Just in case, emergency kits like the ones Congress has are hitting stores across the country

The Columbus Dispatch – September 23, 2004

Duct tape and plastic to seal windows and doors against chemical and biological attack are back, but this time in bright-orange backpacks.

Called Ready Kits — complete with a face mask, biohazard waste bag, water and other necessities — the bundles contain key items from Uncle Sam’s list of must-haves in case of a terrorist attack.

The cost: about $30.

The kits, which went on sale this month at national retailers including Costco, Home Depot, Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart, arrived at central Ohio Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores this week. Home Depot expects the bags in its central Ohio stores by next week, a spokeswoman said.

Produced by Home Guard Inc. of North Carolina, the backpacks were unveiled during an event by the Department of Homeland Security this month to help launch National Preparedness Month.

Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts distributed the kits to members of Congress early this month. The backpacks went on sale in New York and New Jersey the same day.

Online sales of the kits have skyrocketed, said Bob Confoy, president and chief executive of Home Guard.

“We expect to sell 2.5 million bags in the next six months,” he said.

Retailers predict the bags will be a big seller because most Americans are concerned about safety, said Beverly Rick, Sam’s Club spokeswoman.

“These kits give consumers the choice to be prepared,” she said. “It’s what our customers want.”

But on a recent day, most shoppers walked right by the kits on display at Wal-Mart.

A recent poll conducted for The Dispatch and WBNS-TV (Channel 10) by Saperstein Associates found that 69 percent of those surveyed are more concerned about the economy than the possibility of terrorist attacks on the United States.

Still, Naomi Ratcliff of the South Side said she thinks that most people already have stocked up on emergency supplies. She said the kits are a good idea for those who wait to the last minute to prepare.

“We got our emergency supplies, including duct tape and plastic, ready the first time the government said we should be prepared,” she said.

Cost has been a barrier for some, said Cindy Rosenthal, spokeswoman for the America Prepared Campaign, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that is helping distribute the Ready Kits.

“These kits remove the two main barriers of cost and time that families have told us have prevented them from having (emergency) kits,” she said. “If you add up the items in the kit for purchase separately, they cost more than double what the kits are being sold for.”

That’s one reason Wal-Mart chose to sell them, spokeswoman Karen Burk said.

“Having a plan and being prepared for emergency is the right thing to do,” Burk said.