This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Amid all the economic troubles in the world, more and more Utahns are focusing on securing some of the state's traditional sources of comfort for uncertain times basements full of food and maybe a few gold and silver coins for their pockets.
Much like the Y2K scare and the sense of vulnerability that enveloped the nation in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the recent turmoil in the stock market and the threat of a double-dip recession have sparked renewed interest in preparing for what many believe will be tough economic times ahead.
"I'm sure when the stock market sold off, some people for the first time started thinking about getting prepared," said Kellene Bishop, who runs the http://www.preparednesspro.com website. "Where I think it really made an impact, though, was among those already with the (preparedness) mindset. I think it was a wake-up call a reminder they needed to hasten their steps and that the time for dry runs soon may be over."
Many Utah residents traditionally have focused on food storage and emergency preparedness, in large part because of the influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose leaders have long urged members to embrace such practices.
But the Great Recession, which began in the summer of 2007, the accompanying and stubbornly high unemployment rate, continued fears of job losses and new reports of rising food prices seem to have instilled a new sense of urgency among many of the state's residents.
Lee Brock, of Salt Lake City, said he and his family have some food and water stored at their home but that it isn't enough for him to feel comfortable when he thinks about the economy getting worse.
"Getting more food storage is a priority for us," he said. "And I think it's that way with a lot of people. When I go to the grocery store, I've noticed that people seem to be changing their buying habits and are picking up more items in bulk."
Don Pectol, spokesman for the Orem-based Emergency Essentials chain of food storage and preparedness stores, thinks that more than just the recent market turmoil is influencing Utahns' decision to prepare for an uncertain economic future.
Emergency Essential's business has increased steadily the past several years, he said, while pointing out that there any number of reasons people start thinking about getting prepared.
"We live in a volatile and uncertain world," Pectol said. "People are fearful of losing their jobs, or maybe a neighbor has been laid off. Anything of that kind is often enough to get someone thinking more seriously about what they need to do to become prepared for the future."
The uncertainty over Europe's sovereign debt crisis and the riots in Great Britian also may be playing a role in sending recession-weary Utahns to stores to start stocking up on beans, rice and other staples. And here at home, government data show that food prices are rising, and fear seems widespread that inflation may soon kick into high gear and send the cost of other necessities higher, as well.
"We've been dealing with rising food prices for quite awhile," and customers have noticed, said Derek Johnston, director of marketing for the Augason Farms Outlet Store in Salt Lake City.
Those higher prices, rather than slowing down purchases by those committed to stocking up their larders, seem to be having the opposite effect. Many now seem to be of the mind that it may be better to buy sooner, rather than waiting and paying more for the same item down the road, he said.
Along with consumers stocking up on food, area coin dealers report that Utahns increasingly are turning to buying precious metals primarily gold and silver to hedge against what some perceive will be a financially devastating bout of inflation in the years ahead.
"We're seeing a lot of first-time buyers coming in now," said Bob Campbell, the proprietor at All About Coins in Sugar House. "There are a lot of people who are really fearful that the dollar soon will become worthless."
Campbell said some who come into his store obviously are interested only in speculating that the price of gold and silver will continue to rise (despite last week's big dip). They are buying precious metals on the hope they will be able to sell it for a higher price in the future.
Others, though, are buying because they perceive precious metals as a good way to store value and preserve their wealth though tough economic times. "They are the buyers who feel like the economy is barely hanging on," Campbell said.
He includes in that group the "survivalists," those who believe that with the imminent fall of the dollar, gold and silver coins will become the new currency of the realm, and that those without such resources will be reduced to bartering to get by.
"Some of the survivalists have an almost 'Hollywoodesque' view of the future, with roving bands of starving people and cannibals everywhere," he said. "If that is going to be the case, they'd probably be better off stocking up on food and ammunition."
Kevin White, the manager of the General Army Navy Outdoor store in Taylorsville, said it isn't unusual for customers to express their worries about the economy while shopping. "The economy has been on people's minds a lot over the last couple of years."
White said he has noticed one category of products in his store that has been extremely popular gold pans and rock picks.
"Last year I placed one order. This year I've had to reorder four times," he said.
The state of Utah encourages its residents to be prepared for emergencies. It just doesn't go as far as suggesting they stock up on a year's supply of food and fuel.
"At the basic level, we encourage people to have a 72-hour kit," that consists of enough food for at least three days and one gallon of water per day for each member of the family, said Ryan Longman, the manager of Be Ready Utah, a program that operates under the state's Division of Emergency Management, which is part of the Utah Department of Public Safety.
Be Ready Utah also suggests families have at least two weeks of water, food and fuel stored in the event of catastrophic emergencies, such as a 7.0 earthquake that could knock out utility services for an extended period of time, he said.
Get started preparing for the worst
Be Ready Utah, a state program, offers a website that Utahns can use to help them prepare for emergencies. Go to http://www.bereadyutah.gov.