“Everything started flying out,” she says. Buckets and cans rolled out of the pantry and down the side of the mountain. Hurricane Maria claimed almost all the food Jennifer had stockpiled, in addition to more than 30 chickens, two cows, four pigs, six ducks, and a turkey. “I had prepped for two and a half years, and I ended up with preps for six months,” she says.
For an hour and 50 minutes, we talk a lot about liberty. The world according to Fletch hinges on the rhetorical question, “Is this going to give me more liberty, or less liberty?” He also assures me that his group isn’t just white guys running around in the woods with guns. “In my sphere of influence, there are Asians, there are blacks, Native Americans; a person’s race has absolutely nothing to do with anything,” Fletch says.
These individuals study End Times prophecy and believe that one of various scenarios might occur in their lifetime. While some Christians (and even people of other religions) believe that the Rapture will follow a period of Tribulation, others believe that the Rapture is imminent and will precede the Tribulation ("Pre-Trib Rapture "). There is a wide range of beliefs and attitudes in this group. They run the gamut from pacifist to armed camp, and from having no food stockpiles (leaving their sustenance up to God's providence) to storing decades' worth of food.
EARLY IN MY TRAVELS, I was told the man to see for a deeper understanding of prepping in New York was Aton Edwards, founder of the International Preparedness Network and author of the emergency survival guide “Preparedness Now!” Mr. Edwards, 51, is often called the city’s foremost expert in personal disaster preparation — he has appeared on the “Today” show, has taught his “Ready Up!” seminars to hundreds of participants with partners like the Red Cross and has set up, as part of the National Urban Self-Reliance and Preparedness Program, “incident command centers” across New York, like the one he recently created for the hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa in the Bronx.
When I point out that her reasons for getting into survivalism sound far off from the “every man for himself” mentality of the macho prepper stereotype, Chymiy mentions a paper by a team of social psychologists from UCLA, published in Psychological Review, about the differences in how men and women react to physical and social stressors. “The traditional fight-or-flight response is apparently based on research done only on men, so when they finally researched women under extreme stress, their response instead of fight or flight was more tend and befriend, apparently,” she explains. “Instead of running away or punching you in the face if you try to mug us, we’ll try to talk you down or try to make a social connection so you know the stressful situation can be diffused. And in neighborhood settings, we try to come together and help each other.”
If the group became indifferent to Finelli’s leadership prior to his ouster, he became just as frustrated with their complacency. Preppers began ignoring his strict no cell phone rule. Few took concrete steps to be more prepared over the years, he says. He’d set out to develop independent thinkers, not apathetic disciples. “I mentioned to the group that at some point, Vinny may not be available,” Finelli says. “So be prepared at a moment’s notice.” That’s why he feels like he failed: He left the preppers unprepared.
So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with her, and gain all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do thou leave as unlawful these winnings, and deal with Cause and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.
I found this practicality attractive. I liked how Preppers were given to debate (bear spray or baseball bats? Water purification or water filtration?) and how they were versed in esoteric areas of knowledge (fish antibiotics, New York City knife laws). I was especially enamored of the jargon: “GOOD” (Get Out of Dodge) or “TEOTWAWKI” (The End of the World as We Know It). And yet, I must confess, there were moments that gave me pause.
Everyday more people discover that more freedoms have eroded and much of what they depended upon is in danger of not existing tomorrow. Retirement funds lose substantial value as politicians ask for more from citizens and then give it away to questionable recipients. People want to know what they can do to survive the uncertain future looming on the horizon.
Still, these extraterrestrial-looking foodstuffs seem to be having something of a moment: For the past four years, Costco has been selling pallets of shriveled vegetables, fruits, grains, and meats that promise to feed a single family for up to a year—and if you’re not a member, you can purchase similar survival kits, many of which boast a 20- to 30-year shelf life, at Walmart and Target. One top seller, Wise Company, saw its sales nearly double over the past four years, reaching around $75 million, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story last November. The company’s CEO, Jack Shields, told me he estimates the industry as a whole generates between $400 and $450 million annually in retail.
While survivalists accept the long-term viability of Western civilization, they learn principles and techniques needed for surviving life-threatening situations that can occur at any time and place. They prepare for such calamities that could result in physical harm or requiring immediate attention or defense from threats. These disasters could be biotic or abiotic. Survivalists combat disasters by attempting to prevent and mitigate damage caused by these factors.
pull one-self up by one’s own boot straps To better one-self by one’s own efforts and resources; to improve one’s status without outside help; to start at the bottom and work one’s way up. A bootstrap is a loop sewn on the side of a boot to help in pulling it on. The expression is a jocular reference to the impossibility of hoisting one-self into the air, even by dint of the mightiest effort.
“That’s a major problem,” says Gene Louis, a New Jersey expat who attended his first meetup in 2013 after moving to Springfield to begin ventures in real estate brokerage and digital marketing. Plus, Jersey is expensive, and he doesn’t like the fact that its residents don’t pump their own gas. “You don’t know what people are going to define as a threat, don’t know what people at survival meetings are going to talk about,” he says. “You can’t prepare for 100 percent of what’s on that list—well, you’d need to be Donald Trump to afford to.”
“The thing is, if you buy all this stuff, you need to learn how to use it. If you have a kid and you’re making a bug-out bag for them or you don’t want to learn how to use a Sawyer, you can use LifeStraw. They’re very simple; it’s a no-brainer. Put one side in your mouth, the other side in the water, and just start drinking. That’s for people who need something a little more basic.”
“Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to Alexander [the Great] with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many people coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, ‘Yes,’ said Diogenes, ‘stand a little out of my sun.’” –Plutarch, Alexander
If any man consider the present aspects of what is called by distinction society, he will see the need of these ethics. The sinew and heart of man seem to be drawn out, and we are become timorous, desponding whimperers. We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. We want men and women who shall renovate life and our social state, but we see that most natures are insolvent, cannot satisfy their own wants, have an ambition out of all proportion to their practical force, and do lean and beg day and night continually. Our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born.
Pense invites me to imagine a world turned lawless when the ninth transformer blows. Fifteen percent of the New Orleans Police Department deserted during Hurricane Katrina—imagine if the entire force lived where the levees broke. Big box stores killed off regional food distribution centers years ago; all we’ve got is what’s inside Walmart and Sam’s Club, and if you thought Black Friday was bad, imagine the crowds when it’s life or death. Drivers fleeing Springfield will hit roadblocks, where mobs will pull people from their vehicles like the LA rioters did to Reginald Denny. You might commit vehicular manslaughter, the preppers tell me, just to get out alive.
"If you are a serious prepper—serious about survival, about you and your family's well-being, serious about being warm, being able to light a fire, and you want something to count on—depend on and bet your life on—these simple matches are what you need to get. The matches themselves are tanks. They are tough and dependable. They light up automatically when blown out and burn from eight to ten seconds."
In fact, one of the subjects specifically told Mills that "it’s not like on [National Geographic’s] Doomsday Preppers." They weren't preparing for the total collapse of society. They were getting ready to deal with a local collapse of services that might last a few months. It's less Armageddon and more Hurricane Irma—which hadn't hit yet while Mills was doing his interviews but has since suggested that preparing for a couple of months without key services may be badly underestimating needs. Prepper supplies would typically be enough to only hold out that long, and Mills said they often referred to these caches as "more than they'd ever need."
I'm not quite crazy enough to say that epinephrine will help you survive the inevitable zombie apocalypse (you can go here for that). I'm just suggesting in a roundabout way that if you happened to be in a situation where something was trying to eat you, the increased heart rate and blood flow to your muscles brought on by a well-timed dose might just save your life.
Adherents of the back-to-the-land movement inspired by Helen and Scott Nearing, sporadically popular in the United States in the 1930s and 1970s (exemplified by The Mother Earth News magazine), share many of the same interests in self-sufficiency and preparedness. Back-to-the-landers differ from most survivalists in that they have a greater interest in ecology and counterculture. Despite these differences, The Mother Earth News was widely read by survivalists as well as back-to-the-landers during that magazine's early years, and there was some overlap between the two movements.
People with disabilities may be especially vulnerable during and after emergencies. In an emergency, many systems you rely on may not function as well as they usually do. Familiar landmarks and usual travel routes you and your service animal know may be altered. Utilities like electricity, water, gas and phone service may be disrupted. You might need to temporarily evacuate to a shelter which may not be fully accessible for your needs. The tips and strategies in this newsletter can help you plan to be prepared for these situations.