Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 13, 2012

Preparedness means “we have each others’ backs.”

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on March 13, 2012

“People do weird things when they’re hungry. You might run into cannibals at that point.”

Jason said that.

Slightly more than a year ago, one writer on this blog discussed the less than ideal state of citizen preparedness:

Government officials at all levels decry the public’s lack of preparedness, citing a combination of self-delusion, apathy and sheer stubbornness.

Whether it is called civil defense, a culture of preparedness or the latest catch phrase, “resiliency,” personal preparedness remains an elusive goal for emergency management officials across the nation.

But some people take personal preparedness more seriously than others.

“If the grocery shelves are empty, you’re only 9 meals away from anarchy.”

Mike said that.

“I still love high heels and fashion, but I am also thinking… is there anything I can conceal a weapon in?

Megan said that.

Jason and Mike and Megan are preppers. People who are really prepared.

Their words made the “most memorable prepper quotes” section of the National Geographic Channel’s “doomsday Preppers” website.

National Geographic describes preppers as “otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. … [Preppers] will go to whatever lengths they can to make sure they are prepared for any of life’s uncertainties.”

The Discovery Channel is not to be outdone by National Geographic. Last week they started a series of programs called Doomsday Bunkers.

According to the website, each week will feature the design and construction of survival units.  Then the fun starts.

From sizable underground bunkers with safety measures that include outside hand rails with hidden flame throwers, to special safety structures that include the Pyramid and Tsunami pods, each unit is tested using a battery of attacks that include firearms, fire, and falling vehicles.

Neil Genzlinger wrote a wonderful review of both programs in Monday’s New York Times.  (Thanks for the tip, cw) Here are some examples of Genzlinger’s prose:

Watch either show for a short while and, unless you’re a prepper yourself, you might be moderately amused at the absurd excess on display and at what an easy target the prepper worldview is for ridicule. Watch a bit longer, though, and amusement may give way to annoyance at how offensively anti-life these shows are, full of contempt for humankind.

….These prepers live all over the country, in rural areas, suburbs and cities. Each has a different reason for turning a perfectly adequate home into a canned-food warehouse or building an escape hideaway… in the mountains. One expects the North and South Poles to swap place, one a global economic collapse, one “an electromagnetic pulse that will disable the transportation system of the United States.”

… The unmistakable impression left by these programs is that what these folks want most of all is not to protect their families–the standard explanation for why they’re doing what they’re doing–or even the dubious pleasure of being able to say to the rest of us, see, I told you the world was going to end. What they want is a license to open fire. The number of bullets sprayed around in these shows, by adults and even their children, might give Rambo pause.

But not every prepper is an arm-yourself-dig-a-huge-hole-in-the-ground-stock-up-on-freeze-dried-and-standby-for-the-apocalypse kind of guy.

Kathy Harrison, described by the Discovery Channel as “The Dorris Day of Doom,” has a different attitude about preparedness and resilience. As quoted by Genzlinger, Harrison says

It’s easy to feel a little left out of the prepper community if you live in New England and if you’re not fairly right wing and conservative politically.… But I just don’t spend my time worrying about stockpiling guns and ammunition, because our security comes not from stockpiling weapons but from having a community that respects each other, supports each other, and we have each others’ backs.”

Prepper or not, there’s a measure of preparedness for you.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 13, 2012 @ 12:30 am

There are root causes in the psychology of the “preppers” and not all are positive or negative. But we are social animals for better or worse. Part of the problem is that often officialdom fails to view the divisive impacts of their decisions. Destructive phrases like “government is the problem” are designed to manipulate not protect society or accomplish much.
The bottom line is as President Andrew Jackson stated “The job of government is not to make men rich”!

Comment by Dan O'Connor

March 13, 2012 @ 8:11 am

It’s an interesting show to say the least.

Perhaps this is an arrogant or naive comment, but here goes; The Government has lost virtually all credibility and in that gap, these social phenomena take hold.

I remember when we would discuss bomb shelters with my grandfather in New York in the early 70’s. He said with great Brooklynesque bravado: put a friggen red X on this house…

He would then go state that if it did happen there’d be no point in living anyway, so just get it over with. Perhaps living through two world wars and the depression colored his cheery disposition.

When 16% of the populace has confidence in the Congress, we have a problem.
When politicians spend $billions to maintain or gain a seat in said Congress, we have a problem.

So, yes, the show is interesting and there is some interesting points of view expressed by the preppers. If you’d like to compare the show with One Second After http://www.onesecondafter.com/ you can see why Newt is so very worried about EMP’s. It’s a pretty interesting read.

There is a dose of reality in all of it, maybe more, maybe less… whether it’s a crisis of confidence, charisma, or character, Bill’s comment officialdom is accurate; there are consequences for all decisions, good and bad. But if your credibility has been breached, it’s all rather irrelevant.

Comment by Mark Chubb

March 13, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

Chris, thanks for reaffirming my decision to drastically reduce my TV intake.

Comment by Jim Curren

March 16, 2012 @ 7:58 pm


As you can imagine I am prepper – but I am also cheap and a slacker. So, I have 3 to 5 days of food and some water. I live on a lake so I may have some fish – although I would never turn an backyard pool into a tilapia farm as one prepper did. So, as a cheap slacker prepper I have armed up and I’m teaching the children how to shoot. We have mapped the locations of all the Mormons we could find – they have a years worth of food in their pantries. Prepared – but not crazy! And, I live close enough to Starbucks I can walk there so I dont need a car.

I actually think FEMA should sponsor this show – and talk about self-preparedness during commercials.

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