Welcome back, muchachos!
Turns out this post was HUGE when I wrote it, so I’m going to break it up into 2 parts. Here’s the first:
So last week I started off a new series of posts on preparedness. I wrote about what it meant to me, gave a few examples of why I started down this path, and dipped my toes into what it’s all about.
This week, I thought I’d offer some definitions—as I see them—to keep things in perspective as we move forward.
For starters, how do we define a prepper? The classical definition is one who prepares or is prepared for unknown circumstances that affect his or her life. In common parlance, I think this means somebody who knows life isn’t going to hand everything to them on a silver platter—that sometimes life (including Ma Nature) decide to throw a curveball your way.
The vast majority of people who don’t prepare end up on the nightly news. Next time there’s a flood, just watch for reports of people who were warned and decided to stay, or people who ‘never seen it like this’ that were trapped in their houses. Look for reports of people who decided to drive through water during flash floods without knowing how deep it was relative to their car (or how deep it was in general). These people are, to greater or lesser degrees, unprepared. To be unprepared is to be at the mercy of forces outside your control.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like that idea. I’ll admit that I don’t have a ‘60s era fallout shelter built into my basement, stocked and ready to house my family in the event of an asteroid strike/Yellowstone eruption/nuclear war/alien invasion. Does that mean I’m going to stand here with my thumb up my butt while a major ice storm advances on my location?
Being prepared means many things to many people. I’m going to expand on the definition a bit here, with my own paradigm. I think “prepper” is part of a sliding scale representing the movement of preparedness.
At one extreme, we have what’s been called the survivalist. This is what the mainstream media (MSM) and Hollywood, including their friends in the left-leaning political parties, have called people who prepared for X event…for almost a generation. I find that especially ironic, since during the Great Depression, the Dustbowl, the War years, just about everyone—regardless of political persuasion—prepared to one extent or another. Life was too unpredictable to not prepare your family and loved ones for what came next (be that a harsh winter, a bad crop, job loss, or war). It was only after the freedom of the 1960s and the excesses and hedonism of the 70s and 80s that the left started to look down on anyone who didn’t just ‘go with the flow’ or expect the growing government to ‘handle things’. Those who continued to follow the trend of their ancestors and stashed some extra food away for the winter or unexpected hard times, etc., became ‘nuts’. After all, the Cold War had settled into a kind of stalemate by then—sure Soviet Russia was still a threat and continued to talk about nuking America, but the days of the Bay of Pigs and real scary times were decades in the past.
And so as the left continued to try and influence popular culture and thinking through media consumption (whether it be news or entertainment), more and more people came to believe through sheer bombardment that to prepare for a day when the governmental authorities couldn’t (or wouldn’t) help meant you were on the fringe of society. Those people were different, and different meant scary. Ironic, since that side of the political spectrum constantly talks about openness, tolerance, and diversity…
Back to the spectrum. What is a survivalist? To me, a survivalist is one who is taking their preparedness to a level far beyond what the average (if there is one) prepper wants or can accomplish. The survivalist is typically focused on long term preparedness (we’re talking years and decades here) and sometimes focuses on huge events—the Yellowstone Caldera eruption is one (more on that later, when we get to the Threat Board). Survivalists are highly focused and spend a vast amount of resources and time preparing for everything they can think of, stock piling food, water, medicine and weapons. The MSM and Hollywood have tried to paint the survivalist as the quintessential prepper. While that may have been true twenty years ago, this is not the case now.
The survivalist has the same intention as the average prepper, only they’ve taken the plunge and gone full-in. If the excrement hits the oscillating air movement device (otherwise known as SHTF), count on these folks to still be around to pick up the pieces when the dust settles.
At the other end of the spectrum is the completely unprepared person. Think of someone who relies on others—especially those in authority positions—for everything. These are the people who don’t know what to do until the government tells them. They have maybe enough food for dinner in their fridge, but are more concerned with going out with friends than buying groceries for the next day. I think many of these people are young—old enough to be out of school and in their first few years of work, yet too young to have much as far as houses, cars, responsibilities. They likely live in large urban areas, where ‘there’s no need’ to have a fridge stocked with food, because they can go down the steps of their high rise and walk a block to the local bodega to get a sandwich and drink for dinner. Or maybe they take a taxi to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast every day so there’s no need for milk and cereal at home.
When there’s an emergency, be it a snow storm or hurricane or maybe something more mundane like a fire alarm—these are the people who will stand there watching what everyone else does, maybe holding up a cell phone to record whatever is happening so they can make a juicy post on Facebook or Twitter later. They also include the people who are oblivious to it all and simply have their heads down, texting friends about how crazy last night was. They are content with life and happy to be spoon fed everything they need, when the want it—and the government, media and large corporations are all to happy to do so. Turning over personal responsibility to others merely gives the ‘others’, be it government or corporations or individuals, power over you.
And where do the majority of people fall? In the middle—where the term prepper finds it’s home. A prepper in my mind, is someone who pays attention to current events (maybe not quite as closely as the survivalist but far more closely than than the unprepared) and keeps track of weather and other natural events that may impact his or her life. They assess the risks of their current location (be that home or work or school) and prepare for what risks they deem to be most likely to happen.
Where a survivalist may prepare for all risks and focus on the big ones (economic collapse, invasion, super-volcanoes, etc.) the straight-up prepper will narrow their focus. For example, say you lived in Florida. The survivalist would prepare for hurricanes and thunderstorms, but also migrant waves from Cuba, tsunamis, and riots. The unprepared would choose to be blissfully ignorant and only evacuate at the last minute, adding to gridlock during hurricane season. The prepper will focus on hurricanes, storing food and water for when the power will inevitably be offline in the aftermath of a direct hit. They’ll have a generator and the knowledge of how and when to use it (i.e., not inside a closed garage). They will be ready, they will be wary, but they won’t go to the extremes that a survivalist will.
Where the survivalist may have 5 years of food on hand or more, the prepper may have 5 months or anything from 3 days to 3 weeks and everything in between. The prepper will likely have a get home bag (GHB) in their car so that if they’re stranded at work by storm surge flooding, they’ll have the tools to make it home on foot (including food and water for 3 days).
While the prepper most like has a weapon (where allowed by law), they may only have one or two firearms (like a pistol and/or shotgun) compared to the arsenal a survivalist is more likely to have. Remember, on my spectrum, the survivalist is planning to survive ad infinitum by his own wits, without outside help in a situation of permanent, or near permanent societal break-down or all out collapse. They’re in it for life.
The prepper prepares to survive a temporary lack of outside support, with the full expectation that some day (3 days, a week, a month, or 5 months) down the line, the lights will come back on and things will get back to normal as they’ve always done. They spend a decent amount of money on supplies and practice their skills, but no where near to the point of the hard-core survivalists who not only practices skills but lives them to be ready for when the balloon goes up.
The unprepared? Who knows what the hell they’re thinking. I believe most of the time they’re not—at the far end of their group, they run on instinct and instant gratification. They look to others to warn them, advise them, tell them what to do, and take care of them when things go south. These are the people who turn to looting as a means of survival in the aftermath of an event, either for sustenance or sport (see Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath). Which is why looting is an ever present concern in inner city planning meetings all over the country whenever emergency preparedness is brought up. If you don’t think the mayor of New York is worried about it then how do you explain the millions of dollars spent on training and riot gear for the NYPD and first responders?
Remember, these three categories are representatives of large groups of people that may individually fall closer to one label or another. This is by no means an attempt to lock everyone who prepares into three categories. You can have people who consider them selves preppers who plan for a comet impact wiping out most of humanity but have not a single firearm and no bug-out location—yet they identify with the survivalist more than the average prepper.
Like I said, it’s a sliding scale, and by no means exhaustive. You could spend a lifetime writing about the differences and similarities between someone who prepares for Armageddon versus someone who prepares for a blizzard or ice storm.
I personally fall smack dab in the middle. I plan for winter weather (hello, Wisconsin) and to a lesser extent, severe weather in the summer. I prepare by having some extra food on hand for my family. I prepare by having means of cooking said food without power (camp stoves, propane grill, fire pit, fireplace). I do what I can to make my house safe and secure for my family. I pay attention to news and current events, and I pay attention to what is happening locally, from the town where I live to the street I live on.
When we lived in Texas, I focused on tornados and to a lesser extent toxic spills (railway incidents). A fairly major railway line ran through our backyard about 2 acres from our house (yeah, we had a big back yard—everything’s bigger in Texas!) and I can’t tell you how many times I saw tanker cars carrying God-knows-what past my house day and night. I had a plan in place for if one of those mile-long freight trains suddenly jumped the track and dropped a half-million gallons of chemical death in my back yard.
I never had to implement that plan, thank God, but I had to put my tornado preps into play a half dozen times (we even spotted a twister form in our neighbors yard, saw their shed explode and the debris swirl up into the air like a flock of starlings).
Likewise, when we lived in Florida, I developed a plan for hurricanes—after the first three hit, I was as ready as I could be for #4. I filled a “hurricane” bag with 3 days of food and water for my new wife and myself, including important documents and tools like a portable emergency radio, work gloves, and the like. Should we need to evacuate (on our terms, not when the government decided it was time—by then it would be too late), we could leave within 10 minutes of making the decision.
Anyway, I think post is long enough for today. Hopefully if you didn’t already know the difference, I’ve been able to shed some light on the idea of what a prepper is and how the term ‘survivalist’ with all its negative connotations, doesn’t really apply to the majority of preppers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anyone who calls themselves a survivalist is crazy, unlike the MSM. On the contrary, I think the only difference between a survivalist and a prepper is the extent to which they are prepared. Nowadays, the terms are bantered around and interchangeable to some people. Others shun the term survivalist, while others wear the label as a badge of honor. ‘Prepper’ seems to have entered the lexicon of today’s culture to the extent that whether the MSM wants to or not, it’s forced to use that term when describing us.
Yet they still manage to get that dig in—hence the name “Doomsday Preppers”. As if saying, if you’re going to be prepared for something, you’re preparing for the end of the world as we know it (there’s that TEOTWAKI again) and everyone knows that means your crazy.
The good news is we’re turning that on its head. More and more people are not only preppers but proud of it and not afraid to tell someone they’re prepared. Sometimes you should be afraid to let that be known—don’t worry, we’ll discuss going gray and OPSEC in a future post.
Tomorrow, I’ll have some examples to illustrate the points I’ve made today.
For all my readers on the east coast—hopefully you’re ready for the snow. If you are, get the popcorn out, it’s going to be an interesting “teachable moment” for millions of Americans. I know I’ll be paying attention to the news to glean what I can about people’s behavior in crisis situations like this.