TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) – Curt La Haise has had a lot of raiding over the years from friends who have called him paranoid for storing an eight month supply of groceries in his basement and having enough fuel to run his generator to drive all winter for almost a month.

They no longer laugh amid panic buying that has cleared shelves in the U.S. and growing fears that the new coronavirus will force many Americans to quarantine their homes for weeks.

“Now my friends are saying,” What should I do, what should I get? “Said La Haise, who runs a gun and security training store near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.” Preparing doesn’t look too bad now. ”

For those in the often mocked “prepper” community, this quickly becomes their “I told you” moment. But many refuse to say that even with it in the back of their minds. They hope that they will finally be taken seriously and that more people will follow their example.

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“We don’t laugh. We don’t say, “I told you,” when people are arguing out there over toilet paper and hand sanitizer, said Paul Buescher of Northfield Center Township, Ohio.

Buescher is one of 32 members of a group in northeast Ohio who shares a farm filled with enough canned food and dehydrated food and water to last for years. He said he would be called all day now for advice.

Survival supply stores cannot keep up with the demand for grocery kits and medical items.

“Every single business involved in emergency preparedness is overstretched,” said John Ramey, founder of a Colorado-based prepper website called The prepared.

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Most preppers say that it is all about self-reliance and common sense, and they are quick to distance themselves from the “doomsday preppers” that appear on television programs waiting for the day when most of the world’s population is removed from the map.

“The vast majority of these are ‘beans and plasters,’ not ‘bullets and bunkers,'” said Ramey.

Jim Cobb, a disaster preparedness advisor and editor-in-chief of Prepper Survival Guide magazine, said he saw some preppers delighting on social media about people looking for disinfectant in stores.

“I hate the thought of alienating one of them because they think they’re a bunch of elitist fools.” he said. “We try to take the opportunity that, for once, they don’t laugh and point their fingers at us.”

While most people who test positive for the virus have mild or moderate symptoms, older adults and people with existing health problems are at greater risk and have a longer recovery time.

Experts say the most important thing is to practice safe hygiene: wash your hands frequently, cover up your sneeze and cough, and stay home if you experience a fever or other symptoms.

The preppers have their own recommendations for anyone unsure of what to do next:

– Be prepared to stay home for at least two weeks. Have plenty to eat and drink. Don’t forget your pets and medicines. This includes over-the-counter products for fever and coughs.

– Yes, toilet paper is important, but so are hand sanitizers, disinfectants, sanitary wipes, eye protection and gloves.

– Get your finances in order. Make sure you can pay your bills and have cash on hand.

– Perhaps most importantly, relax and don’t panic. And pay attention to the news and what is happening around you.


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.