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Preparation businessDisaster preparation business booms

Published 13 October 2014

Concerns about future manmade and natural disasters are driving the U.S. market for survival kits. Across the country, families are developing disaster plans, and some are even loading up on food and supplies to help them live through a biological attack, a catastrophic earthquake, or a pandemic flu. More and more businesses are targeting preppers, — people who actively prepare for a doomsday scenario.

Underground bunkers are one way to prepare // Source: cdc.gov

Concerns about future manmade and natural disasters are driving the U.S. market for survival kits. Across the country, families are developing disaster plans, and some are even loading up on food and supplies to help them live through a biological attack, a catastrophic earthquake, or a pandemic flu.

Ralph Broome, a retired U.S. Army sergeant and owner of Carolina Preppers & Survivors supply shop in Charlotte, North Carolina, offers freeze-dried foods, body armor, and ammunition. The business targets preppers — people who actively prepare for a doomsday scenario.

According to the Charlotte Observer, preppers believe a local or global-scale disaster is imminent and it is imperative to prepare for the eventuality of such disaster in order to survive it. Broome caters to serious preppers, who shop for gas masks, as well as the curious, those who walk into the store to learn more about the prepper movement. The store is filled with water-filtration systems, military combat boots, vacuum-packed gardening seeds, and instruction manuals on booby traps and explosives. There are even 5-day emergency kits recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), yet Broome has refrained from selling weaponry. “Most of what we have, other than the clothing, is not military,” he said.

Broome, himself a prepper, joined the movement just before Y2K, when millions of people feared that a computer virus would shut down global computer networks on 1 January 2000. Broome began stockpiling food, water, and first aid supplies. “It made sense … just in the event something did happen,” he said. Four years after the Y2K scare, Broome returned to prepping, concerned about natural disasters and economic collapse. “Everybody wants to protect themselves and their families,” Broome said. “It’s an investment, it’s an insurance, actually, for people. If they have what it takes to survive, this ensures they will survive or at least give them a better chance.”

Tom Martin, founder of the American Preppers Network, believes that prepping is rather an old idea. “What’s new is the fact that people don’t get prepared,” he said. An August survey by FEMA reveals that 50 percent of American families have not discussed an emergency plan in the event of a local or global disaster. “If you’ve got a fire extinguisher in your home and fire insurance and a smoke alarm and an evacuation plan, that will make you a prepper,” said Martin. “It can be anybody.”

Greater news coverage of global disasters is contributing to more Americans joining the prepper movement. “Instead of a major disaster being 5,000 miles away from you, it’s hit a lot closer to home,” Martin said. “Before, people would think, ‘It will never happen to me.’ Now, they’re seeing it happens all over the place.”