Podcast

Kate Ellis-Hill of The Disaster Gal

Disaster Preparedness with Kate Ellis-Hill of The Disaster Gal

Listen now:

Preparing for a disaster is never on our agenda, but knowing about how to handle the disaster is something we should all prepare for. Kate Ellis-Hill is the founder of The Disaster Gal, a provider of emergency preparedness kits and education.  

Here’s what you’ll learn:
  • What is The Disaster Gal? The story behind why Kate decided to start her business, where she found the information, and the reception she got.
  • Fire safety. Kate explains how to use a fire extinguisher and other elements that could help you to extinguish the fire.
  • Safety recommendations. Kate teaches us how to make a plan and what things should be in your emergency kit.
  • Earthquake preparedness. How can you make your house safer in case of an earthquake? Kate also sheds a light over some of the most common myths. 

 Visit The Disaster Gal to learn how Kate can help you, or follow her on social media.
Instagram: @thedisastergal

Sign up for The First Degree Membership! By becoming a member, we’re getting more intimate than ever! Get the Membership now! 

Check our past episodes of The Sixth Degree podcast! Remember to follow us on:

Instagram: @six_degrees_society

Facebook: @sixdegreessociety

Twitter: @six_society

Go back to the homepage.

Emily Merrell  

Welcome to the sixth degree Podcast, the podcast where we grill our guests about the things that make them tick and find out how human connection plays a role in their life. I’m your host, Emily Merrill.

Emily Merrell

Hello, and welcome back to the sixth degree with Emily Merrill, the podcast where we grill our guests about the things that make them tick, and find out how human connections play a role in their life. I’m your host, Emily. And today I’m so excited to have my friend Kate Ellis Hill, founder of the disaster gal, this amazing platform that offers emergency preparedness kits, educational resources, and one on one trainings and consultations. Kate, welcome to the show. Thank you, Emily, I’m thrilled to be here. I’m so excited to have you in my circle of friends, Kate and I are connected through the co working space that we remember co working space we used to have before the pandemic. Back in the olden days, we were connected by someone at our co working space. And I was told about Kate and her emergency preparedness and had just come off of surviving of an apartment fire of my own. So I think my husband’s nickname for me is like Survivor Dan or safety, Dan, with how OCD I’ve become with all these little survival things. So, so grateful to meet someone who turned this into an actual business. So the theme of today’s podcast is going to be about building out a safety mindset. So Kate, how did you start the disaster gallic? What was the story behind creating a platform like this? 

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Yes, so I spent my first 26 years in Colorado. So as a little kid, we had tornado drills. And so I remember just getting in the Hall of my elementary school and kind of hunkering down and covering your neck and we would get blizzards and, and wildfires. All things that I sort of grew up learning about from my family, and then school. And then I moved to San Francisco, for for a tech job in my mid 20s. And the you know, not knowing anyone in this new state in Sioux City like having no I spent no time in San Francisco, none of that phase to me. But the reality that the big one is, is inevitable at some point. And having never experienced an earthquake was really terrifying to me. And so when I got here, I put my head in the sand, I just didn’t know what to do, and mostly hope that nothing would happen. And then the Napa quake, if anyone remembers either experiencing or reading about that, and really, like literally and and otherwise woke me up. I think it happened at like four in the morning. And I just remember my heart pounding for probably like, at least an hour. And realizing it wasn’t something that was catastrophic for me personally. But there could be something like that a little bit closer to where I lived. And it just it really shook me up. So from that point, I made it a personal mission to learn as much as I could to prepare myself to get the best kit that I could to make sure that my home was safe to create a plan and talk through that plan and practice that plan with my friends and neighbors. And so I did all of that I was really excited. I probably talked about it a lot, my friends from that period can tell you about it. But a big thing that I discovered was a lot of people who I knew who were either native Californians or had lived there longer than me, had lived in this place, and had no plan and had a bunch of hazards all over their homes and didn’t know how to use fire extinguishers and didn’t know basic first aid. And and so I sort of gradually started building out components of the business without really realizing that that’s what I was doing. And a couple of years ago decided that there was a big enough gap in having kits that were high quality, well sourced, responsibly sourced and interactive. And so and that’s really where were things kicked off.

 

Emily Merrell  

I wish you were in my friend group but you would have been really helpful before an apartment fire and probably prevented said apartment fire. But I mean, how incredible that you took charge and I’m curious where people like did you feel like people were accepting of this or kind of looking at you like you had six heads that you are so into this?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

It varies. Um, a big focus for me has always been especially working with women. And for one thing, we have a lot of control over what our homes look like, we make a lot of those big decisions. I’m not a mother, but you know, obviously many women are. Whether it’s like you have children, or even pets, like a lot of us are very, very conscious about making sure that we’re taking care of others in our homes. And a lot of like, what’s out there, I think, for emergency preparedness is so hyper masculine, it’s like zombie apocalypse, and guns and all of that. And so big thing for me has always been making it digestible and accessible and empowering. And so I think that a lot of my friends and co workers and people that I talked to, that did resonate with, I had a roommate who I told her that she had this like 500 pounds IKEA wardrobe that was not bolted to the wall, and was right next to her bed. So if there was an earthquake while she was in bed, it would have crushed her and I mentioned that not that information was not particularly welcome, at the time, but I think generally, you know, probably got got a few looks, but I think that that, that it was useful enough that it wanted me to, to spread that a little bit further.

 

Emily Merrell  

And I love that I think I think that’s such a great point that you said that there’s so much masculinity, in like the doomsday prepping in a way that there isn’t, it isn’t geared to women. And it’s not about it’s about like empowerment, making Safer Choices and knowing how to handle certain situations and things under stress. So we I had the pleasure with Kate, she was on one of the retreats that we did, and she actually led us in how to use a fire extinguisher and it blew my mind the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever used a knock on wood ever used a fire extinguisher. But also that terrified me because we never learned how to use a fire extinguisher. I know where it is. We have a fire extinguisher in every room in our house now. But how did you learn this stuff? You know, were you just Googling or like, were there resources around you that you explored and utilized?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Oh, yeah, so I signed up, FEMA has a national program called cert in San Francisco. It’s called NERT. It’s neighborhood emergency response training. And they’re starting to do some in person events again, but when things from this latest COVID disaster start getting back to normal, and it’s a six week 18 hour course. And you learn about all of these things at a pretty good level. And so one of one element of getting your certification at the end is actually using a fire extinguisher. And you have the fire department there. And they’re guiding you through it. And you get to practice and there’s something very different about you know, knowing exactly what to do, and actually trying it and seeing that it’s it’s pretty easy, pretty straightforward. And so that’s a course that I highly recommend, just because it is localized to your area, it’s in partnership with your with your local fire department or emergency services. And then from there, there is a decent amount online, but you do have to work a little bit. And a lot of it is very just intense and and not really bite size. So it takes some work, but I think that’s a really good starting point.

 

Emily Merrell  

Okay, so for fire extinguishers, can you tell us I know it’s, it might be hard to visualize, but it might be helpful. And you never know who this might help because it helped me so much kit. Can you tell us how to use a fire extinguisher because dumb question. I don’t even know. They know there’s a little nozzle you’re supposed to read it. There’s a little pin. When do we pull that out? How often should they be changed? If so many questions. 

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Yeah, so I’m sort of a plug I guess that on my site for disaster, Gallup COMM And I have some guides and one of them is how to use a fire extinguisher. And a few years ago, it needs to be done, but I made a video that shows exactly how to do it. I think the thing that I chose to use the extinguisher on was a little birthday cake that was kind of fun and extremely messy. But you’ll there should if especially if you live in like a an apartment building, you’re a landlord will have a responsibility to maintain the fire extinguisher. You need one on every level. And so there’s this little card that the fire that the fire department will update. So you can see that it’s been inspected recently. So in the past, I have been the tenant who emailed my landlord repeatedly and says like, hey, our extinguishers have not been inspected in four years you need to get this taken care of. So that’s a good thing to do. But as far as actually using them once you know that they’re working, you also want to check the gauge, which is a little bit hard to describe, but you basically want to make sure that the pressure in the extinguisher is not too high or too low, there’s like a little green zone and a and a needle, that should pop in that right zone. But when you’re using it, you will pull the pin, you will aim the base of the nozzle at or you’ll aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, you want to stand about six feet away from it. And then you’re going to squeeze the the trigger, and you’re going to do that slowly are going to hold on to it. And then you’re going to sweep so you’re going to go back and forth aiming at the bottom until the fires put out. And you can use fire extinguishers on combustibles like paper and wood things that you think of is catching on fire. You can use them on oil and grease fires, you can use them on electrical fires. So if you have an appliance that that word of spark, and catch, you can use them there too. You can’t use them on certain types of like industrial fires, but those are really uncommon. And then you also want to remember that you never throw water on a grease fire. But many types of fires you can there are fire blankets that you can use to to deprive them of oxygen. But you can also just like, if you have like a lot of flour or something like a bag full of flour, you could throw that on, on a fire like anything that’s really gonna extinguish the oxygen source. But really fire extinguisher 100% The best way to go. 

 

Emily Merrell  

I think that’s I think that’s so interesting. I never knew about the the bag of flour and with the fire blanket. I’ve always I feel like I base everything that I’ve learned off of a movie so I don’t know what’s reality and what’s not anymore, but I’m doing movies you see someone with like a blanket, like smother someone with a blanket. And it’s definitely not a fire blanket like would a normal blanket sometimes play the role? Or should it be a very specific type of blanket for smothering to fire?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Yeah, I mean, it just it depends. Like if you’re, if it’s big enough, and you’re throwing it on, that’s fine. There’s probably a lot of things that are in blankets are really flammable. Yeah, so just it more depends, like if it’s especially if it’s like a denser fabric. And you don’t want like the afghan that your grandma knit or something kind of like lacy that would let a lot of air go through that might make it worse. But definitely the best thing is to use an extinguisher, we have a couple of supplemental ones in our apartment. And then I also really like these, there’s mini ones they’re like the size of a cannon hairspray. So I have one on my bathroom, I under the sink, I have one in the kitchen under this thing just is an absolute like worst case, I need to need to try to start getting something out while I’m looking for the full size extinguisher.

 

Emily Merrell  

Yeah, we learned the hard way, we now have one in every single room in our apartment. And then there’s one in the hallway. But yeah, what you’re like the best kind of tenant to have for everyone else, not for your landlord who probably hates you. But the fact that you advocate for like the fire safety and encouraging them to check out the fire extinguisher. That’s pretty important. So in addition to fire safety, there’s so many other things that you mentioned that you’ve when you first moved to California that you didn’t even know about, from earthquake safety, which you brought up a great point with your roommate and her dresser crushing her. And truth be told, I’m looking around right now and nothing is bolted to the wall. So I’m scared to invite you over to my house, but also kind of excited because then maybe there’s some changes that can be made are and then also the other thing that you mentioned was like an emergency bag. So what are some of the things that you know, if someone was to get started today and they listen to this conversation? Where do you recommend they start in terms of their safety journey?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

The first thing is making a plan. And so I do have like a template on my website. But really, the most important things are under what circumstances do I leave? Where do I go? You want to make sure that you have a lot of information written down addresses, especially if you have kids who are in daycare school, you need to figure out the responsibilities Who’s getting the dog? Are you leaving under, like, if if there’s an earthquake, but there’s no visible damage on your home, you should probably stay put. So you want to figure out the exact circumstances under which you leave where you go, you want to coordinate with, with your family or with friends. And so I think that’s really important, because you don’t want to be in that moment where you haven’t thought about it, and you’re panicking. And your emergency plan should also include like, the a dry run for different kinds of emergencies, which sounds ridiculous, but if there’s a fire, how are you going to evacuate, like I’m in my office, right now I’m on the second floor. But I know exactly where all of my exits are, I know it to Windows that I can lift up I have like a little like a ladder, an evacuation ladder that I can drop down if I absolutely need to. So just like really thinking about that stuff, and, and knowing what’s the most likely to happen, and what you’re going to do is really critical. The next thing is, is your kit. And that you just really, as a starting point, I think a lot of us, you know, know the basics that that get talked about, like a first aid kit and food rations and, and like a flashlight, no whistle and things like that. But you also want to make sure you’re not overlooking the things that you personally need. So if you’re blind is it that you need a backup pair of glasses, or contacts, if you have medication that’s really important for your overall health. Make sure that if it’s possible with your doctor, and with the storage of the medication you have, like as much as a month supply in your emergency kit. Do you need backup keys do you need a charger for for your devices do you need an adjust but like a lot of the the personal needs that are not going to come in a generic kit, I also recommend not only having a pair of comfortable tennis shoes, just like an old pair that you don’t wear to the gym anymore. Having one of those in your kit, also having one of those next to your bed in case something happens at night, and you have to evacuate. So you want to think about like for me, what are the nuances in my life that I need to plan for? If you have a dog, you want to have an extra leash in your kit.

 

Emily Merrell  

I think it’s interesting that you say all this, I completely agree with the the contacts and all of those details. And I think we forget those details. And I think the interesting part that’s hard for me to wrap my brain around just the food and the and the whistle because to that my rain then goes to like an apocalyptic state, like well, you know, if it was a fire, then I could at least stay in a hotel. And I still have my credit card. Right. But would I be rationing food? So are those situations like the whistle and whatnot, is that used for a particular moment or situation are? Exactly that apocalyptic state? If it does happen?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Yeah, the food would probably be a bit more of an apocalyptic estate, I think chances are, especially if you live in a city, you will be able to have access to food and water. Although the free thing that we saw in Texas, a lot of those people really would have benefited if they had some extra lying around at home. And I think it’s probably a better idea to have some cans of food in your pantry. That’s more a situation where you’re staying put not where you’re evacuating, but having some water and aluminum bottles. And so you don’t have to change it out as often stashed at home and a pantry is great, too. So the whistle is a little bit more specific to like an earthquake situations. So you know, don’t want to go to catastrophic. But if you are in a building that’s partially collapsed, or you need to get attention somehow that’s really important. Or if there’s a fire in your building, and you know that there are fire rescue people who are entering that’s a good way to locate exactly where you are. Flashlights are great, there’s also glow sticks that you just snap and they’ll stay lit for hours, I think maybe up to two days. And so those are also a really good way to visually get attention.

 

Emily Merrell  

It’s helpful hearing those spelled out because I think it’s it’s so easy to over to kind of dismiss it is easy to dismiss the idea of a whistle or dismiss the idea of certain things but then the way that you just painted that picture is really helpful to visualize. Well, that is something that I could help with Can you tell me more about it? Earthquakes? You know, we talked about it just a little bit. And tell me more about earthquake preparedness. I’m like you, I live from the East Coast. I know absolutely nothing about earthquake except the exception of one earthquake I’ve lived through on in New York, which was very odd and 20. Because 2011. But what to do in terms of an earthquake?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Yeah, I’m a big thing as this term earthquake, guys. So looking around your home, your office, the places where you spend a lot of time and figuring out if everything here started shaking, what would be the most dangerous where I am right now. So if you have a really like 300 pound painting, I don’t know if paintings weigh that much. But let’s say like a 50 pound work of art hanging above your bed might be beautiful. But if things start to shake, and that’s not extremely securely affixed to the wall, which is very hard to do that, do you want that crashing on your head if you’re in bed, and so just understanding what the hazards are. The reason that I recommend having tennis shoes in your bed is the way that a lot of people get injured in earthquakes. This happened, especially in the one that was in Alaska, like a year ago, nobody had buildings that collapsed and and badly injured them. But there were a lot of broken windows. And I think it might have happened in the middle of the night. I’m not sure. But if your home is just okay, but there’s broken glass everywhere, and you don’t have shoes on then it’s a lot more, a lot more dangerous.

 

Emily Merrell  

So it gets dangerous when with the broken windows. Which is funny, because if you’ve heard, I’m going back to movies, everything that you’ve heard in movies, like go to a doorframe, stand in a doorframe and and that’s what you should do, like what are some taboos or myths that we should or should not be doing.

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

So that is one doorframes I think in like a very specific type of home construction are the most secure. Not and not in the vast majority of homes and buildings now. So if something does happen, you want to draw, you want to like either hug a wall or crawl over and get under a protective surface. So if you have like a wooden table or a desk or something like that getting under that is one of the safest places you can be very unlikely that things if there is a collapse that they’ll fully pancake and fall on top of each other. And so you really just like want to be under something that’s going to protect you from things that would fall immediately on you. 

 

Emily Merrell  

yeah, okay, so even a wooden table that I built myself that say,

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

I didn’t know that you’re an amateur carfinder Oh, yeah, probably fine, better than nothing.

 

Emily Merrell  

I’m following those IKEA directions to the best of my ability. I’ve always like three screws in my hand at the end. Were a little curious where those belong. But that’s fine. We add them to my night orphans, Scrooge or my last question for you, Kate is, you know, what’s next for the disaster guy. I feel like you’re such a wealth of information from fire preparedness to, to earthquakes. And I’m sure there’s like 10 different natural disasters I’m missing in between. But how can we find out more about you and what you’re offering and what can we expect next?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Yeah, so right now you can find me at the disaster gal.com and on Instagram at the disaster gal. What’s next? Before the pandemic, I did some in person kit building workshops, where they’re interactive, I would bring the pre made kits and then talk through all the different kinds of emergencies do run throughs of the host home and have everyone bring their personal items to fill out their kits. I’m so excited to hopefully start bringing those back to IRL soon. And then also launching virtual consultations to do home walkthroughs soon,

 

Emily Merrell  

I will be signing up for for that or I’ll have you come and do it in person because having someone tell you what to do is sometimes so much easier than doing it yourself. You’re kind of like the naggy mom who, who helps people actually put action together and protect themselves.

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Exactly.

 

Emily Merrell  

I love it. Well before we wrap I love asking six fast questions. So my first question for you Kate is tell us some unknown fun facts about you besides the fact that you’re terrified of earthquakes.

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

I am very good at traveling alone. I love traveling with people. But I’ve been to every continent except for Antarctica by myself.

 

Emily Merrell  

Have you been to Antarctica?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

I have not. I haven’t been there at all. 

 

Emily Merrell  

Okay, so we just have to go to Antarctica, with or without someone. But that’s the last continent. That’s amazing. I was I was talking about that last night, I was dropping a friend off at the airport. And I was talking to how I hate traveling with other people, because then you have to be polite. And you have to be polite about what seat you’re sitting in. And actually, one of my girlfriends and I both are window seat girl. So we both we will never do a middle seat. And we don’t care about sitting next to each other. So we’ll both grab a window seat, like, behind one another. So what is it like a weird thing, you know, with you traveling alone? Is it your particular or you just have confidence doing it?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

I was really scared of doing it at first. And then after college, I started to just have these these big trips by myself, and I really loved it. And so now it’s just a good way to do exactly what I want and not have to compromise. And so I have a trip coming up in August with my boyfriend that is going to be great. But we’re going to make the decisions about what how we spend our time together.

 

Emily Merrell  

Oh, yeah, compromise, that word is a good one. Oh, I can’t wait to one day travel adjacent to you. And see you in a different country maybe or continent. Kate, who would be a dream person you’d want to be connected with and why.

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

And so I don’t know if this is the first thing that came to mind. And I had the chance when John Lewis was doing a book tour for his March series, just some graphic novels based on his civil rights experiences in the Martin Selma. He was he was on a book tour, and I got to see him speak. And he’s just always been one of my biggest heroes. And I’ve just been so moved by his courage and, and his commitment. And I say that I would love to have been connected with him. But I had the opportunity to go up and talk to him. And I was just like, not exactly petrified. But I just felt like I was not worthy to purchase that space. And so one of my friends got my my book signed, because I just could not handle it. So I think someone to actually be connected with maybe I’d have to really scale that person down only to think about that a little more.

 

Emily Merrell  

Your brain just completely goes blank and you’re

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

shut down. Don’t know what to say.

 

Emily Merrell  

He would be he would be a magnificent person to talk to. I feel like I would not want to say a single word. I would just want to listen.

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Yeah, exactly or watch him dance here as a great dancer,

 

Emily Merrell  

or watch him dance was one of the things. Speaking of watching, is there any show that you’re currently watching? Well, I

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

just finished the latest season of master of none.

 

Emily Merrell  

Oh, how was it?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

I was really it was great. I love when you can take a series and spin it in a completely different direction. This one, the central characters completely shifted. And it was just like, I don’t want to ruin it for for anyone. But it just took like issues that are really not raised in media at all. And it just handled it so beautifully and gracefully. And I I really, I got a lot out of it.

 

Emily Merrell  

I’m excited to watch it. I’ve always been a fan of that show. So I was so thrilled to see it coming back. And what about a book you’re reading? Are you reading anything great?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Well, on the on a travel note, I just finished Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. He has a an Italian author, and it was written in the 70s. And the setting for the book is a conversation between Marco Polo and coupla Khan. And Marco Polo is describing meetup city after meetup city to Cuba. And each city is so beautiful and surreal and just like foreign feeling, and so it made me even more excited to be able to see new places again, for the first time in more than a year.

 

Emily Merrell  

You got to travel through reading that bucket sounds like what about a favorite emoji and or most used emoji in your phone?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

And I’ve been using the woozy face a lot lately.

 

Emily Merrell  

Is that because the you’re going out drinking a little bit more than before or

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

just No, I went to my first bar last night and I had half a beer. I don’t know I think just like the Last year, a lot of things are feeling a little bit a little bit unsteady.

 

Emily Merrell  

I love that I need to play with that face a little bit more I feel like it, it fits life very accurately. And then my final question for you, Kate is Who inspired you or gave you permission to do the thing that you wanted to do with your life?

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Um, well, my parents have always been so incredibly supportive of whatever I want to do. And I think my dad would have been the most proud if I would have become a whitewater raft guide. But that that did not work out mostly because of my stature if I but they’ve just always fully accepted and been proud of me no matter what I do, and so I’ve never had to go through life worrying about disappointing the people who matter the most to me.

 

Emily Merrell  

I love that maybe the the whitewater rafting will be your next that will be your survival girl that you will have adding on to disaster gal and how to survive the rapids.

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

I got I got to do a lot of push ups before that.

 

Emily Merrell  

I know it’s a whole different lifestyle. Well, thank you so much, Kate for joining us. Listeners I highly recommend recommend checking out the disaster gal. I’m I’m a super fan. I think I’m like your probably biggest super fan. I talk about you way too often to to too many people probably be like, did you know and I feel so much more empowered, just having learned from you and taking workshops from you. So thank you for joining us on today’s episode. 

 

Kate Ellis-Hill  

Thanks, Emily. 

 

Emily Merrell  

And listeners. If you liked today’s episode, please give us a like give us a follow share with your friends and we’ll see you the next time on the sixth degree. Thanks so much

six degrees society

Members Login