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Panic buying is an imprecise common use term to describe the act of people buying unusually large amounts of a product in anticipation of or after a disaster or perceived disaster, or in anticipation of a large price increase or shortage, as can occur before a blizzard or hurricane or government decree banning a particular popular product such as incandescent light bulbs. These goods are bought in large amounts to offset a potential shortage or as an act of safety. While panic buying can result in a sudden increase in the cost of goods, it is distinct from looting as it does not entail theft or deliberate property damage.
Panic buying occurred before, during or following the:
- Cuban Missile Crisis - panic buying of canned foods
- 1973 oil crisis – panic buying of fuel.
- Year 2000 problem – panic buying of food.
- 2000 and 2005 UK fuel protests
- 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, especially Hurricane Katrina – panic buying of fuel, food and other supplies.
- 2005 Jilin chemical plant explosions – panic buying of water.
- 2005 Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal fire
- 2008 global rice shortage
- 2008 Election/firearms panic buying – The 2008 election of Barack Obama triggered a massive panic buying movement that swept the industry over. Rifles that were perceived at risk of being banned were quickly doubled in price due to demand, and many were unobtainable.
- 2009 Incandescent light bulbs bought ahead of bans imposed by many governments (Phase-out of incandescent light bulbs)
- 2011- Japan, after the earthquake and tsunami.
- 2012 Proposed UK oil tanker drivers strike
- 2012- Ammunition in the United States after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Therefore, emergency planners advise that people should maintain a stockpile or pantry list at all times. This advice is intended to avoid excessive or last minute purchases, which can put a strain on supply in times of shortages.
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