There’s been a general increase in anxiety across the board among people in the U.S. over the past year according to an online poll from Psychiatry.org. About 2/5ths of all adults are more anxious now than they used to be. Of course, you don’t really need to turn to polls or research to have a gut feeling for this. The sheer amount of chaos since the start of 2017 has been steadily increasing. Following a highly divisive presidential election events have spiraled to a point that it can be hard to keep up: claims of fraud, and collusion from both major political parties; an endless parade of hiring and firing of high level officials in the White House and on Capitol Hill; mass shootings; rising tensions with North Korea, Russia, China and Iran; accusations (and confirmation) of sexual harassment of many once-respected individuals; ever-growing racial tensions; the impending end of net neutrality; the big data scandals.
Last spring, as the Presidential campaign exposed increasingly toxic divisions in America, Antonio García Martínez, a forty-year-old former Facebook product manager living in San Francisco, bought five wooded acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest and brought in generators, solar panels, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. “When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos,” he told me. The author of “Chaos Monkeys,” an acerbic Silicon Valley memoir, García Martínez wanted a refuge that would be far from cities but not entirely isolated. “All these dudes think that one guy alone could somehow withstand the roving mob,” he said. “No, you’re going to need to form a local militia. You just need so many things to actually ride out the apocalypse.” Once he started telling peers in the Bay Area about his “little island project,” they came “out of the woodwork” to describe their own preparations, he said. “I think people who are particularly attuned to the levers by which society actually works understand that we are skating on really thin cultural ice right now.”
There are two scenarios everyone—prepper or not—should count on: losing power and being stranded in your car. I’m a big believer in backup power. I keep an emergency power supply plugged into an outlet in my apartment; it has a trickle charger so I can forget about it until my block goes dark. In my car, I keep extra blankets, a LifeStraw portable water filter, lighters, and Millennium energy bars. It’s not the Four Seasons, but at least my family will be able to survive 48 hours in our Honda Pilot. One thing to consider: You need to be with your gear when a disaster strikes. When Sandy hit in 2012, our whole family was in Connecticut while all my gear was in Manhattan. My wife had a good laugh. These days, my everyday bag is a waterproof Showers Pass backpack where I stash a small set of screwdrivers, multitool, glass breaker, three flashlights that use the same type of batteries, and a spool of Kevlar thread, all sorted in plastic bags. There’s a spoon and fork in there, too, because if I have to eat an MRE for dinner, I might as well look civilized while I do it.—Wylie Dufresne, Michelin-starred Chef, Owner Of Du’s Donuts, Prepper
Huffman has been a frequent attendee at Burning Man, the annual, clothing-optional festival in the Nevada desert, where artists mingle with moguls. He fell in love with one of its core principles, “radical self-reliance,” which he takes to mean “happy to help others, but not wanting to require others.” (Among survivalists, or “preppers,” as some call themselves, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, stands for “Foolishly Expecting Meaningful Aid.”) Huffman has calculated that, in the event of a disaster, he would seek out some form of community: “Being around other people is a good thing. I also have this somewhat egotistical view that I’m a pretty good leader. I will probably be in charge, or at least not a slave, when push comes to shove.”
Border Wars (2010–15) Breakout (2010–13) Python Hunters (2010–11) Fish Warrior (2010–11) Great Migrations (2010) Aftermath (2010) Alaska Wing Men (2011–12) Hard Time (2011–13) Beast Hunter (2011) Rocket City Rednecks (2011–13) Brain Games (2011–16) Viking Apocalypse (2011) Doomsday Preppers (2012–14) American Weed (2012) Comic Store Heroes (2012) American Gypsies (2012) Abandoned (2012) Evacuate Earth (2012–14) Access 360° World Heritage (2012–15) Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout? (2013) The Numbers Game (2013) Polygamy, USA (2013) Ultimate Survival Alaska (2013–15) Street Genius (2013–15) Doomsday Castle (2013) Ultimate Airport Dubai (2013–15) Nazi Megastructures (2013) The Legend of Mick Dodge (2014) Duck Quacks Don't Echo (2014) Building Wild (2014–15) Filthy Riches (2014) Going Deep with David Rees (2014) Survive the Tribe (2014–16) Eat: The Story of Food (2014) Crowd Control (2014) Arrepentidos (2014) Underworld, Inc. (2015–16) Remote Survival (2015) The Big Picture with Kal Penn (2015) American Genius (2015) Yukon River Run (2015) China From Above (2015) Breakthrough (2015–16) Saints & Strangers (2015) Asombrosamente (2015) Supercar Megabuild (2016–17) Facing (2016) Years of Living Dangerously (2016) Origins: The Journey of Humankind (2017) The Long Road Home (2017)
David Sarti, a YouTube "firearms instructor" and self-taught survivalist, is prepared for an electrical grid failure; Kellene Bishop of Utah has stocked only the finest gourmet survival foods in preparation for financial collapse; Kathy Harrison, "the Doris Day of Doom", has prepared her local community for a New Madrid earthquake; Dennis Evers brings the family together to survive global chaos caused by hyperinflation.
Also in 2011, Finelli started running the Get Prepared Expo series at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, bringing in hundreds of exhibitors and more than 70 preparedness seminars. Before doors opened, he’d host a get-together at Ziggie’s Cafe on North Glenstone, which he soon moved to Jimmy’s Egg on East Battlefield to accommodate the crowd. At Jimmy’s Egg, Finelli found another platform from which to preach preparedness. He started drawing a crowd—more than 330 on expo weekends—so Finelli made Jimmy’s Egg a weekly affair. On Monday nights, his radio instructors showed up or Skype’d in to mold the minds of 50 to 100 students. The meetups—a name borrowed from Ron Paul’s 2012 community get-togethers—were also social events, although Finelli kept the BS to a minimum.
Inspired by science fiction books and a handful of real-world incidents, some hardcore survivalists worry that their portable electronics or vehicles could be disabled by EMP weapons or solar flares. The concern over solar flares is misplaced; the threat of EMP is a tad more valid, but even if EMP warfare came to pass, small electronics and quasi-shielded automotive circuitry would probably not be permanently affected by anything other than a close blast. Power plants and transmission lines are a different story. Heck, in 1989, solar flares knocked out a good chunk of the Canadian power grid. Still, for that, a surge protector works better than tinfoil.
Of course, some extreme preppers will settle for nothing less than a military-grade gas mask rated for chemical, biological, and nuclear warfare. While it is true that such masks offer much better protection against nerve agents and similar extremely harmful substances, it's not a likely concern in most parts of the world - and either way, it's doubtful that you would have enough time to suit up once the symptoms kick in.
In addition to the dangers of poor financial planning and the ever-present specter of unintentional injury, another threat we should reckon with is becoming a victim of a crime. Although the risk is not as pervasive as the challenges discussed earlier in this chapter, it still earns a distinction as one of the things that many readers will almost certainly have to face at some point in their lives.
If you're doing something that's morally reprehensible or socially unwelcome, you are greatly increasing the odds of getting hurt. It doesn't matter if you think it's perfectly legal: if you are a monumental and malicious jerk, a bored prosecutor will probably dream up a felony charge to hit you with. Or perhaps they won't, but one of the people you wronged will lose it and take justice into their own hands. In other words, if you want to escape harm, don't mess with others out of malice, jealousy, boredom, or for petty personal gain.
Me? I’ve a hyper insulated home, ground-loop (in the house and green-house) and a trench filled with lots of coal but if it is coming, and it is as bad as the last few times … you’ll need masses of food storage (cold hardy, quick growing crops, a method to manage in a colder climate … or to move south) and there’ll be a disastrous/apocalyptic die-off. Food and water (less as so much will be tied up in ice/snow and changing weather patterns causing, as historically, widespread droughts) and insulated clothing, protection for farm animals and feed will be worth more than gold.
And now, for something completely different: during a longer water outage, you won't be able to flush your toilet - a little-appreciated but grave hygiene risk. When living in a single-family home, you should probably get a shovel and a pickax: they are useful in the backyard either way, but if push comes to shove, such tools allow you to dig out a latrine and address the sanitation problem in a fairly sustainable way. Of course, dumping bagged human waste into trash will work for a while, too, but it quickly becomes a liability.
Finelli’s not from around here; an adopted Midwestern politeness hardly masks direct, fast-thinking, faster-talking East Coast roots, although he won’t tell me where he’s from exactly. He’s guarded like that. He won’t say where he went to college, only that he graduated from a prestigious undergraduate program and then got an MBA; nor will he say where he worked after, only that he started a company on the West Coast to manufacture satellite communications receivers before a Japanese competitor threatened to kill him. He will say he knows the moon landing was faked. In 1982, he moved back east from California and began designing computer systems for a Fortune 100 credit card company.