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Idaho Business Review: Emergency Gear Company Expanding in Idaho

9/20/2012

Guardian Survival Gear, a wholesaler of emergency survival kits and equipment, will move its warehouse to Boise and has expansion plans that could triple its Idaho workforce in the next few years.

Guardian Survival Gear manufactures, packages and sells survival kits and products that can help people in the face of natural disasters, including fires and earthquakes. The company also sells long-term food supplies and seed packets for people concerned with a food supply disruption. Guardian leaders say the company had $2.2 million in revenues last year and serves 4,500 resellers.

Daniel Kunz founded the company in southern California in 2005 after seeing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Kunz pieced together 72-hour survival kits, which include food and all the other necessary gear a person needs to be self-sufficient for three days. The company has grown to have a warehouse in Ogden, Utah, with headquarters in office space in downtown Boise. Both will move to the new warehouse on Federal Way in south Boise.

Kunz relocated the company to Boise after a trip last year, but he and CEO Justin Evans said Boise was supposed to be a temporary headquarters, with the company considering moving back to California or Las Vegas, Evans’ hometown.

“I’m a Vegas kid. My family’s been there since the ’50s. It’s my home. But we started looking at the numbers and what made sense for the company,” Evans said. “Boise was the answer: economic stability, family-friendly environment, and people here are really excited about survival kits and emergency preparedness.”

Both Evans and Kunz also said Boise offers natural advantages, which include outdoor recreation as well as practical concerns if there is a disaster.

“In a disaster situation, we’d rather, personally, be in Boise than Vegas. It’s just a more prepared city, in general,” Kunz said. “In Vegas, there’s only one way in and out, and the water supply is somewhat limited.”

The company sells a wide range of survival kits, including “go bags” – with an entire 72-hour kit in a small backpack – and kits tailored for hunters and for school classrooms in lockdown or other emergency situations.

Guardian will move into its new warehouse space Oct. 12. Kunz said the company decided Sept. 11 to double its leased space to 7,000 square feet. Its offices will leave downtown in November, and by the middle of next year the company will lease 10,000 square feet of space.

“We didn’t plan on expanding as quickly as we’ve grown, but the need’s been there,” Evans said. Once the warehouse is up and running, the company will have 10 employees in Boise, plus three out-of-state workers. The company could hire up to 20 employees in the next year, with Evans saying some of that need is in sales, customer service and web and graphic design.

Being prepared

Guardian and other survival preparedness companies say they’re out to serve people exercising prudence, not people waiting for an apocalypse. Doomsday is having something of a heyday, with the rise of reality television shows on “doomsday preppers” and proclamations that the world will end this year, based on interpretations of the Mayan calendar or the Bible.

Kunz said Guardian is focused on a broader clientele.

“Our niche is the average, everyday family who wants to be prepared,” he said. “Sure, we have other people who buy from us. We have a strong prepper audience who buy from us.”

“It’s not for the extreme end-of-the-world (scenario),” Evans said. “It’s for even a small disaster. If you lose your job, you’ll have a little food storage to help you.”

Paul “Crash” Marusich, Public Education and Mitigation Specialist for Ada City County Emergency Management, said the most likely emergency scenarios in southwest Idaho include extreme hot or cold weather that could knock out power, with earthquakes, fires and flooding among a variety of situations that could require people to use emergency supplies.

Evans said the company’s done well in the past few years, perhaps because of the economic downturn. He also said recent disasters, including wildfires across the American west this summer and the Japanese tsunami last year, have led to a surge in sales, though not to the areas affected.

“The surge doesn’t always come from where the disaster is. It usually doesn’t,” Evans said. “It comes from other places where people are seeing it on the news.”

The Treasure Valley is already home to some companies offering survival kits. Survival Solutions opened in west Boise in January and sells survival products and hosts classes on related topics.

Store manager Jerry Todd said the store also caters to concerned families that want to have some supplies in case of an emergency, which could include a sizable dip in the economy, a wildfire or an earthquake. He said if the Mayan calendar apocalypse theory is right – believers say the world will end in fewer than 100 days – having food and other supplies would be little use.

“If the world comes to an end, am I going to be buying food storage, or am I going to be going to Vegas?” Todd joked.

Todd’s store, like Guardian, sells long-lasting food in bulk for people who want months’ worth of meals in case of an emergency. Buying in bulk, each meal could cost $1.25. Still, having a year’s supply, which Todd said he has, would cost more than $5,400 for a family of four, so the store offers installment purchases for some buyers.

Todd said he expected members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whichencourages people to have three-month supply of food on hand, to be a sizable customer base, but that hasn’t been the case. He expected Mormons to make up 70 percent of the food storage market, though they’ve been closer to 30 percent.

“More and more people are recognizing there is a need to be prepared and take care of their family,” Todd said.

State officials don’t recommend quite as large a supply of food.

“Everybody should have some level of preparedness that should make them self-sufficient for a few days,” said Robert Feeley, spokesman for the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security. That includes food, water and other supplies. He also said that Idahoans are likely better prepared than many other Americans.

“Idaho is a little bit better off than many other states, because we’ve got a lot of rural communities that don’t run to the grocery store for every meal,” Feeley said. “They’ve got food stored in their house.”

Evans said the kind of food people have on hand also matters. He said Guardian’s food is meant to be easy to prepare – by adding hot water to pouches, similar to many packaged camping meals – and tasty. He said in a pinch, that’s easier to turn into food than stockpiled rice, flour and sugar.

“What do you do with that? I’m not a chef. I don’t know what to do with flour, sugar and rice,” Evans said.

What to put in a survival kit

The Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security says there are six main categories of basics for a home survival kit.  The general rule of thumb is to have a three-day supply, similar to the 72-hour kits Guardian Survival Gear sells, because it could take that long for a mobilized response to an emergency.

* Water: one gallon per person per day for drinking, food preparation and sanitation

* Food, including nonperishable food that requires little to no preparation or cooking

* First-aid kit, which should be stored both at home and in any vehicles

* Tools and supplies, including camping supplies such as flashlights and toilet paper, as well as radios and any tools to shut off household gas and water

* Clothing and bedding, including warm clothes and sturdy footwear

* Special items, such as medication, eyeglasses and important legal records.

Paul “Crash” Marusich, Public Education and Mitigation Specialist for Ada City-County Emergency Management, said people should include some comfort foods that don’t have a multi-year shelf life. Such treats could provide comfort if something bad happens. They also need to be replaced more frequently, forcing people to re-open and reassess their emergency kit on a regular basis.

Marusich said that many Idahoans who like to camp outdoors have the equipment needed for a survival kit, but it isn’t organized and assembled, which is key if an emergency requires people to quickly leave their home.

SOURCE: Idaho Business Review

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