To some people, being prepared for an emergency means carrying extra Kleenex in their pocket or keeping trail mix in their car's glove compartment. To disaster-minded Rita Tamerius, however, emergency preparedness is a way of life.
Like a good scout, Tamerius believes in being prepared. So much so that, when she went into business for herself, she opened a store and filled it with supplies, devices, gadgets and instructions that would weather anyone through almost any disaster, be it earthquake, fire, or multihour traffic jam.
Tamerius' store in Wiegand Plaza in Encinitas is aptly called Be Prepared!, and it has emergency supplies and equipment for the home and car.
Her 500-item inventory includes everything from bandages and aspirin to specially packaged water and freeze-dried food that has a five-year shelf life and can withstand tremendous heat. The La Costa resident culls her resources from all over the world and orders many items from medical supply companies.
Tamerius, a nurse practitioner for 20 years, turned to consulting and writing three years ago. The first article she wrote was on the 1987 Whittier earthquake and the effects of a major temblor on health care facilities.
Before her article was published, Tamerius said she never had anything to do with earthquakes. Afterward, however, she seemed to encounter them wherever she went.
On two visits to the state of Washington, Tamerius experienced earthquakes. Last year on a business trip, she was stranded overnight in a blacked out San Francisco hotel during the Oct. 17 jolt.
"I had no supplies with me, and I was upset at not being able to get a hold of my family because all the phones were out," Tamerius said.
When the roads had cleared and it was safe for Tamerius to return to San Diego, she did so, just long enough to gather supplies and turn around and go back up to work for a week in Red Cross relief centers in the Watsonville and Santa Cruz areas. It was from this experience, working with the hardest hit victims of the earthquake, that the idea for her store was born.
"I came away with the concept, 'You better be prepared with supplies yourself,' " Tamerius said.
In addition to selling items separately, Tamerius has developed her own type of first aid/survival kit for the car. Called the Auto Disaster and First Aid Pak, this compact back pack has more than 300 items, enough to provide essentials for two adults for three days. It sells for just under $100 and includes a portable radio, food and water.
"I didn't like any of the first aid kits on the market. Most of them were designed 30 years ago and they haven't changed much," Tamerius said. "They don't have enough of the over-the-counter medications you need, and they have too much cotton and ammonia inhalants.
The Delux Auto Kit has even more supplies, enough to make the Swiss Family Robinson look like they were just camping in their back yard. A fire extinguisher, work gloves, water purification tablets, face masks, four-day candle and whistle are just a few of the additional items in this $135 pack.
Some of the more popular and affordable items in Tamerius' store are a wind-up portable radio, a key for turning off the gas, and cyalume lightsticks, which sell for about $2 and provide a bright chemically produced light for up to 12 hours. Many of the items at Be Prepared! don't require batteries because, even in the best of circumstances, no one ever seems to have enough batteries, Tamerius said.
Besides her retail store, Tamerius gives free emergency preparedness presentations to businesses, Neighborhood Watch and church groups.
"I didn't want Be Prepared! to be the fear monger shop," Tamerius said. "My whole dream was to teach people how to take better care of themselves."