Startup to enhance emergency preparedness amid virus outbreak

April 15, 2020 06:00
Skyler Hallgren (left) and Zach Miller (right) are the co-founders of San Francisco start-up Redfora, the maker of the Earthquake Bag emergency-preparedness kits. Photo: Redfora.

The current coronavirus pandemic could last for months or longer. Under the crisis scenario, Redfora, a startup which focuses on selling disaster supplies and earthquake kits, is looking to boost the public's awareness of emergency preparedness.

Launching the San Francisco, California-based firm in 2015 with Zach Miller, Skyler Hallgren told EJ Insight that his personal experience of a mild earthquake inspired the founder duo, that most people, like themselves, are not prepared to deal with crisis.

"What we realized is, there are some really common sense things that most people can do to be more prepared for an emergency. It doesn't have to be extreme. It doesn't have to be expensive. It doesn't have to be obsessive at all," he said.

They started to make and sell emergency kits mainly via online channels such as the firm's website and e-commerce platforms like Its flagship product, the "Complete Earthquake Bag", includes water, food, a sleeping bag, work gloves, among other items, enough supplies for one person to last three days.

Redfora also allows customers to customize the emergency kits depending on their needs, such as the number of people and days their bag supports, as well as the usage scenarios including the car, the office, etc.

The recent coronavirus outbreak has been a boon for Redfora. Hallgren said the firm was selling tens of thousands of N95 mask kits, hand sanitizers and nitrile gloves, in February, but they stopped selling those kits in March.

"My significant other is a nurse working in a hospital [in San Francisco], healthcare workers are nervous because we don't have the personal protection equipment that we should in hospitals right now," said Hallgren, and therefore, the firm donated all of their N95 masks to hospitals in New York and in San Francisco in March.

While there are numerous emergency kit manufacturers existing in the market, Hallgren said: "They either seemed to be very intense and very expensive, kind of geared towards 'Doomsday Preppers', more than normal people, or they were extremely cheap."

While the traditional buyers of doomsday gear have been "more rural, with a more conservative political view, typically male," Redfora targets a different audience, as the firm highlights high quality, approachability, and customizability, in its approach to the mass market.

Although the firm's supply chain is currently strained due to the pandemic, Hallgren said the firm is eyeing to expand its reach beyond the United States market, with a target to seek distributor partners in markets like Canada, Mexico, Chile, Turkey, China, and Japan.

"We have an incredible amount of respect for the culture of preparedness that Japan has," said Hallgren.

"I think they are really a gold standard for us as we think about the culture of preparedness that we're trying to grow specifically here in the United States. I think Japanese culture is something that we've really tried to emulate and I think there's a lot that as Americans we can learn from Japan. As we continue to grow and scale it, I think Japan is also a big market for us to consider and work with."

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Redfora’s flagship product is the Complete Earthquake Bag, a distinctly red bag that includes water, food, a sleeping bag and tools like a hand crank radio and work gloves. Photo: Redfora.

EJ Insight writer