Disaster Prevention Spawns a Cottage Industry
After the start of 2000, or the predicted panic of "Y2K,” Purcell says “it wasn’t all that uncommon to find that people had panicked, stashed away food and other items and it reached the expiration dates, becoming essentially useless. It was an unnecessary investment and much worse, it was a wasted investment. I tell people to keep the pantry full of food that they consume on a regular basis.”
While experts cannot quantify how much is spent on disaster preparedness each year, they say many traditional-use products are marked up when offered as part of a disaster survival kit.
Purcell advises that rather than buying expensive items marketed specifically for a disaster, consumers should look for the solutions that are already there.
“It isn’t necessary to break the bank on specialized equipment that you hope to never use. Most home ovens as well as the clothes washer and dryer can actually make good storage for items you can’t bring along if you need to evacuate from a fire. These tend to be the last things to burn up.”
An online search yields no shortage of disaster preparation kits and many specialty items that typically have very specific uses. The Water 2Go 16 oz. portable bottle with filter retails for nearly $22. For the same amount of money an entire case of water could be bought.
Likewise, the Stansport Deluxe Emergency Preparedness Kit, which is available online, offers many potentially useful items, including a sleeping bag, propane stove, and portable radio, but costs nearly $250. Bought individually from camping supply stores, these items cost far less. Likewise, say the experts, these pre-packaged kits often include items you might not need.
Additionally, what may be useful post-earthquake often won’t be useful for those in flood-prone areas. Thus many pre-packaged items may be too generic.
The other issue is whether a preparedness kit will even be accessible when it is most needed.
But being prepared shouldn’t cost a lot of money. Doing some research should be the first step in being prepared for a disaster, and FEMA offers some good tips as a starting point.
These include having water on hand, food that can last at least three days and, just as important, be easily prepared, and first-aid supplies. While a full workshop of tools isn’t necessary, basic tools that can be used to shut off water or gas lines to a house should be available, along with a flashlight and batteries, plus a non-electric can opener. Clothing, bedding and sanitation supplies should also be readily accessible as weather conditions could change following a disaster.
“I think using the preparedness guidelines set forth by the Red Cross and Department of Homeland Security makes a good starting place,” adds Neal. “If you see companies advertising items not on these lists it should certainly raise a red flag.”
Neal adds that so many products, notably items such as gas masks, which offer very specific threat protection, Kevlar vests and other absolute worst-case items are probably items most people will never need.
“In short," says Neal, "the shopper must beware."