If the men on the blog Doomsday Preppers seem inordinately preoccupied with some distant future in which everything falls apart, he explains, it’s because that imagined scenario represents a moment when they get to feel like they’re actually useful. “I’ve got a chainsaw and a pickup truck and a little cabin in the woods and I can get my assault weapon out and I can be important,” he explains of the mindset. “I’m not really useful until something goes wrong.”
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.
The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature. A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse; independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. He cumbers himself never about consequences, about interests: he gives an independent, genuine verdict. You must court him: he does not court you. But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges, and having observed, observe again from the same unaffected, unbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted innocence, must always be formidable. He would utter opinions on all passing affairs, which being seen to be not private, but necessary, would sink like darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear.
But about a year ago, Bedford's homemaking skills went into overdrive. She began stockpiling canned food, and converted a spare bedroom into a giant storage facility. The trunk of each of her family's cars got its own 72-hour emergency kit—giant Tupperware containers full of iodine, beef jerky, emergency blankets, and even a blood-clotting agent designed for the battle-wounded. Bedford started thinking about an escape plan in case her family needed to leave in a hurry, and she and her husband set aside packed suitcases and cash. Then, for the first time in her life, Bedford went to a gun range and shot a .22 handgun. Now she regularly takes her two young children, 7 and 10, to target practice. "Over the last two years, I started feeling more and more unsettled about everything I was seeing, and I started thinking, 'What if we were in the same boat?'" says Bedford, 49.
“Everybody thinks about prepping as this big doomsday thing, like when the zombie apocalypse happens,” Luther says. “But really it’s a lot more likely that someone’s going to lose their job or that you’re going to have a major expense you weren’t expecting, like your car breaks down or a medical expense. So if you think of prepping as something to get you through those situations, it’s really almost like an insurance policy.”
This doesn’t mean living in a void, it just means that we’re conscious about our relationship to the world and other people. It’s not rejecting external advice outright, but trusting ourselves enough to sift through which advice is worthy. We’re aware of the agendas of others, and don’t let them sway us from our self-determined path. Self-reliance doesn’t necessarily mean rejecting all established customs and values, it just means experimenting with them so we know if they work for us. It’s putting stock in our inner wisdom.
Because I couldn’t stop wondering what it would be like to actually live off the stuff, I placed an order for Wise’s Seven Day Emergency Food and Drink Supply, a shoebox-size assortment of breakfast foods, entrées, and dehydrated whey milk substitute, in addition to a few other options I’d discovered online. I wanted to know what an insurance policy tasted like.
This group focuses on surviving brief encounters of violent activity, including personal protection and its legal ramifications, danger awareness, John Boyd's cycle (also known as the OODA loop—observe, orient, decide and act), martial arts, self-defense tactics and tools (both lethal and non-lethal). These survivalist tactics are often firearm-oriented, in order to ensure a method of defense against attackers or home invasion.
What Jennifer, a self-described prepper who declined to share her last name for security reasons, didn’t anticipate was the sheer force of Maria’s rains and 155 mile per hour winds — and how little the storm shutters would do to protect her home. “I was taking water out of the bedrooms, the living rooms, the hallways,” she says. “The house was flooded.” At one point, a piece of debris flew off a neighbor’s roof and got stuck between the outside wall of Jennifer’s pantry and the storm shutters, ripping off a pair of windows in the process.
Finelli remained at the helm until he came down with pneumonia in late 2016. Months before, an interloper who claimed to have no Social Security number or driver’s license had driven up from Arkansas on nitrogen-filled tires, used to skirt a law requiring licensing for vehicles with air-filled tires. His name is Andrew:—he has no last name; he says adding the colon keeps him from being cataloged in “the system”—and his resourcefulness impressed Finelli, so he offered Andrew: the mic during his absence. He never got it back.
So Michael Mills at the UK's University of Kent decided to correct this gap in our knowledge. Mills went on an American road trip, spending time talking to (and butchering animals with) 39 preppers in 18 different US states. Rather than rampant paranoia, Mills suggests, preppers are motivated by non stop media coverage of natural disasters, as well as a government that encourages them to prepare for the worst.
“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
This is something we hear a lot. It is something that the media frequently attempts to portray us as. Preppers are no more crazy than those wacky people who have home owners insurance. Seriously, why do people have home owners insurance? It’s so that if something catastrophic happens to your house you can get money to buy a new one – and not be homeless. Prepping is basically the same thing – we educate ourselves and purchase items that will be essential to continue our way of life in a catastrophic event, creating a Standard of Living Insurance for ourselves. Preppers are those who agree with the Federal Government and subscribe to what FEMA has indicated that every citizen should be doing to be prepared. For the media to call us “nutjobs” or “fringe”is for them to ignore the position of the Federal Government towards citizen responsibility.
However, that may all there be to it. When it comes to other serious survival skills, especially knowing what to do in a bug out situation, they may be lacking. The negative side of this type of survivalist is they love their home so much that they might refuse to bug out, even if the situation calls for it. Overall, the key is to develop the skill to determine whether you should bug in or bug out.
FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division (ICPD) is committed to helping local efforts achieve greater community resilience. In order to determine how best to assist local preparedness activities, we conduct periodic research in the field of disaster preparedness to evaluate the nation’s progress with whole community preparedness. These findings are particularly relevant as we prepare our communities for a possible pandemic flu outbreak, hurricane season and other emergency incidents. Furthermore, findings from the research measure the public’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors relative to preparing for a range of hazards and provide valuable insight for increasing personal preparedness, civic engagement and community resilience. Below are examples of the research FEMA ICPD has conducted: