Local Bulk-Food Vendor Preaches Preparation

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The fatalists believe that civilization will grind to a halt at the stroke of midnight Dec. 31, 1999, when a programming oversight will cause computers to shut down worldwide.

Others hold the belief that the Y2K computer problem is a mere annoyance, and that the world will continue to revolve to infinity.

Gary and Chiryl Cole of Payson fall somewhere in the middle of the two categories, and believe that preparation is the key to surviving any crisis.

For the past six months, the Coles have been conducting seminars to pass on some of their tips to prepare for the turn of the century, while reducing the fear of the unknown.

"This is the only potential disaster in the history of mankind that has a date and a deadline associated with it," Cole said.

The Coles' next seminar is at 2 p.m. this Sunday, Feb. 7 at the Mesa del Community Center.

Sitting in front of the Coles' Back To Basics health food store -- while cars continued to pour in and out of his busy North Beeline Highway parking lot -- Cole boldly proclaimed, "I'm excited about Y2K, I really am."

The reason, he said, is not because Y2K has been good for business --although it has --but because he and his wife feel they're ready for whatever the next few years may throw at mankind.

"I don't need any more business right now," he said. "We're flooded with what we've got."

Cole and his wife, Chiryl, were thrust into the local Y2K spotlight, not because they were computer experts or religious zealots, but because they had unique knowledge of bulk food storage.

"When we first bought Back To Basics 5 1/2 years ago, it was a bulk food business, not just natural foods," Cole said. "It was owned by Mormons, and was a very small store, and the lady that first started it did so to mainly sell bulk foods."

Little by little, the Coles expanded their product lines to include natural foods, homeopathic medicines, vitamins and dried foods.

About two years ago, Cole said he started noticing people stocking up more and more on bulk foods. When he sought out a possible reason for the increase in sales, he found it in a tiny little computer glitch that threatened to shut down the world's computers.

Since then, the Coles have been brushing up on their knowledge of the millennium bug and its possible impact on the human race. They've also become self-proclaimed experts in emergency preparedness.

While they have been stockpiling supplies for their store, Cole said they've found it harder and that it's taking longer to actually get supplies delivered.

"Luckily, we have warehouses around town that have a lot of stuff in them," Cole said. "A lot of suppliers right now are one year to 18 months behind in filling orders."

Just because people fill up their cupboards doesn't mean they're giving in to their fears.

"We look at it like grandmother's pantry," Cole said. "She always had plenty of supplies on the shelf. Was she an alarmist? No. Was she a survivalist? No. She was prepared."

The Red Cross recently released a statement suggesting households stock up on at least one week of supplies, from food to medicines to alternative sources of cooking and heating.

Cole recommends people stock up for at least one month, predicting that the pesky Y2K bug will cause some disruption of services, and that no one can say with any certainty that everything will be fixed within a week.

One final suggestion Cole has for those preparing for Y2K:

"If you think you're ready, and you've stocked up on all the supplies you think you'll need, turn your house off for a 24-hour period. Completely off. No electricity, no running water, no gas heat. Live that way for a 24-hour period, and you will immediately know if you are prepared, or where your weaknesses still lie."

To learn more about the Coles' tips for Y2K survival, check out their seminar Sunday in Mesa del, or stop by Back To Basics at 908 N. Beeline Highway.

American Red Cross Y2K Checklist
"Red Cross chapters throughout the U.S. are working with their local governments and safety officials as a precautionary measure," said Bonnie Wright, chief executive officer of the Red Cross' Central Arizona Chapter. "We do not know if Y2K will have a major impact on a national scale, but we always urge individuals and families to follow a basic checklist for all potential disasters."

The Red Cross released its checklist this week, adding that the suggestions are similar to ones the Red Cross makes to prepare for a monsoon.

  • Check with manufacturers of any essential computer-controlled electronic equipment in your home to see if that equipment may be affected. This includes fire and security alarm systems, programmable thermostats, appliances, consumer electronics, garage door openers, electronic locks, and other electronic equipment in which an embedded chip may control its operation.
  • Stock disaster supplies to last several days to a week for yourself and those who live with you.
  • Have some extra cash on hand in case computer-controlled electronic transactions involving ATM cards, credit cards, etc., cannot be processed. Plan to keep cash in a safe place, and withdraw money from your bank in small amounts well in advance of Dec. 31, 1999 to avoid long lines at the bank at the last minute.
  • Plan to fill your automobile's gas tank a day or so before Dec. 31, 1999.
  • In case of power failures, plan to use alternative cooking devices in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Don't use open flames or charcoal grills indoors.
  • Have extra blankets, coats, hats, and gloves to keep you warn. Don't plan to use gas-fueled appliances, such as an oven, as an alternative heating source.
  • Be prepared to relocate to a shelter for warmth and protection during a prolonged power outage, or if for any other reason local officials request or require you to leave your house.
  • If you plan to use a portable generator, connect what you want to power directly to the generator.

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