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Ready for The Big One

Scott James, left, and Fred Bruner met on Bainbridge Island just before the area was classified as an active earthquake zone. The community preparedness expert (James) and former CIA agent (Bruner) soon created customized kits to aid in survival during natural disasters.

Their lives took markedly different paths to get there, but Scott James and Fred Bruner ended up in the exact same place. Bainbridge Island is a ten-mile ferry ride from Seattle, but its roughly 25,000 residents treasure the other-wordly solitude of deliberate disconnection. It was there that Bruner chose to retire after a 27-year overseas career as a clandestine operations case officer with the CIA.

“This is where my wife and our two kids all wanted to settle down,” said Bruner, whose brother, Michael, is a professor at Azusa Pacific University and keeps a research office at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Michael’s wife, Jenna Bruner, is a beloved, longtime teacher at Huntington Middle School.

Expecting to walk away from the anxious life of a spy and into the tranquil existence of a retiree, Fred Bruner’s life was soon, well, rocked, by the isolation that could be fatal if experienced following a natural disaster.

A close up view of a ReadyPod that is created for the purpose of sheltering in place during a natural emergency.

“New findings were announced declaring that the entire west coast—from California to Washington—is an active earthquake zone,” Bruner exclaimed. “Seismologists were forecasting a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake sometime during our lifetimes. And I just decided to move here!”

“I immediately focused all of my free time and energy on building an earthquake kit for my family,” Bruner told The Tribune. “I harnessed all the experience I had gained during my career to build a premium and comprehensive kit that would allow my family to survive a catastrophic earthquake and confidently shelter-in-place during the ensuing weeks to months that outside assistance would not be available. And that is what most people don’t think about. If there is a major earthquake, it won’t be a matter of days until help arrives and services are restored, it could be weeks.”

Soon thereafter, Bruner met James at an event on Bainbridge Island organized by the non-profit James founded called Bainbridge Prepares. The group was founded to educate, assist, and inspire island residents to prepare for a major earthquake.

“As I got to know Scott and learned more about his community resilience talents and expertise, I learned that he had also built an earthquake shelter-in-place kit for his family,” Bruner said. “I also read Scott’s book, ‘Prepared Neighborhoods,’ which is a superb guide to a community-oriented approach to preparedness. When we eventually compared the disaster survival kits that we had each separately built for our families, we were surprised to discover how similar they were—in spite of our extremely different backgrounds. I had approached the challenge with a singular focus on protecting my nuclear family whereas Scott had looked at the problem from much more of a neighborhood and community perspective.”

ReadyPods were created by Scott James and Fred Bruner, the brother-in-law of popular HMS teacher Jenna Bruner.

The two engaged in a number of in-depth discussions about their mutual desires to help people prepare for a major earthquake, and in 2018, they joined forces and combined skills to design what they felt was the most comprehensive, highest quality, and most customizable earthquake kit in the world. “And now, in the fall of 2019, we’ve produced such a kit,” said James. “ReadyPod was born!” Materials are shipped and stored in trunks, and include food, first aid, emotional well-being items, lighting, cooking and safety gear, communication systems, power, water accessories, sanitation and hygiene products and more.

The kits can be customized with high-quality gear and top-rated foods that take into effect dietary restrictions. The two earthquake preparedness experts will offer a free earthquake preparedness seminar in San Marino on Thursday, November 14, from 6:30–8:30 p.m. in the Barth Community Room of the Crowell Public Library. Fred and Scott will discuss specific steps people can take to be prepared for an earthquake, and they also will offer attendees the opportunity to examine a ReadyPod earthquake kit in person. Seating is limited; be sure to RSVP at readypod.com/pages/RSVP.

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