NUCLEAR CRISIS:

Japan disasters drive U.S. sales of disaster kits

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear calamity in Japan jolted Americans, who now are snapping up disaster kits.

Backpacks and other containers packed with three days' worth of food and water, blankets, first aid and other supplies are selling quickly at both stores and Internet locations.

"We've just been crazy the last week," said Delois Stinson, owner of Utah-based Survival Solutions, where sales have nearly quadrupled since the Japan quake. "Any major thing anywhere around the world, it gets people thinking and realizing they need to have some supplies."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that people keep a kit with supplies for each family member for three days, in case help cannot arrive following a disaster or attack. It should contain water, nonperishable food, a manual can opener, a first aid kit, a flashlight and extra batteries, a whistle, a battery-powered or hand crank radio, a dust mask, plastic sheeting and duct tape, garbage bags for sanitation needs, a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, local maps and a cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger.

States prone to earthquakes and hurricanes, like California, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana also have encouraged residents to keep emergency supplies on hand.

A catastrophe at the level of the one in Japan has motivated people all over the country to purchase kits, several online sellers said. In addition, they said, businesses are buying supplies for workers.

Since the Japan disasters, California-based American Family Safety has sold as many as 200 kits to businesses, said owner Michael Baruch. Those customers include Fortune 500 companies, banks and two U.S. embassies that are located overseas. Baruch declined to say where those embassies are located.

Businesses typically buy either a large cache of supplies for all their workers, Baruch said, or individual packs for each worker. Those contain a light stick, thermal blanket, rations of food and water, a respirator mask and whistle.

Sales of individual kits at American Family Safety are up about 500 percent, Baruch said.

"Most of them just said, 'I've been thinking about this a long time, we've had a wakeup call, now is as good a time as any,'" Baruch said of the recent customers.

At the earthquakestore.com, an online store based in a Los Angeles suburb, kits are back-ordered two weeks. At Custom Safety Ltd., a shop in Victoria, British Columbia, "they're lined up at the front door," said owner Richard Clarke.

Victoria sits in the "Pacific Ring of Fire," a horseshoe in the Pacific Ocean Basin where the majority of the world's earthquakes and volcanoes occur. Japan also sits in the area.

"Every minute there's a sale going through," Clarke said.

The city of 350,000 tends to be prepared, he said, but many were updating kits they already had. He has also sold to about 200 to 300 businesses, he said, and Canada's Department of National Defence.

All of the shops said they are sold out of one item: potassium iodine tablets, which can be taken to mitigate the effects of nuclear radiation exposure.

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