Zombies. Nuclear War. Earthquake. Pandemic
Utah has become a haven not only for preppers, but for businesses that cater to them—a quick count finds at least 100 companies dealing specifically in emergency preparation and survival goods and services. That’s not counting gun stores and recreational outlets like REI and Cabela’s that sell freeze-dried food, cooking, shelter, navigation equipment and weaponry that would come in handy in a civil meltdown.
“A lot of national manufacturers are headquartered here,” says Bill Moon, a salesman for Salt Lake-based Wise Company, which offers compact food packages that have a 25-year shelf life. “We’re growing rapidly.”
Moon and others in the industry give credit to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its tradition of preaching preparation for hard times. It’s nearly a Mormon cultural imperative to stock a two-year supply of food and many Utah homes have storage rooms built in. “I link it back to the LDS church and its strong counsel to be prepared,” Moon says. “Lately, with Katrina and the flooding in Colorado, we’ve seen what a good idea that is. Who would have thought that could have happened?”
“Utah seems to have more of a market per capita than other states,” says Tim Pedersen, a preparedness consultant at Orem-based Emergency Essentials, which sends out 100,000 catalogs a month in addition to its extensive website. “But our strongest business [in total revenue] is out of state.”
“Prepping, whatever you want to call it, has been around for centuries. It used to be a rural thing, now it’s moving into urban environments,” he says. “Emergency Essentials is a preparedness supermarket—we carry much more than food. We try to make sure we have something for everyone.” They even offer survival bundles for pets.
The prepper business, whether it’s aimed at weathering an electrical outage or nuclear holocaust, is booming.
Jerry “The Cob” Cobb, an instructor for St. George-based onPoint Tactical survival school, has one of the more cohesive explanations for the impending breakdown of society: a civil war between America’s conservatives and its progressive-dominated government. Obama and his supporters are not about to let democracy play out, he says.
“Liberals will do whatever it takes to hang on to power. It’s a basic principle of survival,” Cobb says. “It would be the same if conservatives were in power. People will do anything to survive.”
onPoint trains civilians in urban escape, survival and “exiting the grid.” “If an event comes—it could be anything—everyone will want to get out of the cities,” Cobb says. In this desperate dog-eat-dog scenario, onPoint’s training departs from most disaster plans. “FEMA’s 72-hour kits help you hold it together in the Superdome,” Cobb says. “We teach: Don’t go to the Superdome—you will die there. The veneer of civilization is thin. When people are hungry, they will do anything. ”
Amid this boom is the Utah Division of Emergency Management, trying to carry out its charge to prepare for major disaster. “People need to be aware. We know Utah is at risk for wildfire, flood and earthquake,” says Utah DEM spokesman Joe Dougherty. “We know help will come, but we don’t know how long it will be before it arrives.”
The division works closely with prepper businesses, particularly Emergency Essentials, which co-sponsored the 2013 Great Utah ShakeOut earthquake-awareness drill. “We have a really good relationship with a lot of these companies. They have been beneficial to get our message out,” Dougherty says.
“I’m not a conspiracy theorist,” says Utah Shelter Systems President Paul Seyfried. “I’m only doing everything the U.S. Government is doing in pre-positioning stocks of water, food and medical supplies. Except I’m doing it for my family.”
He scoffs at expecting government help in a catastrophe. “When it’s least expected, you’re elected,” he quips.
Black Blade: Seems like it was a good convention.