We put doomsday preppers to the test – are they really ready for when the shit hits the fan?

Preppers vs the apocalypse

The end of the world has nothing on these guys

11th November 2017

They’re armed, sheltered and fed. They’re prepared and off the grid. The rooms that lead from the many hallways of Reddit are crowded with people who are taking necessary and, strangely frowned upon, precautions to survive anything the world throws at them.

The collapse of society through an economic, nuclear or catastrophic disaster is imminent – even the average Twitter user knows that. The Doomsday Clock, which counts down to total annihilation is now at two and a half minutes to midnight – the closest we’ve ever been to the end of the world.

The Clock, which started in the 1940s, is part of the rooted history of doomsday prediction, which began the period between the 1930s and 1950s, when the world was frozen with fear by the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Cold War and dystopian literature. Much of the Western world could not enter a bookshop without finding some piece of fiction which delved into post-apocalyptic society.

The response to this shared fear was precaution; duck and cover, they were told, under a desk. This was taught as a drill to fight the effects of a nuclear explosion, despite all logic saying otherwise. It is this fear that founded the beginnings of survivalist groups who dedicate their lives to developing their survival skills without relying on emergency services and other societal safety nets. These groups want to promise their ultimate survival against any “SHTF” events. Their jargon may teeter on science fiction, but is far from it; SHTF means exactly what their survivalist cause is trying to prevent – shit hitting the fan.

For those intrigued new users and those who have been prepping for years, there are now state of the art online tools to take prepping to the next level. For example, Prepperlytics allows you to work out how many calories your doomsday party are likely to consume and stock up accordingly. Others, such as Doomsday Prep, sell items such as first aid kits, potassium iodide tablets (which treat radiation poisoning), foldable shovels, radios and even portable solar chargers.

With all these tools so easily available for average civilians to convert to survivalism, The Overtake asked members of prepper groups what influenced their decision and what we should do in SHTF events.

What made you become a prepper?

Kimoosabi (a founder of Prepperlytics): We are not like the crazies you will see in [TV show] Doomsday Preppers. [We] want to lead a more independent life. We’re driven by an overall sense of something bad happening that we would want to be prepared for.

Jessica*: After having kids I started worrying about how we would take care of them during any prolonged loss of power or emergency services. This was fuelled by the lack of effective government responses we continue to see after natural disasters.

Phil*: “Prepper” connotes the guys who preach the end of the world as we know it. [However], I turned to online prepper communities in order to think more critically about emergency preparedness skills. The more I prepare, the more I realise how unprepared I am.

What precautions would you take in the event of terrorist attacks?

Phil: I expect cell service to be jammed, public transportation closed, dust and debris in the air and to be caught off guard at the office. My goal would be to get home. I keep a “get home” bag at the office with comfortable clothes, masks to protect me from inhaling dust, snacks, battery packs and a water bottle. I am looking into getting a device that allows my phone access to the satellite network [for] when cell towers are jammed.

Vey (another founder of Prepperlytics): The best way to avoid such an attack is to stay clear of populated areas and events. In the future, we expect to see terrorists get more sophisticated, using cyber attacks and engineered pandemics.

Natural disasters?

Jessica: Standard preparations. [This] includes water, food, first aid, shelter and clothing, tools, weapons and bartering supplies.

Phil: I receive emergency weather alerts on my phone [and] I keep a “get home” bag at work in case I need to leave in a hurry. At home, I keep a well-stocked pantry with 1-2 week’s worth of food for every member of my household [and] my stock of warm clothing and extra blankets. I’d [also] like to invest in a water filter.

Vey: Have a few weeks worth of food and water on hand. When the government tells you to evacuate, head to your cousin’s place in the country.

Pandemic?

Thomas*: Depending on the specifics of the disease, we would likely isolate ourselves as much as possible from others. We have the preparations to survive a long time without needing to interact with others. During that period we would hopefully gain more information, and by the time we needed to venture out there may be medical services [available].

Jessica: [I would] implement universal precautions and isolate ourselves as much as possible.

Vey: A pandemic is one of the better situations to prepare for, because you hear about it months before things get bad. Isolate your group of healthy individuals and [stock up on] gloves, masks, antibiotics, pain killers, rubbing alcohol, bleach, towels and even body bags.

Phil: I am not prepared for this beyond frequent handwashing during flu season.

Solar flares?

Jessica: Standard preps.

Vey: Make sure to have food, water and basic survival gear in your car. [Prepare] a faraday cage with electronics like radios and night vision [goggles]. You’ve got about 3 days of confusion before people start panicking. This is your window of opportunity to retreat. Millions living in cities will begin rioting once they realise the power isn’t coming back on.

Economic meltdown?

Phil: I have not consciously prepared for this, however I [read] about practical skills like farming, raising animals, sewing, fermenting and first aid.

Vey: Venezuela is in the midst of a meltdown right now; their economy has contracted by 40%, inflation is up by 1600%, utilities are spotty and crime is tremendous. To prepare for [something like] this, try to find a job that is resilient to it, [like] nursing or food production. People will want food regardless of how bad things get. Produce your own goods. Move out into the country and expect families to begin doubling up. Canned food, bullets and medical supplies are going to be far more valuable [than silver and gold].

Nuclear war?

Jessica: [I would bring] potassium iodide for the kids and [evacuate] to safe areas if anywhere is known.

Thomas: You will be lucky to have information or transportation, but you would do your best to stay away from the fallout.

While these scenarios seem absurd to the general non-prepper civilian, Jonathan Hollerman in his book Survival Theory: A Preparedness Guide suggests that if you have yet to prepare, you (a) aren’t convinced that the threat is real, (b) are “overwhelmed” and don’t know where to start or (c) “don’t want to be stigmatised”.

Vey adds the importance of preparing: “Your number will come up. Your city will be hit by a hurricane. An unstable leader will launch a nuclear weapon. The stock market will crash. A solar flare will hit Earth. Eventually you’ll find yourself affected by the devastation, and you’ll be asking yourself why you didn’t prepare.”

*Reddit users whose names have been changed

11th November 2017