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Talking About Disaster Preparedness with Steve and Aaron of Afterac, Part 1: Why We Need to Be Prepared for the Worst

Emergency Preparedness ProductsWhile I don’t believe that the world will end in 2012, I do recognize the value of being prepared for the worst. After all, I was a Girl Scout leader. More importantly, since moving to California more than a decade ago,  I have experienced firsthand the kind of disasters that can wreak havoc on everyday life. So after being introduced to Afterac, a one-stop online shop for disaster preparedness, I took the opportunity to pick the brains of owners Steve Miller and Aaron Garner. They had so much great information to share that we’re going to make this Q&A a two-parter. Today, we’ll talk about why it’s important to have a disaster preparedness plan and tomorrow Steve and Aaron will tell you exactly how to make that plan.

Because they’re serious about making sure you’re prepared for anything, Steve and Aaron are offering StyleSubstanceSoul readers a 10% discount on the entire Afterac site. Simply put in coupon code  HGEXNXQBB20 when you check out. Be sure to pass this along to your friends, too.

The 1989 San Francisco earthquake pretty much inspired the creation of your company. Can you tell us about that experience – where you were, what it made you realize?

Steve: I was 23 years old and living in San Jose, California – about 30 miles north of the epicenter of the Loma Prieta Earthquake.  Like most people in the Bay Area, I was just preparing to sit down and watch our two hometown baseball teams – the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics – square off in game 3 of the 1989 World Series.  A devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake was the absolute furthest thing from my mind at that moment, but that’s exactly what happened.

The extreme violence of a large earthquake is hard to describe. I will tell you that I cannot think of many things in life more horrific than going from an instant of extreme relaxation to the throes of terror. That sudden impact of having my life turned upside-down is what got my attention regarding how utterly unprepared I was for the coming days and weeks. We were fortunate enough not to have lost any relatives, our power was restored within a few days and we never lost running water. That did not change my sudden awareness of just how many things I hadn’t thought about prior to the disaster. What if my house was not livable after the quake? How could I have provided shelter for my family? I didn’t have answers for these questions. What if the power had not been restored? I did not have an answer for this. What if the quake had destroyed the water supply? I did not have an answer for this. What if all the stores ran out of food because power was out and trucks weren’t able to deliver goods? I did not have an answer for this.

Photo by Michael K. Nicholls

I tell people all the time how lucky I was to have experienced that earthquake. I say this because it led me to the path that I am on now. I will never have to worry about all those unanswered questions I had after Loma Prieta. I set out on a course to preparedness. As of this moment, as I sit here talking to you, I am 100 percent prepared to keep my family and myself alive and comfortable for weeks without assistance from anyone. Shelter, water, food and even entertainment are now waiting in a sturdy, waterproof shed 25 feet from my house. (Always keep your supplies 25 feet from your house in case your house burns to the ground – DO NOT KEEP THEM IN YOUR GARAGE.) I will never be caught off guard again, and that is a peaceful and easy feeling indeed.

Aaron: I was at my parent’s home in San Jose, California when the earthquake hit. I had never experienced anything so frightening and powerful in my life. We quickly realized we had an immediate issue as water pipes burst in two different areas of the house. We were able to shut the water off at the street to keep the water damage from destroying the home. Lucky for us, we knew how to do that. However, this resulted in a total lack of fresh water. No hot. No cold. No nothing. My father is a very proud man; he has always taken great strides to make sure that my sister and I are protected. I will never forget the moment my father said to my mother, “We have no water.” It wasn’t the words, but the look on his face. That moment of despair and disbelief will forever be engrained in my memory.

Ever since that day, I have had a fascination with emergency preparation. Not just for myself, but for my entire immediate and extended family.

A few months ago, we experienced a 10-hour power outage throughout Southern California, and I was shocked to realize how unprepared I was. I had literally nothing to eat in the house except some stale crackers, and all the candles I had were scented, which made me nauseous when they were all lit together. What did that emergency make you realize about your own level of preparedness?

Steve: Oftentimes the most surprising thing people encounter immediately after they survive a disaster is just how unprepared they are. The very first question that pops in their head is “What the hell was I thinking by not having some sort of plan?” The next thought that enters their mind is how prepared they are going to be from this moment on. Hopefully for these people it’s not going to be too late at that point. Our advice? Don’t wait! We have a saying around here: “Time is your ally before a disaster and your enemy after!” 

In researching disaster preparedness, what did you discover that surprised you the most?

Steve: The number of extremely intelligent people around me that have never given emergency preparedness a second thought. When I ask people, they either say that they don’t believe things will ever get that bad, or there will be some sort of emergency response from the government that will bail them out. Both of these responses are frightening to me as they both portray an utter lack of awareness. If you are one of these people, please take a few minutes and research the reality behind both of these mindsets. They are both dangerous and could cost you your life or the lives of your loved ones.

Are there any common misconceptions about disaster preparedness you’d like to set straight for us?

Steve: One common misconception about disaster preparedness is that the American Red Cross, FEMA or somebody else is going to come to our rescue after a disaster. They do respond to disasters, but what if they can’t respond to the disaster you’re effected by? What if they can’t reach you because the damage is so widespread? What if half the country loses power because of widespread power grid failure. There is no organization or government in the world prepared to handle that scope of an emergency. Take matters into your own hands and get prepared.

Come back tomorrow to find out how to put together an emergency kit.

This post originally appeared on my former blog, StyleSubstanceSoul.


  1. The US Government can afford to send billions overseas in aid to countries that barely respect us: So why is it that 95% of US Households with low income seniors & the disabled don’t have Emergency essentials? See something wrong with that picture?


    Mysterious Calamities

    There have been reports of calamities that are a complete mystery. No, not fires, earthquakes, hurricanes or some other catastrophes, but something much less noticeable: insurance adjusters, welcomed with open arms, who took advantage of disaster survivors when they were most vulnerable. If you’ve always thought you were prepared for disaster because you carried insurance, Antone P. Braga’s internet site may have you thinking again. “The millions of people who suffered from a disaster each year such as earthquake, hurricane, tornado, fire and flood usually carried insurance, but they generally had no idea what they should financially expect, even after asking around. Nearly everyone had been left out of the loop, mainly because most of us rather hoped for the best than prepared for the worst,” according to Braga.

    Braga said of the Website he founded, “I hope policyholders find some immediate help there, and realize the greater benefit of preparedness in the long term, before a crisis of having their authority conceded for lack of knowledge. Crucial information and rights are essential to solve the mystery.”

    About the author: Braga’s insurance adjusting experience began in 1960, and he first published policyholder preparedness in 1977. His journey in retrospect can be found at http://www.DisasterPrepared.net

    # # #

    Providing awareness/preparedness for the insuring public, well grounded information continues to lend support


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