Preparation for unexpected events is the key to a safe and satisfying expat life

Jan 29, 2020 | 1 comment

For Kent Mills, “Be Prepared” is a motto that is essential advice not only for Boy Scouts but for expats as well.

Says Kent, owner of Cuenca’s CosasPrep store, “Although we’re safer here than in North America — we don’t have to worry about tornadoes, hurricanes and EMPs [electromagnetic pulses], for example — there are other events that a rational person would want to prepare for in advance,” he says. “Earthquakes, gas leaks, power outages, supply chain disruptions, etc. are not so distressing if we’re prepared for them. We also need to protect ourselves against crime.”

Located in the back of the popular Sunrise Café on Calle Larga in Cuenca, CosasPrep offers a wide variety of personal health and safety protection products, many of them unavailable elsewhere in town. Among the store’s most popular products are motion detection alarms, security cameras, water purifying systems, smoke and gas monitors, fire extinguishers, emergency lights and other useful household items like language translators.

“One of the things we do on regular basis is get feedback from expats, particularly those who are customers of Sunrise Café,” Kent says. “We want to make sure we stock the items people need. Oddly enough, bug zappers are one of the biggest sellers at CosasPrep, Kent says. “These were often requested on a written survey by people dining at the Sunrise Café.”

Although LP gas represents major cost savings in Ecuador, it also poses a serious health threat in the home.

Opened in 2018, CosasPrep is going through a kind of “reboot,” Kent says. For the first time in months, the store is almost stocked to his standards. Because of import problems, maintaining a reliable flow of merchandise is an ongoing challenge, he explains. “We are still trying to understand Ecuador’s import rules and how they are interpreted. They seem to change without notice and apply differently even when shipments are the same items.”

In some cases, there are outright prohibitions for importations, such as for pepper spray, he says. In others, such as for paper surgical masks, the item can only be imported with a special license available only to large companies “Figuring out the system sometimes seems almost impossible,” Kent adds.

This hand-help personal alarm provides protection when you’re in public places.

Helping out with the import dilemma is CosasPrep general manager Lorena Flores, who spends a lot of her time on the phone with customs and regulatory issues. “She’s able to cut through the red tape that I can’t,” Kent says. “I don’t know what I’d do without her,” Kent says.

The CosasPrep website includes all the store’s products and prices as well as an information section covering such topics as the dangers of propane gas, taking care of pets during emergencies, medical preparedness and personal safety.

CosasPrep also offers a number of free services for those who come by the store, including free blood pressure checks, cell phone labeling and electro-magnetic field (EMF) measurement for cell phones, blocks for laptop, tablet and phone cameras. They will also provide change for U.S. bills under $20.

Just for fun, CosasPrep recently introduced a wheel of fortune that allows visitors to “spin to win” items in the store on Tuesdays and Fridays. According to Kent, the game is intended to bring potential customers into the shop. “The idea is make new friends and to show people the products we offer. If they come in, I think they’ll be impressed.”

CosasPrep, in the back of Sunrise Café, 9-38 Calle Larga; Website:; Phone: 096 994 1855; Email:


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