How to Prepare for a Disaster

cobs-emergencyWe all know a natural or man-made disaster could strike at any moment, yet most of us don’t do the things that are necessary to be prepared in the event something does happen. This past year has been chock-full of disasters that in many cases have resulted in areas that are still without basic services like electricity and clean water. In other areas, the services may be restored but due to the nature of the destruction and loss, it has forced people to re-build their entire lives. They have had to re-locate, look for new employment (because their former place of employment was destroyed), purchase all new possessions, at the same time as dealing with the frustration, grief, and fear of their losses.

A couple of real life examples for 2017 that are close to us, are the fires that took place in Santa Rosa, California and the surrounding areas. We live about 3 ½ hours north and many of us have friends and relatives who live and work here. We were constantly in contact with these folks as they were repeatedly evacuated. Many of the places we’ve shopped and frequented over the years are no longer standing or are in complete disarray not sure if they’ll be able to recover. The one thing that we’ve heard many times was how important their radio was in these situations. The folks who were able to monitor the status of where the fire was and how quickly it was changing were in a more confident position on making a decision of what to do next.

Another example, is the Virgin Islands and all others down island along the Caribbean Coast that were affected. We have a new team member who comes to us from St. John, USVI who got hit the hardest of the 3 US territories during Irma.  9 miles long of destruction with loss of power poles, cell towers and Internet connection. She evacuated and relocated back here to her home town after 10 years of the Caribbean life. Along with her home and most of her possessions being destroyed, thousands of islanders quickly became unemployed such as her former workplace at Caneel Bay Resort which was decimated.

So how do you prepare? There’s no one size fits all approach. Each individual and family has different considerations based on their family size, age, etc. along with the type of disasters they or their loved ones are most likely to encounter. As a basis being prepared with not only food and water but with a battery operated radioflashlight and extra batteries will be your safety net and lifeline. You may not know, but a radio with an active NOAA Weather Alert feature can alert you up to 30 minutes prior to a major storm. That’s enough time to gather what you need and hurry to shelter or to at least get out the flashlights and shut the windows.

Here are some tips for safety and to help get you better prepared – preparation will vary based on the types of disaster you’re most likely to encounter. Knowing your area and what kinds of disasters you are most likely to encounter will help you make the best plan for your environment.

  • Create a preparedness kit that will last at least 72 hours for each person in your household. Include in your kit- canned food (don’t forget the can opener), bottled water, battery operated radio, flashlights, batteries, blankets, clothing and shoes, first aid kit, money (make sure it’s cash – ATMS need power too), duct tape, survival knife with fishing kit, trash bags, zip ties, sewing kit, tarp, wet wipes and specialty items such as medications (both prescription and non), infant food and pet food. Many sites we visited recommend at least one week’s worth of water.
  • Other possible items that may be needed based on the type of emergency: Specialty rated filtration masks, water pump filter, rain and camping gear
  • Write out your most important contacts – if you have extended power outages you may not have a charged phone that has your contact information saved
  • Consider purchasing a camping stove and extra propane
  • Camera for photos of any damage
  • Flash drive with all important docs and pictures backed up
  • Playing cards or a frisbee – something to help keep you occupied if you’re waiting for extended periods of time
  • Stay home and off the roads if appropriate.
  • Use phone lines for emergency calls only to keep lines open for emergency services

Bob’s tip for potable water – A good source for drinking water in your home is your hot water heater. It can provide you with much needed clean drinking water when your local water services have been disrupted. You should filter the water to remove any contaminates present. You can drain the water using the valve on the bottom of the tank. Be sure to turn the gas or electric supply to the water heater off before draining it.

Will your Mom or Dad or Grandparents be prepared for disasters?  The stress of aging parents living far enough away that you can’t easily get to them is compounded in an emergency situation.  Making sure that they have a good radio to access information will bring peace of mind to you both.  This is particularly important when older adults are usually the higher percentage of victims, as in the case of Hurricane Katrina according to the Huffington Post article.

If you have faced a disaster with your emergency kit, what item would have helped that you did not have?

Additional resources for preparation:

Keep Your Family Safe – Prepare Ahead of Time


Not many people are really prepared for a disaster, especially in areas where they aren’t common. Maybe folks in areas where there are regular hurricanes, tornadoes or winter storms that shut everything down have a good handle on being prepared or people like the Preppers, but the rest of us find it easy to slack on preparedness and then find ourselves scrambling when a real disaster strikes.

It’s easy to make a case for being prepared. Look around at all of the unexpected emergencies like the recent flooding in Louisiana and tornadoes in the Midwest. Emergencies don’t have to be only weather and naturally caused. In California, recent fires that destroyed entire communities have been attributed to arson. With record breaking temperatures across the US and people using electricity like crazy or an even more sinister possibility – an energy grid hack, our next disaster might be extended blackouts or there is the very real possibility of terrorism that continues to plague the entire world.

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to see how you fare on the preparedness scale:

  • What essential supplies do I need?
    If you are missing some, it might be time to re-think priorities since stores often sell out, are out of service, or have no way to process payments (even cash).
  • Do I have a written list of important phone numbers?
    If you answered no, then you have some work to do. An electronic list on your cell phone isn’t going to do you much good once the phone dies and the power is out.
  • Do you have any cash or would you need to go to the ATM?
    If you answered no to the cash and yes to the ATM then you need to stash some cash. ATMs go down and require power and banks are so automated now and reliant on computers, they often can’t even provide cash from the tellers if there isn’t any power.
  • Do you have copies of important documents stored safely somewhere else?
    As cumbersome as this sounds, having copies of things (think insurance policies, passports, deeds, titles, etc.) stored in a safe deposit box or at a relatives’ home will really reduce the headache and time spent in the event you lose your home to a disaster. It can help even if it’s just a time where you’re out of town and you end up with a water leak that damages your ceiling.
  • Do you have a good emergency radio and flashlight? How about spare batteries?
    No? Well this is the one we can actually help you with! Call us or visit the links above and order online. We’ll get you set up right away.

We’ve written several articles on how to be prepared and what that might look like. REI has a great article on basic concepts with some important additions that people often forget like medications, infant formula and diapers, and pet food.

If nothing else, at least create a basic plan, get a radio and flashlight, write down the list of phone numbers and read about Bob’s potable water trick with your water heater.

Tell us about your emergency plans in the comments below and be entered to win a CC Solar Observer October 11th– the best all-around emergency radio. It covers AM, FM and Weather and has a built in flashlight. You can even use it without batteries and if it came down to it, it even will charge most cell phones.

The Traveling Life


With summer looming on the horizon, we start to hear from more and more of our customers who are preparing to travel. We get to speak with quite a diverse group – from folks who travel seasonally throughout the year and stay in one location for several months or weeks; those who only travel during the summer; others who travel every weekend; or some who now only travel only through books and radio listening.

Whether your travel involves RVs and campgrounds; airplanes, hotels and exotic locations; or books and radio, we have heard some great tips from your fellow travelers on what you need for the best experience.

First, having a radio that also includes the weather band and alert is a priority. As the weather has continued to show this year, it can be completely unpredictable, and sometimes dangerous. If you are traveling somewhere new there is nothing better than a radio that can alert you to weather related incidents that might impact your travel plans (or your life). The local radio is often the best place to learn about where to go and what to do in the event you are caught in a weather related emergency like a fire or tornado.

Second a flashlight or our spotlight can come in really handy. If your vehicle has broken down, or you have a flat tire, or you’re at a campground with less than fantastic lighting and paths, then you will be so thankful you bought that flashlight and stashed in your glove box or emergency bag next to the jumper cables.

And last but not least – this is more for the RVers, campers and long haul truckers than anyone else. If you are at parks or gas stations where the WiFi is weak or spotty, we do have a couple of options that can help you improve the signal reception.

Enter to win:
Are you a traveler? Where are you heading and how do you prefer to travel? Tell us your best vacation story in the comments and be entered to win the CC LED Spot XB. Drawing will take place Friday June 3rd. Limit one entry per person.

Congratulations So Cal Pal, winner of the CC LED Spot XB!

Fire on Main Street in Fortuna, California

Early this morning a fire broke out on Main st. resulting in several businesses losing their buildings. Fortunately it was early, so no one was injured. We are a small community of about 10,000 and something like this affects everyone. It is truly devastating and heartbreaking. These are our friends that own these businesses and they employ other friends and even family members. One of our own staff is a volunteer firefighter and another’s husband is as well so this really hits home. Our shipping parking lot is blocked off to allow access for the fire trucks and we sent our shipping department home just because the air quality isn’t that great. Below are some pictures from nearby.


Photo by Sean Sullivan

Main St Fire 6AM

Photo Jessyca Martinez

Main Street Fire 6AM

Photo Jessyca Martinez

Smoke from the highway

Smoke from the Highway – Photo by Lisa Wilson

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