Finelli sits across from me at the food court picnic table inside the Sam’s Club on Sunshine Street, where he requested we meet. The retired computer systems designer-turned–radio show host and homesteader has salt and pepper hair, wears a plaid shirt and jeans and carries a .45-caliber automatic firearm on his person (he won’t say where). Below his strong jawline hangs a leather bag full of crushed sapphire, meant to enhance his overall health.
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Onto a folding table came a breathtaking array of disaster swag: compasses and iodine pills, hand-cranked radios and solar-powered flashlights, magnesium fire-starters and a fully charged Kindle with digital road maps of the tristate region. Many of the items on display went far beyond the “10 Basic Pillars of Bug-Out Gear” that Jason Charles, the network’s leader, had passed out in advance through the Internet. A good number were tweaked to fit their owners’ needs and interests. A locksmith in the group had a lock-picking set. A vegetarian had a stash of homemade dehydrated lentils. One man had a condom designed to serve as an emergency canteen; another had a rat trap — to catch and eat the rats.
As I got to know him better, Mr. Edwards told me the story of his own interest in disaster preparation, which began, he said, in 1972, when he went to see “Deliverance” on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. (“I thought it was a camping movie.”) He entered the theater as a relatively normal 10-year-old, but emerged as a Prepper: “I said to myself, ‘Gee, I should get to learning everything possible to prevent that situation from occurring.’ ”
We get that creature comforts will be ever more important as the things that used to make us happy slowly break and crumble around us. But do you really want to put a ton of effort into opening a bakery when everything is going to shit? And we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but no amount of odor elimination is going to stop the uncivilized world from smelling really, really bad.
“That’s a major problem,” says Gene Louis, a New Jersey expat who attended his first meetup in 2013 after moving to Springfield to begin ventures in real estate brokerage and digital marketing. Plus, Jersey is expensive, and he doesn’t like the fact that its residents don’t pump their own gas. “You don’t know what people are going to define as a threat, don’t know what people at survival meetings are going to talk about,” he says. “You can’t prepare for 100 percent of what’s on that list—well, you’d need to be Donald Trump to afford to.”
I bought these candles after we experienced a prolonged power outage. We had headlamps that all had charged batteries so we used those to see in the dark. It became apparent to me that candles are nice because you can place them on a table and have permanent low light where you can sit and work. It is a lot more peaceful than the blinding light of headlamps shining on your face.
For example, have you considered the need for feminine products? What about canes, walkers, and manually operated wheelchairs? Pets need food, crates, and toys to keep them occupied while the rest of family members are recovering from chaos. It will be impossible to cover every contingency but be aware of what those needs are now then prioritize those that you deem most important.
To the unprepared, the very word “prepper” is likely to summon images of armed zealots hunkered down in bunkers awaiting the End of Days, but the reality, at least here in New York, is less dramatic. Local Preppers are doctors, doormen, charter school executives, subway conductors, advertising writers and happily married couples from the Bronx. They are no doubt people that you know — your acquaintances and neighbors. People, I’ll admit, like myself.
Is it stereotypical that the AARP crowd would be the ones to spend three hours talking about metal detectors and canning and caving at a Pizza Hut on a Monday night? Probably, but that’s what I bore witness to in this event room; its combination of exposed wood and stock-photo decor felt like an Olive Garden inside a pirate ship. Up front, the scraggly white-bearded, Bad Santa–lookalike Andrew: rested one foot on a chair, gripping the mic, just like Randall said he would be.
Fires happen at the best of times—when the SHTF, they are even more likely to happen. You need to be prepared. And you will be with the Firemask as part of your prepper gear This is a respiratory device that will protect against smoke inhalation, fire, and radiant heat. It also protects against carbon monoxide, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and other toxic gases.
Canned meat: Get about 20 cans of assorted meats. Without refrigeration it will be hard to keep meat from spoiling, and that’s if you can get it in the first place. There are quite a few options, SPAM, Ham, Beef, Chicken, Tuna and sardines, but remember buy what you eat now. Also make sure you have a manual can opener, your electric can opener might not work.
Yup, you’re right about the dehydrated food having around half the daily recommended calorie count for adults – but I still feel they’re valuable if you can afford it. A food stockpile that big will a least help you get by for the year, regardless of whether you’ll be thriving. And it’s easier (in my opinion) to supplement a stockpile than to depend on growing, hunting, trapping, or fishing everything yourself, especially if you’re not used to doing it.
What programs like Doomsday Preppers have accomplished, or at least contributed to, is turning sometimes well-informed, sometimes totally unwarranted paranoia into a booming prepper-industrial complex. Each year, swap meets pack hundreds of convention centers and fairgrounds across the nation—they’re like camping shows with a dose of military surplus and hands-on instructional sessions. The September 2017 Kansas City Survival Expo & Gun Show, for instance, had tips on seed saving, “Overcoming 900 Health Diseases” and “A Devastating Street Self-Defense System.” The latter was taught by Norman Cantwell, who inspired Patrick Swayze’s character in Roadhouse. You get the feeling that he and Steven Seagal would be friends.
His answer was squarely in line with Prepper doctrine. Dr. Redlener said it was rational — indeed, it was recommended — to have a three-day supply of food and water, a working flashlight, a first-aid kit, a radio that runs without batteries and a plan in place to rejoin one’s relatives after a disaster. He talked about situational awareness, a major Prepper mantra. “A prepared citizen is someone who understands how to take care of himself,” he said, “who has amassed the necessary items, who has a plan.”
His conclusion, then, is that preppers are responding to what they're hearing: "prepping is a phenomenon with clear, previously unacknowledged links to broader risk communications and concerns in the twenty-first century United States." In other words, prepping might be an unusual response to the challenges everyone faces when trying to communicate risks to the public, but it's on a spectrum of responses, rather than being a distinct phenomenon.
Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers will allow you to preserve many staple grains — rice, beans, and flour — for 30-plus years. Titan Survivorcord is a paracord that includes fishing line, snare wire, and a strand of jute twine infused with wax, for fire-starting. The Inergy Kodiak power generator is one of the most advanced lithium power generators on the market.
I would never advise you start a survival food stockpile with something like this, but once you have a year or two of long-shelf life survival foods you can grab at a grocery store, and you’ve saved up enough in emergency funds of course, investing in something like this is, in my opinion, serious peace of mind. You, again, hopefully won’t have to use it, but if the time comes when you do, and you run out of your year or two supply at hand, this would come in really handy, especially since it will a quarter of a century before it even remotely starts going off.
Zombie Squads make up a small portion of the overarching prepper movement—people devoted to learning how to survive any disaster, from a house fire to a zombie attack. The movement, says Huddleston, an anthropologist at Saint Louis University and Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, has grown “a ton” in recent years. “Because one, people are afraid of things in the world,” he explains. “And two, I think many people have had experiences with different kinds of small-scale or even large-scale disasters, be it Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy, and they see that there is some practical value in knowing a little bit or having a little bit”—such as knowing how to do first aid or having enough food on hand.
As you can see, a big thing for my prepper gear consists of the essentials of water, food and more good food items. When it comes to actually getting that food, I can not live off freeze-dried food or long-lasting tin food, I know my family can’t either. We are too used to eating fresh, gourmet, homegrown meals, and in all honesty, if the SHTF, I’d like to think I would be sitting back still eating herb-doused chicken wings.
During his 45th Infantry Division, Pense taught field wiring, instructing G.I.s on setting poles and stringing wires to rig together a communications network from scratch. After the war, he was an electronics engineer in the private sector, sometimes on military contracts, learning the frailty of the nation’s power grid firsthand. On one government contract, he witnessed a nuclear warhead knock out power in Hawaii after detonating high above the Pacific.
When I asked about some of those I had met along the way — say, the geared-up 12-year-old, Leonardo Ruiz Jr., who, dropping his suspicions, later gave his name to a photographer — he gave a forbearing smile. “There’s a spectrum,” Dr. Redlener said. “On one end is mindless complacency. On the other is paranoia. The challenge is to find that place in the middle where you understand that bad things can happen, but it doesn’t consume your life.”
Why not take it a step further and think, if you were in a flood, earthquake, or some other disaster or SHTF scenario where supply routes were cut off, and clean drinking water was not available, how would you try to mimic normal life and keep your modern comforts, let alone survive without relying on running taps, full grocery aisles, and electricity.
The thing about disaster preparedness is that it’s hard to stop. I mean, 3AM-5AM still serves up dreadful scenarios every morning, and I usually need a couple cups of coffee to determine whether stockpiling camping gear, Tamiflu, lipstick, and nylons are the next logical steps or merely the ravings of Panic Town. But for now, at least, we’re set. Except for the chocolate.
But this is a situation where we can achieve a lot through a simple ranking system. If we prepare for the far most likely disaster to strike us (for me it’s a tornado or extended power outage during winter time since I live in Alabama in the infamous “Dixie Alley”), we will find a pleasing truth…we will generally be prepared for many of the other types of disasters on our list by default, already.
Modern-day survivalists aren't generally regarded as the most sane people on the planet. A quick look at any one of the disturbingly common and frighteningly thorough shopping lists they post online drives home the fact that anyone who self-identifies as a "prepper" most likely went off the deep end a long time ago. Sure, it's fine to keep a few extra cans of food and cases of water around for an emergency, but if you start adding body armor and butt paste to your stash, you might want to tell George Miller that it's time to see other people.
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