The Y2K key: Be prepared |

The Y2K key: Be prepared

Patrick Sullivan would like to remind you that there’s only 249 shopping days remaining until the year 2000. So you had better get your rear end in gear.

“I’m not a doom and gloom guy. I’m not going to tell you that the world is coming to an end on Jan. 1,” said Sullivan, 37, a former Silicon Valley computer consultant who is now the President of Y2K Online, a Y2K preparedness clearinghouse that specializes in storage foods (

“But I do believe that there is a potential for bad things to happen,” he said. “I do believe that people need to be prepared.”

Sullivan’s company is part of a burgeoning Y2K preparedness industry that has sprouted in recent months – offering items that range from freeze-dried food to compost toilets. Many of these millennial entrepreneurs were on hand recently at the Year 2000 Expo at the San Jose Convention Center, and some, like Sullivan, offered seminars in which they explained their own Y2K theories.

Sullivan’s seminar series, entitled “Breaking Y2K News,” centered on preparedness strategies – including possible scenarios in which society breaks down in the opening moments of the year 2000.

“I’m not so much afraid of technology failing,” Sullivan said during the seminar. “I’m more afraid of what people’s reactions will be. For instance, we have a lot of people in this society who are addicted to illegal drugs. If something happens to their supply, you’ll have all these people strung out on drugs, who won’t be able to get them. With their sources dried up, there’s no telling what they might do.”

His audience sat in rapt attention as Sullivan described all the possible Y2K chaos that could greet mankind.

But away from his audience, Sullivan was a bit less gloomy.

“I was a computer consultant in the Bay Area for six years,” said Sullivan, whose business is based in Campbell. “But finally I decided that it was pointless to fix other people’s systems against Y2K. So a partner and myself decided to start our own company.

“I had noticed a lot of talk about Y2K that centered on sensationalism,” he said. “What seemed to be missing was the truthful news about Y2K. Food storage is the single most important issue in the discussion. We specialize in food items with a long shelf life, and other items that might help one get through a disaster, or some sort of breakdown.

“The response has been tremendous; people want to be prepared. We sell items to churches, to other large groups, and individuals. We had 1,000 new customers in the past two months.”

The San Jose Expo was dominated by preparedness booths – most specializing in storage foods and supplies. In fact, if any type of disaster would have befallen the city that day, one could have lived comfortably in the Convention Center for weeks – munching on wheat grass, consuming self-heating meals and drinking from 55-gallon water storage tanks.

Praying on people’s fears has become big business these days – and it’s hard to tell which entrepreneurs are sincere, and which are out to fleece the masses.

“I do get a sense that there are people out there who just want to make a buck,” Sullivan said. “It’s a capitalistic society, and when people see a need out there, they try to fill it.

“But most of the people here are sincere,” he said. “I mean, look around. Do you see any Beanie Babies here? Any Pet Rocks? Everything you see at this Expo is something you can wear, eat or use. Whether Y2K turns out to be a disaster or not, I think everything here is still useful.”

The thing is, according to Sullivan, that no one is really sure what is going to happen when the clock ticks over to 2000.

“What is for sure is that three quarters of the world is not doing anything (about Y2K),” he said. “And that affects us.”

Sullivan’s Web site, however, comes off as a bit more sensationalistic than he does in person. Included on the site are links to martial arts training sessions, sites that sell firearms, and a variety of military gear – such as night vision binoculars.

“If a bad guy did break into my house to steal all my food, what would I do?” Sullivan asked. “It’s better to make those decisions before they happen. We have to retrofit our skill sets to learn how to survive.”

In the year 2000, one supposes, man does not live by freeze-dried bread alone.

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