happy. And don’t worry if you haven’t started preparing. There’s always today! If nothing else, just jot down a simple plan to help get you going.



    What is the most important thing you prepare for with your family? Let us know in comments!


    Practice Your Prep

  • Stocking a Safe Room: Crucial Supplies to Have on Hand

    As you stock your safe room make sure to keep these crucial supplies on hand

    A “safe room” is a room in your house that has been built or modified to withstand an all-out assault by home invaders, whether burglars, terrorists, stalkers, or would-be kidnappers. Some are constructed to withstand high winds from hurricanes or tornadoes, or to protect against chemical or biological agents or radiation. Your safe room need not be a small, specialized hidey-hole in a secret space behind a bookcase, though some are designed that way. Your bedroom, home office, or any convenient room with a door can be made into a safe room by reinforcing your doors and windows, adding a few security enhancements, and stocking up on some necessary items.

    What are those necessary items? The things you choose to stock in your safe room depend upon the situations you are trying to protect yourself against and how long you expect to be there.

    Some basics include:

    • A phone—either a dedicated landline or a cell phone. Don’t plan to grab the cordless phone from your nightstand; it can easily be jammed or disabled. If you keep a dedicated cell phone in your safe room, remember to charge it regularly.
    • Drinking water (and cartons of juice drinks, especially if children will be there)
    • Food such as storable food bars, chocolate bars, MREs, small cans of freeze dried fruits and vegetables.
    • A portable toilet, toilet paper, and moistened wipes
    • Diapers, food, and clothing for baby if needed
    • A first-aid kit
    • Blankets and pillows for comfort
    • A change of clothing and underwear
    • A light source that isn’t dependent on your home’s electricity
    • N95 masks
    • At least several doses of all regularly needed prescriptions or OTC meds
    • A battery-operated or hand-cranked radio
    • Duct tape
    • A ladder (if second story)
    • Defensive weapons if you choose to have them

    Additional items to consider, depending on the size and purpose of your room, could include:

    • Reflective blankets for additional warmth
    • A battery-powered fan for cooling and circulation (you’ll want lots of extra batteries)
    • Books or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook, loaded with material for whatever ages you have in your family (and a way to charge electronics)
    • Electronic or board games
    • Bowl, water, and food for pets if they’re likely to be with you. Folded newspaper or a small litter box
    • A bolted-down safe for valuables—cash, passports (thieves love to get hold of these, they sell very well on the streets), jewelry, etc.
    • Potassium Iodide tablets in case of a radiation threat
    • An alternative way of contacting authorities quickly, such as a safety medallion like those often used by the elderly

    Some schoolrooms have safe rooms at one end, built to accommodate and protect the students and teacher in case of an intruder. They are often stocked with drinking water, food bars, and portable toilet facilities (often behind a privacy screen). Offices could also install reinforced safe rooms for workers—perhaps several, depending upon the size of the building and the number of employees.

    A few tips for creating a safe room from an existing room include the following:

    • Replace hollow-core doors with solid doors that have strong locks.
    • Install a one-sided dead bolt lock at a different level than the regular lock.
    • Hang the door so that the hinges are on the room side rather than the outside, where they could potentially be removed.
    • Either install bullet-proof glass in your windows or reinforce your existing glass with shatterproof laminate.
    • Hang heavy, lined curtains so that the potential intruder can’t see through them.
    • Install a security system—whatever you can afford—from inexpensive door and window “squealers” that screech if they are moved to a complete system with alarms and connection to the security company.
    • Make sure your safe room has a vent that can be opened or closed for fresh air.
    • Owners of some large homes with several levels and multiple entries invest in a home-monitoring unit with closed-circuit TV that can be patched into a set in the safe room so that the residents can observe what’s happening in and around the house.

    Suggestions to consider if you’re creating a safe room in new construction:

    • The safe room door should be solid, open inward, and be secured with a good lock.
    • You don’t need to have a secret room installed (though some do), but it’s best if your safe room blends in with the rest of the house without standing out and calling attention to itself.
    • You can pre-wire your safe room for an alarm panel, lights, and power. Have a direct-dial phone in addition to your cell.
    • Install either chicken wire or steel sheeting under the drywall for extra protection.

    If, in spite of all your best efforts, someone is trying to shoot into your safe room, position yourself against the window wall if he’s outside the window. It’s much safer there than across the room where bullets might spray you. If he’s in the house and shooting through the door, position yourself against the door wall at the farthest point from the door.

    Make certain that all the people in your home, schoolroom, or office know how to access the safe room, and hold training exercises to see how quickly they can assemble there. Teach children that the safe room is not to be used as a playhouse or a place to lock themselves away from parents or teachers!

    Do you have other ideas for items that would be important to include in a safe room?



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