Profits from prophets

If paranoia is the fear of an irrational threat, is it irrational to prepare for an apocalyptic event such as an asteroid hit?

What about a North Korean nuke attack? Monster hurricane? Global banking system crash? Mega stock-market collapse? Or even a solar storm knocking out the power grid?

Once the realm of overly cautious civil-defense planners and wackos, American survivalists sense the worst is just around the corner.

They’re taking disaster-planning mainstream. And they’re generating big bucks — as well as opportunities for OnTrendpreneurs to capitalize on a growing, profitable business niche.

Just look at climbing sales of bomb shelters, emergency survival kits, home farming, freeze-dried foods, powder supplements and solar-powered tools. Those survivalists also are stocking up on gold and planning evacuation routes.

The Big Picture energizes their actions:

• They see a splintered America on edge politically, with President Donald Trump either impetuous and bravado-driven or ready to defend America First.

• They gauge the threat of nations already at war, or on war footing. They’re ready if rhetoric quickly explodes into combat.

• They steel themselves for when now-common international and domestic terror strikes hit close to home.

• They stock up to survive once-rare weather calamities devastating communities more regularly.

They see all this now, but global forecaster Gerald Celente predicted this neo-survivalism trend in 2009.

Eight years ago, he explained that Americans, in a world after threats of Y2K new-millennium computer crashes and the 9/11 attacks, realized they’d be largely on their own in the event of a major disaster.

Now, in addition to cyber and terror threats, the powerful specter of catastrophe seems to be stampeding from every direction.


When trends emerge, savvy business entrepreneurs see and capture the money starting to flow. Disaster-focused risk-management consultants and business-continuity and emergency-preparedness planners are raking in the dollars. Scores of firms, many formed in the past decade, advise business clients on surviving epidemics, earthquakes, civil strife and other potentially catastrophic disruption.

Some focus on information technology and electronic-file protection, fearing major cyberattacks or power-grid failures, which now are seemingly everyday occurrences. Those threats in part prompted International Data Corp. to forecast that worldwide revenues for security-related hardware, software and services will grow from $73.7 billion in 2016 to $101.6 billion in 2020.

Individual and family survivalists are prepping with lessons from online. The web and social media link to survival advice and disaster-preparedness products such as generators, water-purification pills, Geiger counters and biological-warfare safety kits. features You Tube videos, advice and products for disaster preparedness. tailors survival kits to families of “one to 30” and sells food with 25-year shelf lives. And sales have jumped since November 2016, when Trump was elected.

Still, the hard lessons of calamity are often learned after the fact. For instance, governments, after killer hurricanes, face leveled communities, big bills and collapsed economies. Texas and Florida declared tax holidays on purchases of certain disaster supplies, and they’re revisiting planning and zoning in flood-prone areas. Wisconsin, Louisiana and Michigan upgraded evacuation and emergency-response plans. In New York and New Jersey, hundreds of millions have been spent to fortify mass transit, and shore communities and infrastructure, devastated after Superstorm Sandy.

As concerns about disaster management, survival and recovery go mainstream, some dollar-grabs face scrutiny.

A July 2015 University of Virginia study showed bottled-water prices rose slowly in coastal areas prior to hurricanes. But prices dramatically spiked, including significant price-gouging, after landfall. Thirty-four states now have anti-gouging laws, many issued after Superstorm Sandy, according to, an economics blog.

And survivalism is earning scholarly review, too., a United Nations disaster-preparedness platform, features 523 scholarly papers regarding American disaster preparedness, planning and recovery efforts, with topics including smart-grid security, bio-hazard reduction and new levee technology.


Disaster-planning fear went mainstream when America faced the Soviet atomic threat in the 1950s. The US Office of Civil Defense promoted home shelters and published manuals showing how to build and stock them with supplies. The government readied tens of thousands of public fallout shelters across the country.

Kids in the late 1950s were taught to “duck and cover,” seek a shelter and, to counteract an atomic blast’s radiation, pour asparagus juice over their heads. But as Soviet tensions eased, these shelters were abandoned and forgotten.

Today, we’re far past answers from asparagus. Dozens of companies sell pre-fab shelters to nervous Americans. In business since 1950, Atlas Survival Shelters sells 18 models, from galvanized steel pods to deep-earth concrete bunkers. All, equipped and furnished, can withstand events such as tornadoes, conventional-weapon and nuclear attacks and bio-chemical events.


Pointed remarks from Washington and Pyongyang are more than political. They’re bellwethers for survivalists and businesses.

“Since the North Korea scare, sales have really taken off,” Atlas Manager Scott Saenz said. “We normally sell about 120 units per year, but this year is different due to all the media attention we’re getting. People are worried and they want protection. The best seller is our 51-footer for family use. It’s like having an insurance policy in the event of a disaster.”

Trump powered American jitters by calling Kim Jong-Un “Little Rocket Man” and “a madman on a suicide mission.” Jong-Un said Trump’s threat to “totally destroy North Korea” in the event of North Korean aggression was a “declaration of war.”

What came next? The New York Times, Fox News, and the UK’s Guardian reported how Californians were girding — survivalism techniques included — for a possible nuclear attack by North Korea.


As millions of spooked Americans prep for the worst, the online “Prepper” community has gone viral and mainstream. Loosely consisting of hundreds of sub-groups, Preppers offer survival advice, products, personal ads and comfort, with boots-on-the-ground militia-style leanings.

Preppers think beyond the disaster, to a time when civil chaos will reign. They want to be prepared, in control, locked and loaded. In addition to natural disasters and real threats from foreign adversaries, these home-grown groups may present yet another unanticipated threat.   TJ

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