Disaster Preparedness Kits Get a Facelift. Whitney McGuire had never considered keeping an emergency survival kit in her house until last year. However, as the West Coast braced for a record-breaking fire season in 2020, the Brooklyn-based attorney, sustainability consultant, and mother began to wonder what she may need to do if a climate-related calamity struck closer to home.
“I was experiencing a lot of worry about everything,” she explained, “and I wanted to feel like I had some control over whatever the apocalypse looked like for me.”
Ms. McGuire, 35, began shopping for goods online and discovered the emerging world of fashionable emergency preparation businesses.
Recent studies show that the US is in the midst of a “tidal wave of culture change” when it comes to Disaster Preparedness Kits, according to Aaron Levy, head of FEMA’s individual and community readiness division.
“I believe we’re seeing a shift in the belief that ‘this can’t happen where I live,'” Mr. Levy said.
Though government organisations like FEMA and NGOs like the Red Cross have always worked to prepare people for disasters, the growth of for-profit firms operating in the same field demonstrates just how significant that shift has been.
Companies in this category that have been operating for a long time and appeal to survivalists and ex-military types, such as Uncharted Supply Co. (which offers streamlined backpacks carrying miniature shovels, stormproof matches, and water filters) and My Medic (which sells extensive first aid supplies packaged in utilitarian bags). However, according to Ms. McGuire, these firms target “outdoorsy, cis white males,” with marketing materials that frequently portray strong white people wearing flannel shirts in the forest.
As a result, a new generation of Disaster Preparedness Kits enterprises has emerged, catering to a more fashion-conscious consumer. Preppi, a Goop-approved business that sells catastrophe supplies in minimalist backpacks, and Judy, which has partnered with celebrities like the Kardashians, Chrissy Teigen, and TikTok phenomenon Addison Rae to advertise its portable generators and waterproof supply bags, are among the most prominent.
That’s on purpose. Judy was founded by Simon Huck, CEO of celebrity PR agency Command Entertainment Group and a close friend of Kim Kardashian, and Josh Udaskin, best known for founding the buzzy but short-lived bag brand Raden.
“Emergency preparation required a rebranding,” Mr. Huck explained. “It can be quite frightening, and I believe a lot of people shut down when they hear about it.” So our aim has been to figure out how to encourage people to care.
Ada Mayer, creative director of Red Antler, devised their strategy, which focused on eliciting good feelings rather than exploiting the dread that so frequently accompanies emergency planning. Judy never displays “after” photographs of homes devastated by wildfires or flooding, always “before” images of happy families in pre-disaster living rooms.
The brand’s characteristic orange is reminiscent of traffic cones, signifying caution without raising the mental alert that Ms. Mayer refers to as “medical red.” And the design has a chunky typography that she describes as “strong and sturdy” while yet being “a little bit welcoming and disarming.”
Other issues with market-led disaster responses, according to Dr. Samantha Montano, associate professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy and author of “Disasterology.” “This personal approach has drawbacks,” she explained. “In particular, the idea of preparedness as a consumeristic process in which someone can go out and purchase a bunch of goods and then be OK.”
Instead, she would want to see a stronger emphasis on comprehensive Disaster Preparedness, with a special emphasis on communities who cannot afford to spend $195 to $995 on a Kardashian-approved emergency kit.
Mr. Huck objects to the labelling of firms like his as opportunistic, comparing their offers to those of an alarm service or insurance company. And if approachable branding like Judy’s can help “make emergency preparation part of the zeitgeist, where people can genuinely talk about it without feeling put off,” he’ll feel like he’s achieved a portion of his mission.
Ms. McGuire found Judy items to be prohibitively expensive, as did what she thought to be the brand’s lack of focus in servicing the working-class people who are most in need of disaster aid. She is still concerned about emergency preparedness for her own family.