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The Significance of Preparedness Expos

18 July

This article was created and provided by James C. Jones, EMT/CHCM, President of Live free USA. James will be speaking at GLEPE this fall and has a number of years in observing, handling and educating others on the right things to know about and act upon during disaster and emergency scenarios.

The number and variety of Emergency Preparedness Expositions and Conferences has exploded in recent years. While there are scores of such events that are well-known and advertised, there are hundreds of smaller local and regional events that are not so broadly promoted.  The popularity of these events has increased and decreased depending on current events and concerns throughout the decades.  They were very popular during the 1970s and 1980s primarily driven by the Cold War and the nuclear war scenario. These events tended to focus heavily on fallout shelters, food storage, radiation detection and other single catastrophe survival situations. Interest in preparedness expos declined in the 1990s, but had a short resurgent’s during the “Y2K’ scare.

Today’s emergency preparedness expositions and conferences are much broader based events that bring together the practitioners of outdoor survival, disaster preparedness, self-reliance and long-term sustainable living. What was once considered a peculiar subculture is now a realistic mainstream movement. In many cases you may find FEMA, The Red Cross, The Cost Guard, local Police and Fire Departments, and other related organization actively participating.


Admission to these events depends on the size and on the available speakers and workshops included. In some cases you can get a two-day pass that includes admission to all classes or just access to the floor exhibits.  Most sponsors have local hotel discount rate arrangements for those who need to stay overnight. Major expos will have from fifty to several hundred vendors and dozens of speakers and classes available to the participant. There are usually lots of free samples and demonstrations going on throughout the exhibition hall.  There may be additional fees and registration requirements for some training classes.

There are far too many of these events for anyone to attend and report on more than a sampling. The regional concerns, sponsoring organization and many other factors influence the focus and subject matter at any given event.  Each event is unique and my observations are based on those I have attended recently and in the past. These events truly come in all shapes and sizes.  Lets just call them  “small,” “medium” and “large.”

Most small preparedness gatherings, camps and seminars are usually sponsored by local preparedness groups. These may be held in small venues such as VFW halls, etc. There may be only one or two speakers and maybe a few vendors, but admission is generally free or just a few dollars. Such events may or may not be listed on the Internet “meet up” boards, but are often listed in local papers. Live Free USA has used public parks, public libraries, Cabala’s conference centers and other venues during Preparedness month to advocate and teach “entry level” preparedness programs.  These short programs may focus on a specific aspect of preparedness such as self-defense, first aid, food preservation or evacuation packs. While the instructors may not be as well known they often are as good or better than the “professionals” at the larger expos. Because they are local, it is impossible to know how many of these programs are going on at any time throughout the US, but it must be in the hundreds.

camp independence

Two good examples of medium sized preparedness expos that I am familiar with are The DeWitt County Preparedness Expo in Clinton, IL and Camp Independence in Tippecanoe River State Park in Indiana. These events are generally one or two-day programs on facilities provide by a sponsoring organization.  Admission is either free or for a nominal contribution. There may be ten to twenty vendors and a dozen or more speakers. In some cases the sponsors may bring in highly qualified guest speakers and instructors.  Most of these will be listed somewhere on the internet in the “meet up” sections of the American Preppers Network and other websites. The expo in Clinton, IL brings in hundreds of folks from considerable distances to a location way out in the farm fields. Camp Independence is a unique type of “expo” held in a state park in Indiana.  The event goes back to the late 1960s and may be the oldest survival/preparedness gathering in the Country.  Most participants stay over the weekend in the tent camp or cabins on the site and participate in a wide variety of indoor and outdoor classes and exercises that would not be possible in any other venue.  Participation is usually from 100 to 150 and preregistration is recommended.

Large Preparedness Expos are usually held in exposition halls and arenas near major population centers. These events are well advertised and have full websites and Internet promotion campaigns. They may also advertise in survival and preparedness related publications. Because of their size they can often afford to bring in the most highly reputed and well-known speakers. You will get to see lots of survival and self-reliance products and meet the most knowledgeable and experienced advocates and practitioners of survival and self-reliance face-to-face. Vendors may pay from $300.00 to $800.00 for tables and booths at such events. Some event organizers limit vendors to expensive booths and by doing some reduce access to smaller vendors and organizations, but most provide reasonably priced tables for starting vendors. Most of these are two-day events, and it is well worth the time and money to stay for both days and attend as many classes as possible.

The internet is great, but real beats virtual every time. These events are hands-on, face-to-face opportunities to learn, network and widen your understanding of the possibilities and options you have for preparedness and future self-reliance. I highly recommend that the reader consider attending at least one of these events if possible. It’s a great road trip or weekend getaway for the whole family.  Preparedness groups should consider going as a group. If that’s not practical you can chip-in to send a few members that can then bring back information and skills for everyone to share. These events are essential to the future of the preparedness and self-reliance movement and to the future in general. The larger events must be supported and attended and the smaller ones are essential to building local networks and businesses. If there are no such events within range of your region, I encourage the reader to consider sponsoring such events in your communities.

Sources of Information:

  • There is no way I could possibly locate all of the small, medium and large preparedness events, but here are a few suggested sources.
  • Further information about Live Free sponsored events, the DeWitt County Preparedness Expo or Camp Independence 2015, contact me at
  • Worst Case Scenario Productions LLC sponsors “Prepared & Spared, Off-the-Grid Expos in Dayton, Ohio and various other locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. Go to:
  • Sustainable Preparedness LLC puts on shows in Portland, Oregon; Spokane, Washington; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Go to:
  • Great Lakes Emergency Preparedness Expos sponsors expos’ at Birch Run, Michigan and various other locations throughout the year. Go to:
  • A listing of most upcoming preparedness expos’ and conferences’ can be found at
  • Midwest Renewable Energy Fair is sponsored by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association annually and held in Custer, Wisconsin just east of Stevens Point, WI. To get information on next year’s Energy Fair, go to

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