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Preparing organizations and individuals for natural disasters since 2005

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Daily Breeze Article - April 6, 2011

By Muhammed El-Hasan
Staff Writer for the Daily Breeze

Mina Arnao, left, and Cindy Owings are co-owners of a Lawndale business called More Prepared, which sells disaster preparedness kits. (Scott Varley / Staff Photographer)

Jeff Daquila, owner of a San Pedro Army surplus store, knows the pattern.

A disaster occurs. People learn about it on the news.

Then customers stream into his store in search of dried food, first aid kits, flashlights and other supplies to prepare for the next disaster. It happened in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans and devastated other parts of the South.

But last month's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Japan was different, said Daquila, a 20-year veteran of the Army surplus business who owns The Surplus Guy in San Pedro.

The Japan disaster, which continues today with countless people made homeless and a leaking nuclear reactor, sent an unexpectedly larger rush of customers to Daquila's store.

"I think this one hit a little closer to home for some reason," Daquila said. "I think seeing the Japanese, how prepared they were, I think that made people say, `Hey, we have to be prepared, too."'

The Lawndale firm More Prepared sells 5-gallon buckets with items individuals or families would need to survive. (Scott Varley / Staff Photographer)

As the Japanese continue to dig up bodies and salvage buildings in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake, some South Bay companies have seen a boost in business.

At the other end of the South Bay, workers at More Prepared in Hawthorne recently were busy packaging 4,000 emergency kits in an assembly line.

The first few days after the Japan disaster brought a rush of business from

people calling to buy potassium iodide pills to protect against radiation, said Mina Arnao, who co-owns More Prepared.

"Then the following two weeks we just had a huge surge of people coming into our place," Arnao said. "They were buying emergency kits, just family emergency kits. The other big thing was the water barrels, like the 55-gallon barrels to store water."

Some customers came from as far away as Simi Valley.

"That's why you could tell people were really worried. They were willing to drive all that way," she said.

Even after the initial rush, people are still ordering supplies, Arnao said.

Arnao and her partner Cindy Owings started More Prepared in 2005 in an El Segundo warehouse.

And various disasters - natural and human-caused - have helped their company grow.

About a year ago, they moved into their current Hawthorne warehouse, which has about 7,000 square feet, double the previous location.

"The news is a major driver," Arnao said. "People watch the news and that's what drives them to be prepared. And I think that's a good thing, not out of fear but just wanting to get prepared."

It's not just individual consumers seeking disaster kits to keep their families safe. Institutions, from city and state government to large companies, are spending on preparedness.

About 80 percent of More Prepared's business comes from institutional customers, Arnao said.

"People are just much more aware of the fact that they're going to be on their own if something big happens," she said.