Mylar bag

Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers (with Chart)

Mylar bags for food storage Preparing and storing your own food is a cost-effective way to build your emergency food supply- not only because you can shop sales but you can also pick your own menu! The ability to tightly control the exact ingredients in your stores is ideal, especially for people living with dietary restrictions such as food sensitivities, allergies, intolerances; or those with preferences and picky eaters. And it’s simple! All you need are Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and something to heat-seal with such as a hair straightener or a clothes iron.

Plus, you can store a wide variety of items—there’s no need to be stuck with only rice or beans in the event you need to use your emergency food supply!

We get a lot of questions about DIY food storage here at Total Prepare, so we’ve put together this blog with a list of our most frequently asked questions to help you get started!

What is Mylar?

Simply put, Mylar is a layer of aluminum, sandwiched between two layers of plastic. This allows for all the benefits of both materials to help protect your food! Plastic is hardy, cheap, and has a good melting point for heat sealing. Aluminum doesn’t breath or break down for a long time, giving it great longevity and protecting your supplies.

What is an Oxygen Absorber?

Oxygen absorbers are small packets containing mostly iron oxide powder. When exposed to oxygen, a chemical reaction causes the iron to rust, burning up the available oxygen. The packaging is designed to allow the oxygen in without leaking any iron into your food.

Why would I use Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers?

As we discuss on our page about 25 year shelf life food products, a few factors lead to food going bad. The two biggest culprits are moisture and oxygen. Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers allow you to create an air-tight seal around your food and to remove any oxygen inside the bags, creating an idea environment for long term storage. Just be sure that you’re only storing totally dry goods so that moisture doesn’t become a problem. Dry pasta, beans, flour, and rice are popular choices.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mylar Bags

What are the best foods to store in Mylar bags?

The best foods to store in Mylar bags are dry foods with very little moisture. Dried berries, dehydrated vegetables, white sugar, salt, whole wheat, flour, pasta, powdered milk, soft grains, cereals, dried beans, corn, whole spices, and rice are all great options.

The shelf-life of your food items once sealed will vary depending on what you’re storing. Some items, like brown rice, have shelf lives of 1–2 years due to the oils in them, while others such as wheat and other hard grains can have a shelf life of up to 20 years!

Please note that shelf lives are not guaranteed, they are effected by the ingredients, storage location, and packing technique.

What size oxygen absorbers should I use?

Oxygen absorbers come in different “cc” amounts. CC stands for cubic centimeter and represents the volume of air one absorber can remove. At Total Prepare, we carry 200cc, 300cc, and 1000cc absorbers. If you need to remove an amount that doesn’t match, just use more absorbers to get the number you’re looking for. Need 500cc? Use a 200cc and a 300cc to get the job done. Remember: more than you need won’t hurt your food, but not enough will cause it to go bad much more quickly! Here’s a handy oxygen absorber chart to show what strength you’ll need for popular items in one or five gallon mylar bags.

Mylar bags and oxygen absorber chart

What size Mylar bag do I need? Zip seal, or no zip?

What mylar bag to use will largely depend on how you envision yourself using the food, how much room you have to store it, how many people you are preparing for, and how long you are preparing for. If you think you’ll be using a lot of food quickly – for a large family for example – then you’ll likely be okay with a 5 gallon bag. If you’re solo, or if the ingredients are supplementing other supplies, 1 gallon bags might make more sense. If you foresee yourself needing to go in and out of the bags over a long period of time, you’ll want a zip seal for after the heat seal is broken.

Here’s a few example scenarios and what type of bag we would recommend:

Situation Mylar Bag Recommendation
A couple hoping to supplement existing supplies. Expect to need their supplies for over a month. 5 gallon, zip seal. Lots of food that can be resealed.
An individual who wants a supply that can be used for short or long term emergencies. 1 gallon, no zip. Small parcels of food that can be used as needed. Keeps weight of bags lower too.
Preparing for a neighbourhood or organization. Likely to go through a lot of food very quickly. 5 gallon, no zip.


What if I can’t use all my oxygen absorbers at once? 300cc Oxygen Absorbers for use with mylar bags

Often, you won’t need all of the absorbers that come in a package at once. In these cases, fill a mason jar with something that packs down densely – like rice – and seal your remaining absorbers inside. The rice and small container will mean there is very little air inside the jar and your absorber will still have plenty of life in it when you’re ready to use it.

How do I store food with mylar bags and oxygen absorbers?

We have a whole hand out on that! Click here to read, download, or print a pdf. It has additional FAQs and a walkthrough of how to use these products.

Thank you for reading! Have any questions about mylar bags and oxygen absorbers? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.


Get prepared for your local hazards!

7 Questions to Get Prepared for Local Hazards

Think about your local hazards before disaster happens!

Photo by Norbert Braun on Unsplash. Other elements added by Total Prepare.

Know your local hazards. This knowledge will help you plan for emergencies.

Thinking about disasters can be overwhelming. Every year, the news is full of stories about earthquakes, hurricanes, and other emergencies. You might have lived through some of these yourself. If so, you especially understand the importance of preparing ahead. Knowing your local hazards, and having the right supplies on hand in case of a flood or power outage, for instance, can make the experience a lot less stressful.

Preparedness isn’t only about having supplies on hand. In order to know what supplies you need, first you should understand what you’ll need them for.

Step one of emergency readiness: Know the risks and hazards in your area.

Which local hazards can you name?

When you think of your local hazards, what comes to mind? For us here on the west coast, our list might include earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires. However, there are a lot of other risks we might not think of right away! In 2021 alone, British Columbians also experienced landslides, extreme heat, extreme cold, major flooding, and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s a lot of emergencies! You may wonder: “How am I supposed to prepare for all of these?”

The good news is, most of your planning and supplies will work for multiple emergencies.

To get started, find a list of your local hazards (check your municipality or province’s website!) and answer the following questions. You can use your answers to get started on building your personalized emergency plan.

You can also download the companion worksheet to print and fill out with your household, employees, or students.

1. What are the main dangers caused by each hazard?

Your geographic area present will different local hazards. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are far less likely to experience extreme sub-zero temperatures bringing with them the risk of blizzards and frostbite. However, we still run the risk of hypothermia if exposed to cold winter temperatures for long periods. The mitigation of hypothermia is fairly straight-forward and common-sense however. Stay warm, avoid prolonged exposure to the elements, and protect yourself with socks, gloves, a scarf, and a hat.

For heatwaves, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke top the list of potential threats. Carry a water bottle and keep it filled. Don’t leave your pets or children in cars. Understand what the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke look like, and keep an eye out for them in yourself and anyone in your care, such as children, pets, or elderly family members. The memory of the 2021 Western North America Heat-dome is still fresh in the minds of many British Columbians, but continues to have affect on both marine and land-based ecosystems.

Living outside urban centers also has an effect on what is considered a local hazard. For those in more rural and more mountainous environments, landslides and mudslides are more of a concern. Landslides can block evacuation routes or even sweep cars and houses away. Learn about alternate escape routes in your area and keep a vehicle emergency kit in your trunk in case you get stranded on the road.

Similarly, those living in flood-zones and near rivers also may have contrasting concerns. Following the deadly heat-dome in 2021 in BC, the November atmospheric river brought unprecedented rains devastating highway infrastructures, and work still continued into August 2022 restoring the affected roads. Not only did these floods create huge supply chain issues, but also caused concerns of contaminated water, and livestock and crop losses prompting a Flood Recovery Program for Food Security as well. Despite this having been record amounts of rain, eve deceptively ‘low’ amounts of 6″ of fast-moving flood waters can sweep a person off their feet, and unmoving water can hide potential hazards such as sharp objects, toxic material spills, or downed electrical lines.

2. Will I have to evacuate, or should I shelter in place?

Tsunami Evacuation

Most of us living on the west coast are all too familiar with these signs.

Many people assume that they will have to leave their home if disaster strikes, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Often, your home will be the safest place to be. Your local authorities may advise you to “shelter in place.”

Read more: What do I need to know about Sheltering in Place?

If you have ever stayed home during a major storm or a power outage, congratulations! You’ve already experienced sheltering in place. What are some other instances when you may have to stay at home for your safety?

  • After a major earthquake, but only if your home has not sustained major structural damage/is safe to inhabit
  • In the event of nearby threats such as an active shooter, a possible bomb, or rioting
  • In case of a gas leak
  • If there is a hazardous material spill

And that’s just to name a few. Depending on the emergency, some general ‘to-dos’ for sheltering in place can include sealing entrances to the home (including air intakes and stove vents), staying away from doors and windows, closing interior doors, and limiting your movement to only one or two rooms.

3. Will I be able to access a store during an emergency?

Some reasons you may not be able to get to the grocery store:

  • Authorities have advised sheltering in place
  • Your exit routes are blocked by flooding, landslides, or other debris
  • Stores may be closed due to storms or localized unsafe conditions

Think about what items you would need to last you for up to two weeks in case you can’t re-stock your supply. You might have water, but how about food?

Are floods a local hazard for you?

Photo by Jonathan Ford on Unsplash

We recommending aiming for 2,000 calories per person per day if possible. For reference, one can of baked beans might average around 588 calories—if you were to subsist on beans alone, that would equal about 4 cans of beans per person per day.

4. How long is this emergency likely to last?

A common theme for these questions is how your local area affects your local hazards, especially regarding infrastructure and emergency response. For instance, a power outage may last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks depending on where you live. However, many incidents have long-lasting effects. A major earthquake usually lasts less than five minutes, but in many cases, the aftermath can still be felt years later. And, as we talked about above, you may not be able to access a grocery store for an extended period of time. How long might that be?

Consider also how quickly help will arrive. The further you are from a major metropolitan area, the longer it will take before emergency personnel are able to reach you.

Read more: Who Has the Burden of Responsibility In An Emergency?

Knowing what to expect will help you calculate what supplies you’ll need on hand, as well as what accommodation arrangements you may need to make in advance.

 5. What other factors would make this emergency more dangerous?

Sometimes, several emergencies might occur at once, often as a result of the same event. What seems like an inconvenience by itself might prove deadly in the wrong conditions. If the power goes out during a bout of extreme heat or cold, for example, it may be a lot harder to keep a safe body temperature.

What are some other examples of concurrent events that could pose a risk?

  • Severe windstorms may cause flooding, power outages, and downed power lines
  • Earthquakes may cause buildings to collapse, fires to start, and tsunamis
  • Below-zero temperatures can cause pipes to burst and make roads and walkways slippery

6. What extra supplies will I need to keep myself and my household as safe as possible during this emergency?

This is assuming you already have your core basics for an emergency kit, now you should consider what extra supplies you’ll need to add to it.

Essential emergency kit

Our 3-day, 2-person “essentials” kit. Works great as a starter option, but we recommend supplementing it as time goes on.

Don’t have your basic kit yet? Check out What You Need to Know About Emergency Survival Kits.

Food & Water

How much food and water do you already have in your kit? Our 2-person essentials kit comes with 7,200 calories in food bars and 1.5L of water in pouches, but we recommend a minimum of 2,000 calories per person per day if you can swing it. The stress of an emergency will take a toll on your body—you will need to adequately nourish and hydrate yourself.

Consider your answer to question 4. How long will it be before help arrives? Use this formula to determine what you should aim to have on hand for the emergency that will last the longest:

[# of people] x [# of days before you’ll have access to additional food/water] x [daily required amount of food or water]

Other Tools & Supplies

What were the local hazards you listed in answers 1 and 3? Think about the kinds of tools that might counteract those hazards. We gave a few examples earlier, but what are some others you can think of? (Comment on this article with your ideas!)

7. What steps will I have to follow to get to safety during this emergency?

Finally, what happens during the emergency itself? Once you’ve determined the answer for question 2, consider what you’ll need to do when evacuating or sheltering in place.

It’s best to figure that out now; you will likely have little or no time to make these plans while an emergency is happening.

Get Prepared Canada has some excellent resources for the things you need to do in the event of different emergencies. They explain what steps to take if you have to evacuate, how to set up your home (or wherever you are) if you need to shelter in place, and even what to do in case of a major police event.

What comes next?

If you filled out a worksheet for each hazard, make copies for everyone in your household (or class, or office!) and add them to your emergency kit. Thinking of making an emergency planning binder? These worksheets would make an excellent starter.

We also recommend having a ‘master’ emergency plan with everything you’ll need on it, including contacts and a reunification plan. Check out our article How to Make a Family Emergency Plan for more details!


Eruption of Mount St. Helens

Should You Prepare for a Volcanic Eruption?

Mt Garibaldi

Mount Garibaldi, a dormant volcano located between Whistler and Squamish, BC.

Did you know that British Columbia is home to 18 volcanoes? It’s true. Although dormant, they span the length of the province in clusters known as “volcanic belts”.

If they’re dormant, though, should we be worried about a volcanic eruption?

Let’s briefly consider our area’s volcanic history. The last eruption in Canada occurred in Lava Forks Provincial Park sometime within the last couple hundred years. That’s pretty recent when it comes to the geological time scale.

Even more recent is a major event that took place just 300km south of the Canadian-US border.

Remembering Mount St. Helens

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption—a natural disaster that took approximately 57 lives and resulted in more than 1.1 billion US dollars in damage (about 3.9 billion in 2022 figures).

Along with dormant volcanoes such as Mt. Baker and Mt. Garibaldi, Mount St. Helens is part of the Ring of Fire, a seismically and volcanically active region of the Pacific Rim. Volcanic activity started on the mountain in March of 1980 and continued until 2008. It had previously been dormant since the mid-1800s.

Eruption of Mount St. Helens

The eruption of Mount St. Helens. Photo by the USGS.

As that eruption shows, “dormant” does not necessarily mean “extinct.” A volcano is only considered extinct if it has not erupted for the past 10,000 years and is expected never to erupt again.

Does that mean we should be worried that the dormant volcanoes near us might suddenly erupt?

Why you shouldn’t worry too much

It’s true that, until declared extinct, there is always a possibility that a volcano will become active again. However, unlike earthquakes which strike with no warning, volcanoes usually start showing signs of activity well before a major eruption occurs.

According to the US Geological Survey, these signs include:

  • Increased seismic activity
  • Increased frequency and intensity of felt earthquakes
  • Noticeable steaming
  • Ground swelling
  • Other geological changes which are monitored constantly by scientists in both the US and Canada

Thanks to this monitoring, volcanologists have previously been able to forecast eruptions, and in many cases, bouts of increased volcanic activity will cease without an eruption.

Our 2-person 2-week earthquake kit is also handy for sheltering in place due to volcanic activity!

Why you should still prepare for a volcanic eruption

Until it’s extinct, a dormant volcano always has a risk of becoming active again.

Thankfully, the steps needed to prepare for a volcano are similar to the steps it takes to prepare for earthquakes and wildfires.

Even if the volcanoes near us remain asleep, we can still be affected by eruptions that occur elsewhere. Public Safety Canada warns of the risks of ash plumes from eruptions elsewhere in the world, such as respiratory ailments and, in some cases, grounded air traffic due to low visibility.

There are a lot of volcano types, each with their own hazards. We might visit those in a future article, but for now, we recommend researching any volcanoes that might be near you. Just like any other hazard, it’s important to understand the risks so you can plan ahead. That way, you can build your kit (check out our guide to building your kit for more info) and be ready just in case.

As we like to say here at Total Prepare: Be Prepared, Not Scared!


How Looking to the Past Prepares Us for the Future

From Sun Tzu to Benjamin Franklin to Stephen King, we humans have long understood the importance of preparing. At its core, preparedness has always looked the same.

Whether you’re storing food for when times are lean or you’re keeping an umbrella in your car in case it rains, you’ve done what hundreds of generations of people have done before you. You looked ahead to what might happen in the future. You figured out what you would need to get through it. And then you prepared.

The wisdom of those who came before us can help us get ready for what lies ahead. I’ve gathered a handful of quotes that stuck out to me when I was learning the ins and outs of emergency preparedness, and today I’d like to share them with you.

Prepare when times are good

It’s easy to be complacent when times are easy. Why think about past or future difficulties when you can enjoy yourself instead?

Photo by Nina Luong on Unsplash

The answer is simple: because the good times won’t last.

Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War: “Plan for what is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small.”

The ‘good’ times may not be around forever, but neither will the future difficulties. You might carry an umbrella in your car because it might rain, but you also know the sun will come out eventually after it does rain.

Far from making you worry, preparing for hard times while the going is easy will give you more peace of mind. You’ll know you are ready for whatever lies ahead.

What if you keep putting it off? Times are uncertain, but they’re not unlivable, right? In his book The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, Max Brooks says, “If you believe you can accomplish everything by ‘cramming’ at the eleventh hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining.”

Take caution

We live in the era of fake news and click bait. Internet personalities and news outlets alike sensationalize current events for the sole purpose of gaining viewers and readers. Fear equals clicks, and clicks equal money.

It can be easy to dismiss the claims of people who try to capitalize on your fear for personal gain. But, regardless of how the information is presented, we should each do our research and be aware of the very real risks where we live.

For instance, at Total Prepare’s headquarters on the west coast, we are at risk of earthquakes and tsunamis. Our local customers understand the importance of preparing for what might happen when ‘the Big One’ hits, so they know to prepare for at least 72 hours, or 1 or 2 weeks if they’re able.

If we prepare ahead, we can consider it “preventative maintenance.” As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Therefore, the more we do now, the less we’ll have to scramble later when we might not have access to the same conveniences.

Don’t fall into the trap of doing nothing

Mr. Franklin also said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” If we choose to ‘get to it later,’ we are effectively choosing inaction.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It’s not a fun task to consider the worst-case scenario. Thinking about how you might get yourself and your family through a disaster such as an earthquake, fire, or flood is stressful.

However, when you take the time to think through potential worst-case scenarios, to think about the actions you will take and how you will get through it, you are equipping yourself for success. It’s why fire drills are important.

Once you have your plan firmly in mind, you don’t have to spend that time during the actual emergency panicking about what you’ll do. You’ll already know.

Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch wrote in his book The Last Lecture, “Another way to be prepared is to think negatively. Yes, I’m a great optimist. But, when trying to make a decision, I often think of the worst case scenario. I call it ‘the eaten by wolves factor.’ If I do something, what’s the most terrible thing that could happen? Would I be eaten by wolves?”

Hope for the best, etc.

Pausch continues, “One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist, is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about because I have a plan in place if they do.”

A folder with the cut-off words "emergency plan" on it.

Creator: designer491 on Getty Images/iStockphoto

Many have said it before, but I like how Stephen King puts it in his novella collection Different Seasons: “There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.”

Think of it like this: Something is going to happen eventually, so you might as well be prepared for it. Even if that something is as small as a power outage and your preparation consists of having a flashlight and some self-heating meals handy.

With that said, don’t linger on the worst. That’s a recipe for undue anxiety. Think instead of what the absolute best-case scenario could be. What will actually happen falls somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

To keep a realistic view of what lies ahead, keep yourself informed. Understand the risks and hazards in your area. Make a plan for what you would do in a worst-case scenario for each. Stock up on the necessities. And then don’t worry too much about it.

As the Barenaked Ladies sang, “Odds are that we will probably be alright.”

An image of the Total Prepare storefront with a rhododendron bush in bloom.

10 Years of Total Prepare

Ever since Total Prepare was founded in 2012, we have been working hard to make Canadian communities safer. Preparedness has seen more public awareness in the past few years, and we couldn’t be happier that folks are paying attention! Plus, we’ve growing our team to better serve Canadians everywhere.

The Total Prepare crew in front of our Crease Ave location.

The Total Prepare team sure has grown over the last couple of years!

As we continue moving forward into uncharted waters, we’re thrilled to have you along for the ride!

In this special update, we have a letter from our Director to all of our awesome customers, an infographic timeline of Total Prepare milestones, and a special announcement—and it’s not an April Fool’s joke, we promise!

A Letter from our Director

Dear friends,

On behalf of the entire team at Total Prepare, we wanted to take a moment to express our gratitude for allowing us to be part of your journey to preparedness over these past 10 years.

We strive to provide exceptional customer service, impart industry experience and knowledge and offer a good selection of the highest quality products on the market.  Each experience where we have fallen short is a learning experience that we use to improve.  Thank you for helping us in our corporate journey with suggestions, comments, feedback and reviews of our products and services.

The last couple of years have seen an explosion in the preparedness industry and it has presented numerous challenges.  The patience that has been shown from our suppliers right through to our customers during this tumultuous time has been truly humbling.  Knowing that we have all been in this together has made a rough ride much smoother.

We look forward to the next 10 years of servicing our clients to the best of our ability. It is the greatest compliment that a company can receive when a happy customer refers us to their friends, family and coworkers.  We take these referrals as a great responsibility and appreciate the faith and trust that is given to us.


Ray Boeyenga
Total Prepare Inc.

10 Years of Total Prepare Milestones - text in post. 10 Years of Total Prepare Milestones

2012 – Total Prepare opens as an online-only business; later that year, their retail storefront opens on Crease Ave and they become the exclusive distributor for Legacy Premium freeze-dried food.

2013 – The first customer service employee is hired. Total Prepare presents at EPICC for the first time.

2014 – The warehouse gets an expansion with the addition of the company’s first shipping container.

2015 – Total Prepare becomes the exclusive distributor of 50-year shelf life brand Blue Can Water in Canada.

2016 – Total Prepare steps up to the challenges of supply shortages caused by the Fort McMurray fires and Hurricane Matthew.

2017 – Total Prepare’s retail operations move to a larger space on Hamsterly Road.

2018 – gets a new design. Total Prepare becomes the exclusive Canadian distributor of XMRE.

2019 – Retail operations move back to Crease to better meet logistical needs.

2020 – This year brings about an ownership change, with Ray and his wife Debra becoming the sole owners. The COVID-19 pandemic brings about an unprecedented demand for emergency preparedness supplies.

2021 – To better serve Canadian customers out east, Total Prepare begins shipping select items out of an Ontario warehouse.

2022 – Total Prepare launches their branded TOTAL PREPARE MRE featuring a new box design and an updated menu.

…Wait, what was that last one?

Coming Soon: The All-New, Premium TOTAL PREPARE MRE!

We’re proud to be launching our very own branded MRE line: the TOTAL PREPARE MRE. Our team has been hard at work curating the menu and developing the kits to include even more goodies than our customer-favourite XMREs.

Want to stay up-to-date on the latest news? Check out our dedicated “TPMRE” website and sign up for the newsletter!


A photo of Ian Foss and his wife Kirsten.

An Inside Look at Emergency Management with Ian Foss

Emergency Managers are the backbone of the preparedness industry. From companies to governments, they’re the ones who coordinate their organizations and call the shots when disaster strikes.

But what is it like to be an Emergency Manager? To get an inside look at the role and the impact it has on the people who perform it, we spoke to Ian Foss, a Director at EMBC and a long-time proponent of emergency preparedness. With his background as a small-town British Columbian and decades of hands-on experience under his belt, Foss is a fountain of emergency preparedness knowledge.

A photo of Ian Foss and his wife Kirsten.

Ian Foss and his wife, Kirsten, on a walk. Photo provided by Foss.

Note: Some answers have been edited for brevity or clarity.

TP: How long have you been in the Emergency Management industry?

IF: I have been working around emergency management for more than 20 years. I have been with the provincial emergency program since 2009.

TP: In those 20 years, what is the most memorable situation you’ve been involved in managing?

IF: I have worked on many large events, more recently 2017–2019 activations for wildfire & flood as well as working on the response to the 2021 fall atmospheric river, the most memorable was from when I was a GSAR (Ground Search & Rescue) volunteer. Our group worked with military SAR Techs to respond to a plane crash in 2007, where we pulled the lone survivor out of the wreckage, a 4 year old girl named Kate. She had been hanging upside down in her car seat for a few hours when we reached her, the lone survivor. I have been able to watch her grow up. It was life changing all around.

TP: What an impact that must have on everyone involved! So many lives are touched by the work of emergency personnel. There’s been a lot to learn to get where you are; what were you most surprised to learn about emergency preparedness?

IF: Even in an area like Victoria, there are people who don’t take preparedness seriously. I consider preparedness even when driving somewhere, tailoring what’s needed depending on the trip. The atmospheric river last fall is a great example of why you want to prepare. You never know when you many need to camp out in your car while traveling.

TP: That’s a great attitude to have. Apathy often stops people from preparing, but what motivates you to be prepared?

An aerial view of Golden, BC.

Aerial view of Golden, BC, Foss’ hometown. | Image credit: Battle Brook from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

IF: I lived in a small town in the mountains called Golden. In the winter it was not uncommon for the roads to all be closed, sometimes for a week. You wanted to ensure you had food for an extended period. I hunted so [I] had a deep freeze full of meat most of the time, but also a pantry full of canned food. When I was younger, I did expedition raft trips, so traveling self-sufficiently for up to 3 weeks takes a significant amount of preparedness & planning.

TP: No wonder you’re a pro at this. Since you’re also prepared on a personal level, what’s your favourite item in your emergency kit?

IF: I have 3 separate toilet systems… I have my old expedition rafting set up (called a groover), a sawdust filled bucket system and then a quick & easy bucket lid. Toilet system is a critical part of kit for anyone, otherwise consider what the neighbourhood would look/smell like.

TP: Not good, that’s for sure! Especially in a wide-scale emergency like an earthquake. On that note, could you perhaps share a little-known risk or hazard that people should keep an eye out for after an earthquake?

IF: There are a few, however the one that came to mind was, only turn the gas off to your home if you smell a leak or are directed to by the utility. The issue is more that turning it back on requires a technician.

TP: That’s definitely sound advice. That would save a lot of hassle after the fact, too. Thank you for sharing! And thank you for your time and expertise as well. We and our readers appreciate it! Before we wrap up, do you have any parting emergency preparedness advice you’d like to give to our readers?

IF: Preparedness doesn’t need to be difficult. If you camp or have camped, you understand what’s required. If you need to pull everything together new, there are affordable starting places for a kit. Personally, I purchased a pile of food once a year over a few years to build our supply up, and we are sufficient for 60 days. I don’t have 60 days of water yet, so that’s next.

Ian Foss is currently the Director of the Provincial Search and Rescue Program at EMBC, an instructor at NAIT, and holds a seat on the CSA Technical committee for the z1600 EM & BC standards.

His other EM roles have included Operations Officer at the Emergency Coordination Center, one of the team of Emergency Program Coordinators for the CRD, and Regional Manager with Provincial Emergency Management.

He is an alumnus of Royal Roads University, where he completed his Master of Arts Degree in Emergency and Disaster Management in 2015. He wrote his major research project on the use of social media for communication during emergencies and disasters. Since then, he has pursued additional education in EM both professionally and as a volunteer.

A tsunami evacuation route sign in Pacific Rim National Park, BC. | Image credit: Feuerst, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the Provincial level, he has extensive experience managing floods, fires, evacuations, tsunami and earthquake response, and working with local governments to support their response to emergencies and disasters.

Foss has had speaking engagements at numerous emergency preparedness and SAR conferences across Canada, including SAR Scene in Newfoundland; Disaster Forum in Banff, AB; EPBC in Vancouver, BC; and EPICC in Victoria, BC. His speaking topics include interagency cooperation and using social media as a form of communication in a disaster. He is currently developing a presentation regarding the impact of stress on health in Emergency Management for the January NAIT speaker series that will be available to anyone interested.

He lives in Sidney, BC with his wife and small feisty dog and is lucky to have his 3 adult children living in the area. They love to camp and in the past few years have been exploring gardening and regenerative farming as a preparedness and food security plan for themselves and extended family.

During major events, you’ll find Foss in either a Provincial Regional Emergency Operations Centre or the Provincial Regional Emergency Coordination Centre for the Provincial government.

You can follow Ian Foss on Twitter and Instagram.

Want to follow his advice and start or add on to your emergency supply? Check out our selection of emergency food and water supplies to get started!

What Is a Tsunami, Anyway?

Early in the morning on Saturday, January 15, 2022, many west coast Canadians received a notification from their local alert system: a tsunami advisory notice. We were instructed to stay away from beaches and marinas due to increased tidal currents until the advisory was lifted. Thankfully, there was no need for evacuation in our area.

An aerial photo of Tonga's Nuku Island.

Photo by dr.scott.mills, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The advisory came as a result of an underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga, a tiny nation in the South Pacific, over 9,300 km away. We would later learn that low-lying settlements along the islands’ shores had been totally wiped out by the 1.2-metre tsunami wave.

No Ordinary Wave

If you’ve ever been to Tofino, you’ve likely seen a wave that high before. And if you’ve been to Hawai’i, you’ve likely seen waves up to 9 times that size. So why is a 1.2-meter tsunami worrisome?

To understand why, let’s talk about the difference between the kind of waves that make for good surfing and the much-feared tsunami.

Normal surface waves like those in Hawai’i and Tofino are formed by a combination of wind and the slope of the seafloor, which causes them to slow down and grow taller as they approach shore. Known as “breaking” waves, these short, frequent swells mostly stay within the bounds of the tide.

Tsunamis, on the other hand, come from a massive displacement of water. To visualize, have you ever gotten into a full bath tub, only for the water to slosh over the sides because it had nowhere else to go? That’s what happens on an ocean-wide scale whenever an earthquake or volcanic eruption occurs. The force of the event sends a surge of water away from itself in all directions at speeds of up to 800 kilometres per hour over the open ocean.

That spells bad news for any islands and shores in the way.

On Different Wavelengths

Another key difference between normal wind-generated waves and tsunamis are their wavelengths.

According to, wind-generated waves come frequently (between five and twenty seconds between each one) and have a wavelength of 100–200 metres. Tsunamis can have a period ranging from ten minutes to two hours between them, with wavelengths often topping 500km.

What does that mean?

In short, a shorter wave loses more energy the further it travels. Tsunamis are not short and therefore do not lose nearly as much energy as they travel. Their speed is directly related to the depth of water, and each wave will maintain a fairly constant speed over deep ocean until reaching shallow or coastal areas.

Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object

If a tsunami passes under a ship sailing on the open ocean, those aboard the vessel would not be able to feel it.

Eventually, however, tsunami waves will make landfall. While breaking waves always have distinctive crests and troughs, tsunami waves may take on many forms. They may appear as a rapidly rising tide, a series of breaking waves, or even a tidal bore. The shape and slope of the seafloor as well as the geography of the landmass all play a major part in its size and severity.

An illustration of the energy transfer that occurs when a tsunami hits shallow water. As the wave hits shallow water, its height increases.

A tsunami hitting an abrupt barrier will have a higher wave but will not travel as far inland. Image by -Ilhador-, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A diagram showing a tsunami moving over a shallow slope and gaining more 'run-up'.

A tsunami traveling over a shallow incline before hitting land will not be as tall, but will travel farther. Image by -Ilhador-, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

How a Tsunami Operates

A tsunami slows down when it hits shallow water, and its height relative to normal sea level increases. This is why it is often described as a rapidly rising tide; it behaves in a similar way, only there’s a lot more of it at once. The longer the slope of the seafloor, the more ‘runup’ the wave gets and the farther inland it will go.

Think back to our bathtub analogy. If the side of your tub has a steep slope, the water will splash upward but stay relatively close to your tub. However, if your tub has a gradual slope, the ‘splash’ will not be as high, but the water will travel a greater distance.

Unlike a powerful wave that breaks on shore and recedes, the tsunami brings with it unimaginable power—the power of the earthquake, volcano, or other force caused it in the first place. The resulting floodtide will sweep away vegetation, buildings, and vehicles alike, often carrying debris far inland.

Why Does the Ocean Recede Before a Tsunami?

As we have learned, tsunamis behave like tides. In a normal tidal cycle, the tide must go out before it comes back in. The ocean recedes before a tsunami because all of that water has to come from somewhere.

You can observe a similar phenomenon on a small scale with normal beach waves. After crashing to shore, the water pulls back to become part of the next wave.

Evacuating to Higher Ground

Thankfully for most of Tonga’s residents, the beaches were already closed due to ongoing volcanic activity in the area. Local authorities advised citizens to stay indoors and protect drinking water and resources in anticipation of an eruption.

Immediately following that eruption, people immediately began heading for higher ground—even before authorities issued the evacuation warning.

Within minutes, the first wave hit the shore.

While tsunamis have always been a risk for those who live in coastal areas, they entered global awareness in 2004 when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the nations surrounding the Indian Ocean.

Overnight, it became common knowledge that rapidly receding water signaled an incoming tsunami. This knowledge has saved countless lives since: Instead of gawking at the phenomenon, bystanders now know to get to higher ground.

Sign Up for Your Local Alert System

A screenshot of the Saanich Peninsula Alert System website with details on how to sign up for the alert.

A screenshot of the Saanich Peninsula Alert System page, captured by the author on January 20, 2022.

While not perfect, local alert systems are designed to communicate impending dangers as soon as possible. For instance, the Province of British Columbia has an automatic system called Alert Ready for use during large-scale disasters or emergencies where loss of life is possible or imminent.

Your community or region may also have an alert system in place, such as the Saanich Peninsula Alert System. Check your local municipality’s website for more information on how to sign up.

Local alert systems are especially important because even faraway earthquakes can pose significant risk.

What to Do When You Feel a Quake

When an earthquake strikes close to home, however, time is of the essence. First, follow proper earthquake procedure: Drop, Cover, and Hold On.

Time how long the shaking lasts. The Red Cross’s list of tsunami warning signs includes earthquakes which last 20 seconds or more near the coast. After the shaking stops, count out loud for 60 seconds in case of aftershocks.

If you are in a tsunami zone and the earthquake lasts longer than 20 seconds, don’t wait for an evacuation alert. Leave immediately once it is safe to do so—the earthquake is your warning.

Flee on foot if possible to keep the way clear for emergency services.

What to Do if the Earthquake Causes a Tsunami

Not every earthquake will generate a tsunami, but if one does occur, knowing what to expect will help you act quickly and decisively.

As we’ve learned in this article, tsunamis carry a lot of power behind them. Get as high as you can or as far inland as you can as quickly as possible.

If your route is blocked or you are otherwise unable to flee, the Red Cross recommends you “evacuate vertically to a higher floor, a roof, up a tree, or grab onto a floating object.”

Do not enter the floodwaters after reaching a safer location. More waves may be on their way, and strong currents may lurk under the surface—even 6 inches of fast-moving water is enough to knock an able-bodied adult off their feet. Additionally, floodwaters can obscure other hazards like sharp edges or electrical lines.

If you have a cellular signal, limit yourself to text messages only as much as possible to reduce the load on the network and keep voice lines open for emergency personnel.

Dangers After a Tsunami

Tsunamis can create additional hazards that will remain dangerous long after the waters have receded. Be wary of downed power lines, debris, and hazardous material spills. Groundwater will likely be contaminated and unsafe to drink for some time. Damaged power lines or gas leaks may cause fires. A sturdy pair of shoes and some thick gloves can go a long way to keep you safe if you need to navigate rubble and detritus.

How to Prepare for a Tsunami Ahead of Time

Total Prepare's Urban 2-person Survival Kit

Our Urban 72 Hr Survival Kit, which is designed for 2 people.

Whether you live in or near a zone or are just visiting, always be prepared to evacuate. Here are some tips on how to do that:

  • Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes
  • Know the local emergency channels on the radio and stay up to date on developing emergency situations
  • Make plans with your household or travel companions for what you’ll do in case of a tsunami
    • Know where you’ll meet if you get separated, and how you’ll get there
    • Designate an out-of-town emergency contact so everyone can check in with them even if you can’t reach each other
  • Have a grab-and-go bag handy in your home or car, such as our 1-person 72-Hour Backpack Survival Kit
    • Add an extra charger, a change of clothes, and a list of emergency contacts to your kit
  • Keep your vehicle’s gas tank at least half-full

When Asked to Shelter in Place

Once you have reached safety, you may need to stay put for some time. Even if you live outside of the inundation zone, you may still be asked to shelter in place due to factors such as earthquake damage, hazardous material spills, or other unsafe conditions.

Learn more about sheltering in place in some of our other blog posts:

Keep in mind that it may take some time for emergency personnel to reach you. If possible, expand your emergency supplies to include provisions to last you for one or two weeks. Take a look at some of our earthquake kits to get an idea of what you should have on hand for a longer-term emergency.

Stay where you are as long as it is safe to do so. Find a visible place to put a Help/OK sign to signal to emergency personnel whether you need assistance or if they can direct their efforts to those who need it more.

Tsunami Aftermath: What Comes Next?

In the unfortunate event that a tsunami does strike your area, it may be some time before things return to normal.

You may have to find a new place to live, whether temporarily or permanently. The disaster may affect local businesses and your income, and there may be insurance claims to handle. (Pro tip: make your claim ASAP, since insurance companies can be tied up for years processing claims following a natural disaster, as we learned from what happened after the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011).

Debris from a tsunami in Japan, 2011.

An upended house is among debris in Ofunato, Japan, following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

That’s not to mention the emotional and physical toll a natural disaster can cause. Stress, grief, and other difficult emotions can linger for years after such a traumatic event.

Depending on where you live, your local or provincial government may have disaster financial assistance available (DFA) after a natural disaster. If you live in British Columbia, you can learn more about our provincial DFA here. There are also resources available for evacuee recovery and mental health, which you can find here.

Three Steps to Preparedness

Preparedness can be daunting, but it’s much easier to handle if you break it down into these three steps:

  1. Know the hazards in your area
  2. Make a plan
  3. Build your kit

If you need a hand deciding which emergency preparedness products would work best for you, our friendly and knowledgeable team has your back. Give us a call toll-free at 1-888-832-1733, email us at, or chat with us right here on the website. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.


A lit sparkler celebrating the new year

How to Make Preparedness a Part of your New Year’s Resolutions for 2022

New Year’s resolutions are a great way to take your one-day list and start checking off items.

This year, I’m planning to beef up my emergency kit. Even knowing what I know about preparedness, it’s way too easy to get complacent when I’m all snuggled up in my house with heat, electricity, and Wi-Fi.

A lot of people think prepping is getting ready for a big, huge disaster like an earthquake or tsunami. And while those are definitely risks here on the west coast, you should also prepare for more common situations like power outages and flooding from burst hot water tanks or weather.

Plus, it’s always a good idea to keep tabs on what’s in your kit!

Power Outages

One of the worst things about power outages in winter, aside from the internet being out, is that the sun goes down early. I might be able to feel my way through the house in the middle of the night for a glass of water, but it’s hard to cook dinner in the dark. And don’t get me started on how cold it gets.

Some of you might be thinking, “Don’t you have a flashlight or candles?”

I do. In fact, if you have a flashlight or candles ready in case the power goes out, then congratulations! You’re already on your way to preparedness. Easier than you thought, right?

It’s relatively easy to ride out a short-term power outage in relative comfort these days. You likely have the following items already in your home. If not, they’re relatively easy to find.

New Year’s Resolution: Put together a power outage survival kit. We’ve created a starter list to help you gather the basics.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Power Outage Survival Kit

In addition to having a few items to keep you comfy during an outage, check out the Government of Canada’s recommendations on ways to prepare your dwelling for power outages.

If emergency crews are overwhelmed or otherwise unable to reach you—like what happened to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands in late 2018—the power could be out for weeks.

Make sure you have a grab-and-go bag handy in case you need to evacuate.

Additional Reading:


This one hit close to home in November 2021 for us here on the west coast. A series of major rain storms flooded many a basement here in Victoria, but the lower mainland saw the worst of it with flooded homes, farms, and washed-out roads.

However, flooding isn’t always weather-related. A burst hot water tank or plumbing problems can also wreak havoc for an unsuspecting homeowner or renter.

Regardless of its source, water damage is a real concern. How can you mitigate any damage it might cause?

New Year’s Resolution: Prepare your home and belongings in case of flood.

Prepare For Flooding: What You Can Do Now

  • Keep electronics off the floor
  • Store important documents in a high and dry place
  • Make copies of your important documents and/or save them to a USB drive
  • Review your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to understand what coverage you have for flooding
  • Stock up on safe drinking water
  • Make an evacuation plan in case you need to leave your home for a period of time

Preventative Maintenance

It’s always a good idea to perform preventative maintenance. Learn about what causes hot water tanks to burst so you can recognize the signs and stop it from happening.

Winterize your home and prevent burst pipes from causing issues.

If your basement sits below the water table in your area, it’s likely you’ll experience flooding. We found this article with tips on how to prevent basement flooding. It’s aimed at Ottawa residents, but the information is good for anywhere.

Additional Reading:

Check Your Kit

The start of a new year is a great time to check your kit’s contents. Are your food and water still within their expiry dates? If it’s coming up within a few months, consider replacing them now and consuming the older ones so they don’t go to waste.

First aid kits sold in Canada are good for a maximum of 5 years. After this, medicinal ingredients may lose their effectiveness and items like antiseptic wipes may dry out.

Check the charge on any electronics and make sure batteries are stored separately.

Go over your emergency contacts list and update any information as needed.

Finally, review your emergency plan with your household. We created this questionnaire to help guide your discussion.

New Year’s Resolution: Update any expired or close-to-expired items in your emergency kit.

Additional Reading:


We’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below and tell us about your preparedness-related New Year’s resolutions for 2022 and beyond.

An image of the Total Prepare storefront with a rhododendron bush in bloom.

Total Prepare Update Re: Ongoing Shipping Delays (December 17, 2021)

An image of the Total Prepare storefront with a rhododendron bush in bloom. To our valued customers:

Due to the recent widespread flooding and road closures across BC, many orders outside of the Capital Regional District in BC have been delayed in transit as the couriers navigate the limited road capacities.  We’re keeping in touch with our couriers to find out the latest news.  Orders shipping from our Ontario warehouse (XMRE, ReadyWise, Blue Can and Legacy) have no delays.  (unless products other than the brands listed are placed in your cart).

To enquire about the status of your order, please reach out to our team at or via the contact page with your name and order number.

We hope everyone stays safe and sound, and wish a speedy recovery to the affected areas.


All our best,

The Total Prepare Team


A premium 4-person emergency kit.

How to Update Your Emergency Kit and What You Need to Check First

You buy your emergency kit and tuck it away in your closet, and the next thing you know, five years have gone by. Now what? If you need to update your emergency kit, here are the most important things to check first.

1. Check the expiration dates on food and water

Calorie bars and water pouches usually have a shelf life of about five years. After that, their packaging starts to break down, making them unsafe for consumption. Food past its expiry date should be composted or otherwise discarded. However, expired water can be kept for handwashing as needed.

A photo of the back of an SOS food bar showing where to find the expiry date at the bottom. Update your emergency kit's food & water supply if there are fewer than 6 months remaining before expiry.

Food bars like our SOS calorie bars have both the manufacture date and the expiry date printed on the label.

If you store water in a tank with stabilizer added, drain it and give it a thorough wash every five years. Refill with potable water and re-add the stabilizer drops.

Some food and water storage solutions have far longer shelf lives, such as freeze-dried food and Blue Can Water.

Freeze-dried food has a much longer shelf life than vacuum-sealed calorie bars, but double check that everything is still sealed.

If any of your consumables have broken seals and you don’t know how long they have been broken, it is not safe to eat or drink.

2. Are your first aid supplies still good?

Unless otherwise marked, first aid products sold in Canada are good for five years—even things like bandages and wipes. Pay special attention to the dates on medications and ointments.

The Jumbo First Aid Kit

Check your first aid kit at the same time as your emergency kit, and even more frequently if there are medications inside.

Some medications become less effective with time, and others become dangerous to consume when past their expiration date. Have a chat with your pharmacist about safe storage for medications. First aid kits stored in cars will likely need replacing more frequently due to bigger fluctuations in temperature and higher moisture levels.

Look for tears, leaks, or breaks in any of the kit’s contents. Replace damaged items as necessary. If you are not sure if something is still good to use or not, it’s better to replace it.

Check out our home & workplace first aid supplies here.

3. Are your electronics and batteries holding a charge?

A photo of a hybridlight flashlight in its packaging

Some solar-powered devices hold their charge for a long time, but it’s always good to double check and top them up when you check your kit.

While it’s fairly common knowledge not to store electronics with alkaline batteries inside, it is less common knowledge that the batteries should be stored parallel to each other. If the ends touch, they could spark and cause a fire.

Check your batteries’ charge yearly. You can get battery testers online for around $20 CAD or under. For solar-powered and other devices without removable batteries, such as cell phones with lithium-ion batteries, give them a top-up charge every six months to a year. Some solar-powered devices hold their charges for years, but we still think it’s good practice to check!

How to update your emergency kit

We recommend going through your kit once or twice a year to make sure everything is still in good shape. Replace items as needed to keep your kit up to date.

If you don’t have a kit yet or need to replace your existing kit, check out our selection for individuals, couples, and families! If you’re not sure what you need, give us a shout and our team will be happy to help.