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Sept. 25, 2022

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‘Doom-free preparedness’ delivered in a box to your doorstep

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Jenny Piper, left, with her son Jose Piper, 7, assembles disaster preparedness kits at their home in Bothell, Washington on August 11, 2022.
Jenny Piper, left, with her son Jose Piper, 7, assembles disaster preparedness kits at their home in Bothell, Washington on August 11, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald) Photo Gallery

BOTHELL — This business is a disaster waiting to happen.

Blue Sky Scout is a monthly subscription box of items to prepare for an emergency. Sort of like getting a box of wine, but instead you may get a flashlight, poncho and water purification pills.

Each month has a different theme.

“The idea is it lasts a year and you have everything for your comprehensive kit,” founder Jenny Piper said. Batteries included.

And if there’s a disaster before, well, at least you’ll have something.

Piper, 50, launched the service four months ago in a corner of her garage, across from the shelf organized with everything needed for her family of four in a calamity.

Each month, for $39.99 plus tax and shipping, subscribers get a box with six to 10 items in a bed of crinkle cut paper. It’s something to look forward to — the kit, not the disaster — but you’ll be ready if and when.

“I do the thinking and prioritizing,” Piper said. “When someone is starting out it is overwhelming.”

You still need to pack medicines, clothes, food, water, phone chargers, cash and specialty needs for babies, kids, pets and seniors. So there’s work for you to do at your end. Maybe this will get you off your duff.

“When I tell people what I do they say, ‘Oh, I was just thinking about this, talking about this.’ But they don’t do it,” she said. “I like to say it’s doom-free preparedness instead of the doomsday preppers. I like to keep people from feeling too scared when they do this. And I like to have them be excited when they open the box.”

It’s a convenience, like those monthly boxes of toys for dogs or munchies for Netflix bingers. You might want to stash one of those away, too, for disaster prep, along with a bottle of wine.

“She curated everything. I don’t have to figure out what to buy next,” said Blue Sky Scout subscriber Ruth Zander, of Lynnwood.

As subscriber Jennifer Lee, also of Lynnwood, put it: “As a procrastinator prepper I love this idea.”

September is National Preparedness Month to promote awareness. For Piper, it’s a year-round mindset.

“I grew up expecting the big one around here,” she said. “In 2009, I went to California to visit my sister and there was a big wildfire and we had to evacuate and she had a big notebook with what everybody’s job was and what they needed to bring.”

She took online training from FEMA and the Community Emergency Response Team course through the fire district. She developed a preparedness workshop for foster parents and taught a workshop.

When family members asked what she wanted for gifts, she’d mention emergency items. They’d say it wasn’t fun enough.

Piper started looking at kits and found most were generic backpacks or geared for survivalists. Her kits target women and families.

“I want them to feel confident and like they are ready for anything,” she said.

“Blue Sky” refers to the best conditions under which to plan and prepare.

She provides QR codes for setting up a binder with a family evacuation plan, contacts and copies of important documents.

Piper, a marketing research analyst for Sno-Isle Libraries, culled checklists from disaster prep agencies. She sent sample boxes to friends for feedback and asked social media groups for input.

Boxes so far: First aid. Personal care. Essentials. Illumination.

She is working on the October box, Resourcefulness. “The MacGyver box,” as she puts it. December is Spirit and Entertainment.

The items are serious, but with a novelty twist per box, such as Calamity Jane’s lip elixir, Rosie the Riveter pill box and a penguin flashlight.

“I love finding the fun things that will make them go ‘ooh’ when they open the box,” she said. “People get that dopamine hit they get when they’re shopping.”

The personal care box has toothbrushes (two, so you don’t have to share), paste, comb, brush, dry shampoo, hand-sanitizing cloths and Frida’s Fragrant Bath Bar to “keep you monkey clean and monkey fresh.”

As for sales: “More than I feared, less than I had hoped.”

Her son Jose, 7, lends a hand.

“I like helping my mom,” Jose said. “I mostly fold the boxes. I did all those boxes over there.”

She hasn’t had to put her 17-year-old daughter Peyton to work, yet.

Her husband, Aaron, gave her a 55-gallon water barrel for her recent birthday.

“My husband gets me,” she said.

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