Top 6 Preparedness Lessons We Learned in 2020 - Be Prepared - Emergency Essentials

PLUS We Reveal Our Prep Stories Contest Winner!

When we first conceived of the Preparedness Stories contest back at the beginning of the year, we couldn’t possibly have known what 2020 would wind up becoming. But looking back, the timing couldn’t have been better.

Has there ever been a year when sage advice on emergency preparedness was more desperately needed?

Many hundreds of our wonderful community members entered their stories into the contest, and they were all inspiring in their own ways. But ultimately, we could only choose six monthly winners. And from those six winners, we had to choose a single grand prize winner.

Believe us when we say, none of these selections have been easy. We’ve spent hours deliberating over them.

Now, without further ado, the Preparedness Stories Grand Prize winner is:

Rebecca Prep Story

Grand Prize Winner—Rebecca from Florida 

You may remember Rebecca. She shared her amazing story of riding out Hurricane Michael, one of the worst storms in Florida’s history. Her community was left without food, water, or electricity for weeks. Through it all, she and her husband were able to feed five families on their emergency storage.

LESSON #1: Disaster Survival is a Community Act

The biggest lesson we took from Rebecca was that disaster survival is a community act. Nearly every story we heard touched on this. Whether it’s your family, neighbors, or both, most survivors need someone to help them. When disasters hit, we turn to each other to help make it through to safety.

Which begs the question: have each of us done enough to help prepare our communities?

Prep Stories Winners: Other Lessons Only Survivors Know

Of course, Rebecca wasn’t the only winner who taught us valuable—even life-saving—lessons. As we wrap up the year and the contest, it’s worth taking a moment to talk about some of the most important lessons we learned.


Rita Prep Story

In 2009, Rita lived through the biggest disaster in modern Kentucky history—a massive ice storm that knocked out power for about two weeks. While others in her community waited in line for hours in the middle of winter for water and necessities, Rita and her husband stayed relatively warm and fed.

LESSON #2: Preparation Really Does Make a Huge Difference!

If Rita showed us anything, it’s how massive a difference preparation makes. With power out for two weeks and water gone for 10 days (longer for some), she and her husband stayed relatively warm, hydrated, fed, and all-around calm. Many in her community who hadn’t prepared had a much harder time.

"I [had] a co-worker [whose family] had no food, no water, no power," Rita said. "I believe her husband took some required medicines and he just happened to be out. She feared for [her family’s] lives almost— that’s how traumatized she was from it afterwards.”


Tammy Prep Story

With her house in shambles, broken toes on one foot, and her husband out of town, Tammy carried herself and her two small children through the 1994 Northridge earthquake—the largest recorded urban earthquake in North American history.

LESSON #3: Personalizing Your Prep Matters—A Lot

For us, the biggest takeaway from Tammy’s story is how important it is to personalize your prep. For Tammy, that meant having the foresight to prepare for a disaster with two small children.

“I was really worried about my son,” she said, “because as the day went on, he became more introverted. [He was] truly traumatized.” As time passed and her poor, distressed little boy refused food, Tammy was grateful she had wisely stored away so much dehydrated macaroni and cheese. It finally got her son eating.

“I think that’s all we ate for two days,” she said.


Bill Prep Story

You might remember Bill. In 1964, as a kid in Homer Alaska, he lived through the largest earthquake in North American historya whopping 9.2 that lasted over four minutes.

LESSON #4: Self Reliance Is Power!

The miracle of Bill’s story—and the biggest lesson he taught us—is how he and his family walked away unscathed from a quake so massive it tossed around rail cars around and swallowed up entire neighborhoods.

The secret? A self-reliant lifestyle.

“[We] didn’t really think about what self-reliance was as much as [we] just did it,” he said. “We [raised, grew, and hunted] pretty much everything that we needed.”


Robert Prep Story

As a perfect follow-up to Bill’s story of self-reliance, Robert taught us in detail how to live an independent life. He shared in-depth advice on gardening, canning, well management, foraging, thrifty living, and more. In this modern world, Robert manages to provide most of his necessities on his own, and only goes to stores from time to time to supplement. It’s the opposite the way most of us—even the most committed preppers—operate.

LESSON #5: Prep is the Ultimate Lifestyle

Robert absolutely floored us with his ability to live a thrifty life comfortably.

“Our basic income has probably been somewhere around 10 to 20 thousand dollars a year,” he said. “One time a guy volunteered to do my income tax. He was a CPA. Afterward he came to me and said, ‘Ok, I know you don't really want to pay taxes, but tell me how much you really made.'

"He didn't believe that anybody could live on $9,600 a year!”


Joshua Prep Story

Eight years ago, Joshua found himself in a fight for survival after a desert rainstorm flooded his house and left him scrounging for food and the daily medication he needs to stay healthy.

“It was just any other day,” he said, “just another basic storm, you know? [But by the end] I was really afraid for my life.”

LESSON #6: When the Circumstances Line Up, an Average Event Can Spin Out of Control

Our number-one takeaway from Joshua’s story was how quickly an average event can spin out of control and become life threatening. The storm that completely flooded Josh’s house, wiped out his blood clot medication, and left him stranded and alone for days, was no Category 5 hurricane.

“[It was] just another basic storm,” he said. But it got to the point that “I was really afraid for my life.”

Thanks to All

What a fantastic journey this contest has been. We want to offer a heartfelt thank you to everyone who participated—with a special thanks to our winners who were willing to be open and vulnerable about their lessons, losses, and even mistakes.

We’re all better prepared because of it!

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Amy Marks

Amy Marks

We moved more than average when I was a child. And my parents had an absolute genius ability to move to where a disaster would happen, so I’ve been through a few. One of my take-aways, minor though it is, is to have little luxuries like: rubber band or tiny things to do hair (grooming is soothing), small baggies of hard sugar candy, a deck of cards, paper and pencil and a pen, for kids maybe a tiny squishable doll or mini pack of legos (the ones smaller than a sandwich baggy, pictures of loved ones and/or good memories or just something to soothe or up a tiny comfort. Extra underwear is an amazing booster.

Henry M Niedzwiecki

Henry M Niedzwiecki

All excellent stories. These and many others like them are the reason I wrote a back pocket book "Prepared or “Paranoid: Pandemics and Pandemonium and the E.M.P.” pen name
Harold M Neilson……A fiction based on factual information….It does not claim to be a know all, however it gives some basics on working with others…..Something we should all keep in mind, since Emergencies Never Make an Announcement, they Just Arrive!!!!

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