Entrepreneurs Make An Earthquake Bag That's Ready For The Big One
Seismologists say the odds of an earthquake of 6.7 magnitude or higher striking Southern California before 2037 are 93 percent, and nearly 100 percent for the entire state. The urgency for preparedness kicked up a notch this month after the Governor’s Offices of Emergency Services issued an alert about recent seismic activity around the San Andreas Fault. They said it might be a wind-up to “the Big One.”
Sandwiched between posts about #EarthquakeAdvisory and #TheBigOne on Twitter and Facebook, I noticed ads for something called The Earthquake Bag, a survival kit with a millennial sensibility, so I ordered one. The bag has everything you could need when everything goes wrong: food, water, a hand-charging flashlight and power source, and medical gear.
Check out what co-founder Skyler Hallgren had to say about staying quake-ready in a place as vulnerable as California.
First, what was the motivation behind building a business around The Earthquake Bag?
My partner, Zach Miller, and I started up the company. Neither of us are California natives. We moved out four or five years ago and the idea of living in a place with earthquakes was a new one to us. We took San Francisco’s Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) training. The lesson was, while you can’t be ready for everything, you can be prepared for many scenarios, and we started thinking about raising awareness for quake readiness. I was working for a company that stocked kitchens for tech companies so I was already in the supplies business, and pretty soon we thought, let’s build a better earthquake bag.
What was wrong with the existing emergency bags?
There was a lot of fluff on the market in terms of other kits. We didn’t love the quality and we noticed companies were adding filler items — like extra handwipes and bandages, multiple blankets — just so they could list a higher number of ‘items within’ on the packaging. We were much more conscious of making this useful in a real-life situation. What are our customers most likely to encounter in an actual earthquake. For us, the answer was to invest in things like light sources, communication assistance, more food and higher quality food and a filtration bottle that could really be impactful.
How does that translate as far as content? What are the coolest parts of your bags?
We have a hand-crank radio/flashlight/phone charger. It’s not the highest quality but it’s affordable and it will certainly last a week or two, which we expect would be the most anyone would need something like that. In an earthquake, you’re not likely to be crushed under a bridge or by falling stones. More likely you’ll be without electricity for a week or two and perhaps without clean water so we thought we’d focus our resources on those items. Our premium bags come with a portable stove and cook-in-bag meals that actually taste pretty good. You’ll be very happy with those in an emergency.
Are you a survivalist type by nature?
It wasn’t like we were doomsday preppers or survivalists but my partner and I love camping and hiking and are definitely outdoorsmen. I think we really just saw an opening in the market for this product. We definitely started small. We’d order items in the lowest quantities possible, packing them up in our apartments and hand delivering them around SF. Our living rooms were filled with earthquake supplies. We launched the first version of The Earthquake Bag in October of 2015. We now have a facility to store everything, which is great because it means we’re growing.
Have you been in an earthquake?
I have been, but not in California. One was in Chile and I had no idea what was going on. I remember thinking there must be a huge train nearby. Oddly enough, I also felt one on the east coast a few years ago that was reported in the area around New York.
I heard about the bag on Facebook. Is that your main advertising engine?
Yes, we’re almost exclusively known through social media. It’s not just ads. A lot of the attention was article driven. We started writing about different types of emergency and earthquake scenarios to envision in denser urban areas. We’d share that information as we learned it, and that content took on legs of its own as people shared it.