David Krueger was a marine patrol officer for the state of Ohio in 1997 when swollen creeks and rivers flooded parts of southeastern Ohio. He was sent there on a search-and-rescue mission, and it was an eye-opener.
“I realized that although these people lived in an area prone to a natural disaster, they had no clue what was needed to survive,” said Mr. Krueger, who eventually logged 13 years as a park ranger and in other law-enforcement roles.
After returning to Toledo from the floods, he began designing emergency-preparedness kits, and in September, 1999, he started World Prep Inc. His Disaster Response Kit, weighing 39 pounds and then selling for $379.95, received immediate orders from California residents who feared earthquakes.
Since, other products have been added, including kits for boaters and duck hunters, $99.95 each, and for motorists, at $179.95. Within a year or so, Mr. Krueger's fledgling firm had managed to sell about $100,000 worth of kits, and the year after that, sales perked up slightly, he recalled. But then, terrorists destroyed New York's World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
“That made the business take off,” he said. “That made people realize this can happen, and we need to be prepared.”
He designed a Personal Evacuation Kit that sold for $37, and it quickly became a best-seller. World Prep has sold well over 10,000 of the kits in 11 countries, including Canada and parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Mideast. Sales this year topped $300,000 by May and should total $500,000 to $600,000 by year-end, Mr. Krueger said. Sales have been only through catalogs and the Internet.
The evacuation kit contains a respirator, a thermal blanket, packets of purified drinking water, a loud whistle for signaling, a glow stick, and a metal flashlight.
Most orders came from law firms, brokerages, and federal agencies, although 3,000 were ordered by the Chicago-based law firm of Kirkland & Ellis.
“We have been stopped by many tenants in the building inquiring about the kits during our drills,” said Nate Jackson, purchasing coordinator for the law firm, which also bought kits for its offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. “The kits have given the company a sense of security to a degree. Kirkland & Ellis is very pleased with the kits.”
World Prep's first product is still a steady seller, and Mr. Krueger dropped the price to $299.95 for two-person kits and $350 and up for four-person kits that can be custom-made from a wide range of optional equipment. The basic disaster kit includes a cooking stove with fuel tablets, cutlery, toiletries, safety vests, leather gloves, a shovel, playing cards, purified water, and vacuum-packed high-calorie food squares, among other things. Buyers can choose from 2,400-calorie packets, enough to feed one person for two days, or 3,600-calorie packets, enough for one person for three days.
Craig Shurek, an elementary school principal in Vaughn, Wash., wrote World Prep to praise the kit for helping in normalizing life after an emergency.
“We have just weathered our first natural disaster with our kit. We experienced a 6.8 earthquake. The kit you sold us was instrumental in enabling me to work with 76 staff members, 600-plus students, and 1,000 very nervous parents,” he wrote.
Mr. Krueger's latest product, inspired by the war in Iraq, is a Comfort Kit that sells for $24.95. It has a variety of toiletries not readily available in remote locations. In all, the firm has eight kits.
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