“I looked down Fifth Avenue and witnessed the second plane hitting the north tower.”
Even before he and his wife created the VLES Go-Bag, a fully stocked emergency survival suitcase, Stuart Warshaw had been thinking about preparation. So on September 11th, when the unthinkable happened, he had a good idea of what to do.
“I went to my office to make sure my employees were safe and decide on the best course of action for them and for me, whether to try to go home or to shelter in place. We left it up to our employees to find their way home or to stay in the office as we had some provisions such as snacks and water. I couldn’t connect with [my wife] Karina in Westchester County since cell service didn’t work, so I decided to try to make my way home sometime after noon. Luckily, I was able to catch the first Metro North train that began running again after all trains had been stopped for fear of terrorist activity on the rail lines and in Grand Central. Meanwhile, in Westchester, Karina had been staged at the firehouse…”
Karina Warshaw, described by Stuart as “one of the most giving people in the world,” had started volunteering at the local fire department years prior just because they had asked for help. She “dragged” her husband with her, and the couple approached it as a way to give back to the community where they raised their children. The Warshaws’ training as First Responders had instilled some sense of how to handle this type of situation. But no one was prepared for this.
From tragedy comes innovation
Being in the literal center of a defining moment in American history forced the family to think about how we respond to a major catastrophic event, whether it be manmade or sent from nature. Like most of us, they adjusted their lives to the new reality because they had seen up close what happens when people are ill-equipped in a crisis.
“I arrived back in our town, found Karina in the firehouse, and, reunited, we made our way home to figure out, along with the rest of the country, what next steps would be. With the weight of terrorism reality on our minds, we put together our first Go-Bags.”
In a quiet sea every person is captain, and in the quiet times it can be easy to forget the chaos. Stuart and his family did not forget, however, so when natural disaster struck in the form of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, they were prepared and ready to help other people get prepared too.
“Without a doubt, 9/11 was the first major event that set us in motion towards founding VLES. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York, we knew it was time…we found one of our employees aimlessly wondering around down town with no cash and a dead cell phone. (We ultimately got him to our daughter’s apartment in Brooklyn to stay for a few days) When the power came back and we reopened, we set up a table at one of our co-working locations to show people what they needed to do to prepare.”
Everything you need
Informed by the Warshaws’ firsthand experience in disaster management, the VLES Go-Bag comes stocked with the basic provisions a person would need to survive for a few days under some pretty horrific conditions. Everything from rain ponchos to potable water tablets to a hand-powered radio has a place, neatly packed inside a 15,000-mm waterproof shell. Extra space is reserved for personal belongings, like clothes and medicine, and the kit includes a removable messenger bag for short excursions to pick up supplies.
The bag itself holds three days of supplies for one person, and a “friend pack” can be added to accommodate a second person. In an amazing display of design prowess, the fully loaded bag is light enough to be carried by our nine-year-old daughter (who took comfort in seeing how prepared the Splimm Team now is thanks to our Go-Bag.)
With the basics under control, a disaster is more manageable. As we’ve seen with wildfires in Oregon, or when a hurricane unexpectedly changes course, sometimes there is barely enough time to think, let along pack a bag with everything a family needs to survive. The Go-Bag takes the most fundamental worries out of the equation. VLES is committed to ensuring that everyone is as prepared as possible, regardless of financial constraints. You can purchase the contents of the bag separately, at a lower price than it would cost to assemble the items individually. And if you can’t afford the supplies, VLES is giving away their Preparedness Plan for free.
More than one way to prepare
A passion for helping people has always fueled the Warshaws, which might be why Stuart spends as much time talking about how to survive a disaster as he does plugging his product. They know what happens when people don’t have time to prepare, and they want to avoid that whenever possible.
“People should make sure they know where they are going and how they are going to get there. Maps (paper and digital) and a full tank of gas are important. Also, making sure pets who may be nervous in tense situations are secured in a carrying case or with a leash so they don’t try to run and hide, potentially making the situation worse. Clear communication is key.”