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Survival Mode

Survival Mode
By Julie Irwin Zimmerman

From hurricanes to blizzards to flu pandemics, disasters can strike anytime, anywhere. Many people fail to plan for emergencies, but Richard Harris is ready to help. Harris is CEO and “sustenance guru” of P3 Secure, which supplies self-heating meals, shelf-stable water and other products required for survival in emergencies.

Relief organizations urge people to have a three-day supply of food and water on hand in case of an emergency. Only half of Americans have any supplies, though, and many of those are insufficient. For instance, most water in plastic bottles can grow bacteria and is only good for about a year. P3 Secure’s water comes in aseptic packaging that’s good for five years. The meals, which can be heated in eight to 10 minutes with an included heating element, can last for at least three years. The company also produces hygiene kits with items such as hand sanitizer, toothpaste and self-heating washcloths.

Harris, a 1986 business graduate and former member of the men’s basketball team, founded P3 Secure in 2007 after working with a defense contractor in disaster areas. While MREs (meals ready to eat) existed for soldiers, he noted that average citizens in a disaster had different needs and would want meals that resembled something they’d eat every day.

“When disruption occurs, the meal is the most important thing of the day, so we wanted it to be as normal as possible,” Harris says.

The company, based in West Chester, Ohio, sells its disaster-response kits to government agencies, corporations, relief organizations and individuals. In 2008, it sent half a million meals and products to victims of Hurricane Ike, and the company donated to Haiti earthquake relief efforts. Many businesses are clients, Harris says, because they understand the need to take care of employees who might be stranded in an emergency, but individual consumers are harder to convince.

Events like the winter’s fierce storms on the East Coast, as well as earthquakes and the H1N1 scare, “make it easier to talk about disaster preparedness,” Harris says, “but the inclination of most people is to think about it but not to act.”

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