Preppers Prepare, Preppers Beware!

BY Herschel Smith
8 months, 1 week ago

Preppers have been in the news lately.  Since there is increasing interest in this topic, CNN recently had a fairly extensive article on the “doomsday prepper convention.”

More and more Americans are spending money to get ready for an uncertain future — gathering food, water, tools, and skills to help them weather anything from a hurricane to a pandemic. Contrary to images of deluded or gun-obsessed “lone wolves,” many preppers are average consumers reacting to concrete worries, and their way of thinking is spreading, fueling an emerging lifestyle trend. That lifestyle is generating demand for a broad spectrum of products offering survival — or even comfort — when large-scale systems go down.

An array of preparedness expos and conferences have cropped up around the country to serve this emerging and fast-changing market. To get a closer look, I visited Life Changes, Be Ready!, or LCBR, a new expo that held its second event on the weekend of November 2nd and 3rd, in Lakeland, Fla. LCBR gave an immediate sense of one big way that the preparedness crowd isn’t marginal at all – economically. The show floor was packed with a dizzying array of small businesses and products that defied stereotypical “prepper” classification — not just ammunition and crossbows and camping gear, but also seed banks, beehives, financial planning, and acupressure.

According to many of the entrepreneurs on the floor, business is trending upwards. John Egger of Self Reliance Strategies has been producing and selling prepackaged seed banks for nearly four years and sees his market expanding. “It’s definitely picking up. It’s not just country people anymore. We really cater to a suburban market … We call it suburban homesteading.” You can see this broadening of the market in the range of price points, from the $5,600 portable solar charging stations flogged by Alternative Energy, Inc., to the $649 “Stomp Supreme” field medic kit offered by Doom and Bloom, LLC. (“This is the one recommended for people expecting civil unrest.”) Clearly, LCBR’s vendors saw a crowd ready to drop major cash today to assuage their worries about tomorrow.

There are still uncertainties in the preparedness market, some driven by ideology, according to Charley Hogwood of Personal Readiness Education Programs. “All last year it was up and up and up. But after the [presidential] election, it flattened out.” Hogwood thinks that some in the market were overwrought over doomsday scenarios surrounding the reelection of Barack Obama. “Last year, I heard 100 different conspiracy theories” about what a second Obama presidency might mean. But when the election wasn’t followed by martial law and FEMA camps, both the rhetoric and the market cooled off a bit. “I rarely hear the crazy theories now. Now everyone’s worried mainly about the collapse of the dollar,” says Hogwood, referring to widespread prepper fears of hyperinflation triggered by the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing.

Hogwood, friendly and round-faced, reflected the resolute averageness that permeated the show. He snorted derisively at conspiracy theorists, and also acknowledged some of the ironies of a preparedness trade show. “Sometimes it’s like a toy store, and people buy stuff because they like it.” But in a real survival situation, “the more you know, the less you have to carry. A lot of people don’t know much and think they can buy their way out of it.” He sees some of the extremism surrounding the prepping industry as hype, maybe even fearmongering. “It’s so much more fun to worry about martial law than a hurricane. People like zombies as a marketing tool.”

But there are horrible reports that show the bottom feeders of society.

Nuclear war. Volcanic eruption. Terrorist attack.

Though the scenarios of how an apocalyptic event would paralyze or destroy society varies, a group of like-minded individuals in East Pierce County believes a good defense is the best way to prepare for doomsday.

And some believe a good offense is even better.

“We’re not in it to stockpile. We’re in it to take what you have and there’s nothing you can do to stop us,” Tyler Smith says. “We are your worst nightmare, and we are coming.”

Smith, 29, is the leader of Spartan Survival. The group has more than 80 dues-paying members. Smith founded the organization in 2005 to train and prepare others on survivalism.

Analysis & Commentary

There is another report of a family that, readying for nuclear war, builds underground tunnels from 18 recycled school buses — with enough supplies for 500 people — and buries them under a foot and a half of concrete.  Some of the terrifying scenarios for preppers include dirty bombs and a rising sea from global warming.

I am not a prepper by practice, although I tinker a bit in weapons, ammunition and wilderness survival.  But I do have a number of suggestions for preppers to assist them in spending their money efficiently and avoiding the more dangerous situations they seem to choose for themselves and their families.

My reaction to this round of doomsday preppers is about the same as last time.  NatGeo seems to find some of the weirdest folks to do this special, making preppers appear to be crackpots and neglecting to cover some of the more normal people involved in this loosely connected and loosely coupled group.

On the other hand, there are some seriously confused people involved in the movement, and there are a number of misconceptions that need to be set right.  On one episode a year or more ago, some poor lady (a former LEO) who lived near a commercial nuclear reactor wanted to be prepared in the event of an explosion and nuclear fallout from this reactor.  In the same vein, many prepper web sites feature so-called “anti-radiation pills” for protection from, I suppose, nuclear war, “fallout” from nuclear accidents and according to one report, dirty bombs.

So that preppers can stop worrying over at least one subset of concerns, let me state unequivocally and without reservation that commercial nuclear reactors don’t explode like nuclear bombs.  Folks, if I may lapse into pointy-head mode for a moment, by requirement of the code of federal regulations, American commercial nuclear reactors must be designed with an overall negative power coefficient.  This means that the combination of void, Doppler and moderator feedback must shut down the reactor in situations of unintended power increase.  It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the simplest way I know to explain it for those of you not involved in the field of nuclear engineering.

The Russian RBMK reactor (e.g., Chernobyl) was designed as a loosely coupled graphite moderated reactor where the coolant was a neutron poison, not the moderator.  Thus it has a positive void coefficient and overall positive power coefficient.  Even so, the accident at Chernobyl was still a rapid power excursion leading to a steam explosion that destroyed the reactor systems and containment.  So it wasn’t a nuclear explosion, but it was a catastrophe.  Russian reactors, however, are under no such design requirement as U.S. nuclear reactors.  Furthermore, the there was no hard containment design for Chernobyl.

The U.S. had a Chernobyl, i.e., Three Mile Island.  There was essentially no dose to the public because of the slow progression of the accident and the hard containment design.  The most hazard to which you can expose your family in a commercial nuclear reactor accident is to put yourself on the road trying to escape it along with all of the other fear mongers who believe that a nuclear reactor can explode.  Stay home.

Next, and listen to me very closely on this one, there is no such thing as an anti-radiation pill.  These web sites are selling Potassium Iodide tablets.  Their design is to saturate the thyroid gland with stable iodine, thus preventing radioactive iodine from seeking this organ if it has been released and is available for intake or uptake.  But the thyroid isn’t the only target organ for radioactive fission products, and iodine isn’t the only fission product.  Cesium, strontium and the actinides are bone seekers, and in fact a perusal of Federal Guidance Report No. 11 will show that there are a whole host of potential pathways of exposure to radioactive effluents.

Furthermore, Potassium Iodide has potential side effects, and before you saturate your thyroid gland because you are afraid of nuclear power or some other nuclear event, take note that you’ve been warned.  Finally, the concept of dirty bombs is unfortunate because it appeals to the fear of the unseen and misunderstood.  It isn’t possible to disperse nuclear contaminants far enough to be more effective than conventional explosives unless the device deploys inside a confined space with forced ventilation.

Furthermore, if there is a general lack of technical understanding in prepper designs for amelioration of nuclear events, I’m equally concerned about the structures and domiciles that are being built.  Folks, most of you are not registered professional engineers, and you aren’t having registered PEs do the designs of these buildings and tunnels and other things.  For a primer on exactly what happens when an engineer designs something and a contractor does it his own way instead of following the plans, see the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse.  An awful lot of money is being spent on plans that may or may not be safe, effective or necessary.

But of course, that’s exactly what the con artists and shysters want.  They want to take your money.  But it’s your job to keep your money, or at least, not give it away to unscrupulous people who don’t care about you.  So what do you really need?  Do you need a home in the forest or desert or somewhere else in the American redoubt?  Do you need tactical training?  Do you need more money, or gold and silver?

I don’t have an answer, but I do.  I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do in any specific situation, but I think that the answer to the questions above is to take tomorrow on as an opportunity to be more prepared than you were today, in whatever endeavor you work and live, whatever your station in life.  And I think it’s wrong for anyone to tell you what you should believe that you need, except to have means of self defense and defense of your family.

Like many of my readers, I couldn’t conjure up faith in the soon-to-collapse Keynesian, dept-based economic system if my life depended on it.

But concerning Mr. Tyler Smith, preppers shouldn’t ever be associated with people like that.  First of all, he is a liar.  He cannot possibly deliver on his promises of taking things from other people.  Second, it shows a dark underbelly, not just of preppers, but of mankind in general.

I recall having a conversation with my son Daniel, my former Marine, some time around his combat tour of Iraq.  The backdrop is that Colonel William Mullen had shown me his pre-deployment PowerPoint presentation to the Battalion, and I took particular notice of the last slide or two.  Essentially, Colonel Mullen had issued die-in-place orders to the Battalion.  The orders were never to surrender to the enemy.  It would only hamper the efforts of the Battalion, unnecessarily tie up resources attempting to locate you, and put your family through agony.

There are things worse than death, I recall telling Daniel.  For instance, dying without honor or for me, having denied my Lord.  So if I ever face death for my Christianity, I hope to recite the Apostle’s Creed as loudly as I can until a 7.62X39 rips through my skull.  If that sounds gruesome, I would remind readers that none of us get out of this alive.  We will all perish, and the only question is how.  Rather than planning to steal from others in an apocalypse or other disaster, the goal of all of us should be to work in order to have something for those in need (Ephesians 4:28).

If you want to live a more sustainable life style, there are guideposts and examples to follow, but it’s hard and serious labor, and there is no room for gimmicks or con artists.  And there is certainly no room for thieves, ne’er-do-wells or thugs who threaten to take the means to protect or feed your family.  Preppers should continue to prepare, as should everyone.  But preppers need to beware of shysters, wicked men who bring threats, and doing things that actually end up making their family less safe than if they hadn’t prepared at all.  A man who threatens to take what you have (and wants to teach you to do the same) is no different than the one who will sell you an expensive shelter in the case of an “explosion” from an American commercial nuclear reactor (that will never happen).  They’re both con artists.  Beware of con artists.

In closing:

…We are not given to know all the ripples our words and deeds might produce. In this as in all things, God is good. What man could bear to live with the knowledge that his lightest utterances would disrupt the entire future of Man? It’s for the best that we deem ourselves, and our effects, finite. I wouldn’t want to be able to see too far ahead; it would distract me from what I must do today.

But in reflecting on the above exchange, and the one before it, it occurs to me that the one and only predictable thing in life is its end: we shall all die. At the Particular Judgment, when I must answer to God for my deeds in life, a verdict will be rendered from which there is no appeal. It will be clear to me from the absolute self-knowledge conferred by one’s entrance to eternity that it could be no other way, and all I will be able to say is So it is.

May God bless and keep you all (quote via WRSA).



  • GenEarly

    Thank you, excellent comments. Grocery store non refrigerated food, long term food, water purification, self protection with lots of ammo are basic 3 legs of the stool. Then fill in with other items. Like minded and prepared friends and family will be very important, maybe even a community will be essential on a broader scale.
    The economy and falling Dollar seems most likely to precipitate the “travails”, or a hack on the electrical grid.

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  • Ozzie

    The first time I tried to prepare for a disaster was Y2K. I developed a plan to heat my home, have drinking water and food for three months. It was a fun and interesting family experience; everyone had a task and needed to learn some piece of it. As the years click by, you learn more and accumulate more stuff and teach yourself more skills. The warm security blanket feeling you get from preparing starts on the day you see a crowd piling into the grocery store looking for bad weather supplies and you realize you don’t need anything.

    My most useful noob lesson: when trouble happens, if you let yourself get too cold, too hungry or too exhausted, it makes everything immediately harder. Some tasks might be impossible if you’re too cold to uncurl, too weak to keep moving or too confused to recognize your danger.

  • Pingback: » November 20, 2013


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This article is filed under the category(s) Featured,Survival and was published November 18th, 2013 by Herschel Smith.

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