Local Business Offers A Grab-And-Go Solution For Emergencies

July 15, 2008

By Shannon Barry

The dry conditions in Los Altos Hills and surrounding areas this year have severely elevated the threat of wildfires and raised residents’ concerns about emergency preparedness and even potential evacuation.  Los Altos resident Sherie Dodsworth, CEO and founder of Securita Inc., created a product to provide document security for worst-case scenarios in natural disasters.  Dodsworth’s “aha” moment came in 2005 when she saw the confusion following Hurricane Katrina.  “We were all witnesses to hundreds of people being evacuated from their rooftops and then transported to evacuation centers with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” Dodsworth said.  The disaster victims endured many challenges and setbacks because they were unable to produce the documents required to rebuild their lives.

A survey conducted in 2007 by the American Red Cross revealed that 83 percent of Bay Area residents are currently unprepared and have not taken recommended actions to plan for disasters.  Dodsworth’s product addresses the problem. Vital Records PortaVault identifies, organizes and stores the important records and documents kept in the home. “It truly is a grab-and-go solution,” Dodsworth said.

The PortaVault system is an inconspicuous, zippered case of water-resistant canvas that features an adjustable shoulder strap and sturdy handle. Inside the three-ring binder is space for hundreds of pages of documents, dividers and color-coded labels that identify the different documents and a pouch for storing cash, credit cards and keys. There are several custom forms that summarize critical information and provide emergency planning guidance.  Dodsworth said she is pleased with the response to her self-funded product.  Approximately 1,200 have been purchased since she introduced it in October 2006.   She has scheduled the release of an updated version for the end of the year.

Professional organizer Mary Rossow purchased the product in 2007 when Dodsworth joined the National Association of Professional Organizers. As co-founder of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, Rossow has since purchased the PortaVault for 45 of her clients.  “This really is for everybody,” Rossow said. “The reality of getting ready for an emergency can be so daunting. … It cuts across all geographic boundaries.”  Los Altos resident George Limbach, a board member of the Los Altos Community Foundation, purchased the product two months ago.  “It’s important because it’s portable, easy to store and you pick the place where it is most easily accessible,” Limbach said.

Mountain View resident Brittany Stevens purchased the product in 2006 after a long discussion with her husband about differing organizational systems for important records they brought to the marriage.  “With the merging of records and disaster preparedness, I was looking for something that would help us,” Stevens said. “I think one of the things that was really a benefit of completing the process of PortaVault is personal relief in (having only) one easily grabbed container.”

Securita’s Vital Records PortaVault is available for $69.95 at the Los Altos Community Foundation, 183 Hillview Ave., or online at securitaonline.wpengine.com.

Contact Shannon Barry at shannonb@latc.com.