Imagine you are on your way to work, and the earth starts shaking. Bridges collapse, I-5 turns into a massive sinkhole, and if you make it out alive, you are now stuck in your car in the middle of chaos, injuries and no option of receiving help anytime soon. Are you prepared to be stuck in your car without help for days? Living on air and sunshine won't be an option as the human body can go without water for about four days. Now, what?
The Center for Disease Control estimates that half of adults in the U.S. are unprepared for emergencies. But, the solution is closer than you think. American Preparedness, a Burien-based company, has made it its goal to keep people safe, and started packing emergency preparedness kits that have all things you need once disaster strikes.
“We offer the insurance we hope you never have to use,” says Jeff Guite, American Preparedness president, who founded the company in 1981. Guite, who is a disabled veteran and whose company employs service-disabled veterans, wanted to keep serving his country after he left the Army in 1969.
Guite's military background inspired him to start emergency kits. “Military people are ready to go before anything happens. I thought: How about a survival package for people before a disaster occurs?” Guite says.
American Preparedness' ready-to-go kits come in a variety of sizes. A one-person kit at $54.95 includes a first aid pack, hygiene pack, emergency drinking water pouches, food packets, a thermal blanket, flashlight and batteries, whistle, poncho, lightsticks, and hand warmers. Items essential when waiting for help during a three-day period – or riding along in the backseat for five years until it's time for a replacement.
Guite, who is also Native American and a member of the Huron Tribe, has partnered with various tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest to outfit members for disasters. The company was able to partner with the Puyallup Tribe and supply backpacks for seniors on the reservation.
About 9,000 injuries are expected just along the Washington coastal regions and I-5 during an earthquake according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Guite urges residents to take personal responsibility when it comes to preparing for disaster. “There isn't any cavalry to the rescue. If you don't have the supplies in place before the disaster happens, you're in deep trouble,” Guite says.
American Preparedness has taken the plan-ahead mindset a step further and donated emergency kits to groups especially vulnerable to the aftermath of a disaster. Seniors, low-income families, and school children are often the ones least prepared for an emergency.
Guite and his team started the “Kits for Kids” program in 1991 and have since distributed several thousand kits to ensure safety in schools. In July 2015, American Preparedness partnered with King County Senior Services and Swedish Hospital to donate 1,500 emergency kits to seniors receiving Meals on Wheels services.
“If you're ready for a big earthquake, or volcanic eruption – you're ready for anything,” says Sarah Foster, Public Information Officer at Pierce County Department of Emergency Management. She says residents should consider what essentials they need to survive for a few days as every situation is unique, and special medications or pets should be considered when putting a kit together.
“What does your routine look like? What supplies do you need if you were cut off and the roads are closed? How would you make sure that you, your family and your pets are safe?” Foster says. She recommends to assemble kits for at least five to seven days and place them at home, work and inside the car. Adding a written list of important phone numbers to the kit, as cell phone batteries won't last forever and contact information might become unavailable, is essential when coordinating with families and friends.
The Pierce County Department of Emergency Management offers courses for residents that want to learn more about their individual neighborhoods and what potential hazards they can encounter during an emergency. The free training aims to prepare residents to help their community during a disaster and act as an effective first responder.
Emergencies can come in many forms, ranging from natural disasters, man-made catastrophes, and terrorist attacks. Guite says he used his emergency kit's light sticks to highlight his damaged vehicle and ensure safety for himself and other drivers. He also heard about his light sticks finding their way to rock concerts, heat packs going to sporting events and flashlights randomly disappearing. But no matter where the kit ends up, it is essential to be prepared. “Education and training never produce fear. Take personal responsibility for your family's safety,” Guite says. American Preparedness is always looking for volunteers to help with the emergency kit assembly.