Disaster preparedness is not a new business niche, and people known as "preppers" stock up regardless of the latest geopolitical tweets. But the escalation of hostilities between the United States and North Korea is making disaster preparedness and, in particular, medical supplies for a nuclear blast a bigger business. "We see [increased sales] every time North Korea is in the news," Bansemer said.
At emergency protection website Nukepills.com, which has distributed potassium iodide pills for 19 years, business went up more than 5,000 percent in August during North Korean nuclear testing. The company had to stop taking orders, and it took the company 10 days to catch up. After Trump's Jan. 2 tweet, Nukepills.com owner Troy Jones sold another 140,000 doses and had to staff seven more people. All but two of these employees are full-time. Last week's false alarm in Hawaii indicating a nuclear attack also fueled sales. He's working day now starts at 7 a.m. through to midnight.
Previous sales spikes have been driven by consumers within the states most vulnerable to a nuclear attack. When North Korea launched a missile over Japan in August, Mypatriotsupply.com sold potassium iodide pills mostly to the Pacific Northwest and California, Bansemer said. But now the company is receiving orders from all over the United States.
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Jones said the increased consumer interest in radiation preparation equipment started the morning Trump was elected. Nukepills.com offers other products, such as decontamination kits and water filtration devices, but potassium iodide pills have always been the top seller. This year has been the site's best year since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Now when Jones sees an increase in sales he can't understand, he checks Twitter. Every time Trump tweets about North Korea, Jones sells out in one day what normally sells out in a few weeks.
The three FDA-approved brands of potassium iodide Jones sells cost $10, $12.95 and $19.95 for a 10- to 15-day supply for a single adult. The customers vary. "It would be incorrect to say it's just the tinfoil hat-wearing person," he said. He added that families and the highly educated make up a large number of customers.