For years, many people have mocked survivalists, or "preppers" as they are sometimes called, who stock up on food, water, and basic military supplies in case the worst happens.

But with coronavirus spreading, suddenly those people with a year's supply of food and water in their homes don't look so zany after all. And the general public is now turning to them for advice, as we found at one store.

Matt Jones owns a survival store, Omega Survival Supply in Dayton, Ohio.

When customers come (and there have been a lot of new ones lately), they have to knock first. Jones peeks to see who is outside, then opens the door. A sign says no cell phone cameras, but Jones agreed to make an exception for our visit.

Inside, most customers asked that we not take their photo.

However, one regular customer, Aaron Thacker, didn't mind, and explained he was there to top off his supplies, just in case coronavirus becomes a worst-case scenario.

"Yeah, I've already got food supplies, ammo magazines, and lots of first aid equipment," Thacker said.

Jones, meantime, was demonstrating water filters to several new customers, who he says are coming in from four states away.

"This is a bottle where you can scoop water from the river, you have your filter built in," he explained, showing off a water bottle that can also make river water drinkable.

Survivalists have an "essentials" list

Jones says even before coronavirus was making headlines, he was suggesting that every family have a basic survival kit that would include:

  • Water
  • First aid kits and essential medicine
  • A hand-cranked or solar-powered radio (so you are not reliant on a cell signal)
  • Walkie Talkies
  • Self protection (he sells a lot of canisters of pepper spray)
  • Food.

Water and food is the most important, this expert survivalist says. "The number one thing people are asking about right now," he says, "is storage foods."

By storage food, he means food that is dried and sealed to last for years.

"The difference between packaged food you buy in the store an storage food is simply the way it is packaged," he says, saying a good mac and cheese kit can last 20 years.

But a lot of that storage food is now on back order (just like masks and hand sanitizer, which he does not have anymore).

If you talk to people shopping here, you realize they are not planning to hole up in the mountains waiting for the end of the world.

Rather they just want to have some supplies on hand for the peace of mind it provides.

"It eliminates the fear. You don't have any fear if you are prepared," said one woman customer who did not want us to use her name.

Matt Jones says he has dealt with years of skepticism from the general public. But no one is making fun of people who prep anymore, with no one knowing how far the coronavirus threat will expand.

Don't have a survival store near you? Try a military surplus store, which sells many of the same things, and are in most communities.

Or you can try ordering meal kits and water purifiers online, so you don't waste your money.

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