Doomsday preppers: Are they crazy, or are you?

You think that food storage and survival skills are for people in tin hats? Think about the fragility of your food supply, and then think again. Photo: Doomsday Preppers (National Geographic Channel)

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 28, 2012 — Nuclear disaster, Natural disaster, biological attack, economic collapse and pandemic are just a few of the things keeping more and more Americans awake at night these days.

The world is rapidly becoming a much scarier place than it was 20 years ago.  Since the tragic events of 9/11, many Americans are becoming aware of their mortality long before the “mid-life crisis” kicks in.

Just ask 15-year-old Jason Beacham, who has been preparing for economic collapse since he was 11.  

People stockpile food and other essentials, learn to purify water, and learn other survival skills for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons seem crazy, but when you consider the fragility of our food distribution networks, power grids, and other complex systems that we depend on, this kind of preparedness does not seem so crazy after all.  

If you do your own shopping, you’ve noticed that every trip to the grocery store costs a bit more than the one before. The core inflation rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been under 2 percent for the last couple of years, but to many Americans that seems low. The primary reason for that is that food and energy are not included in core inflation rate.

The BLS claims that the price volatility of these commodities creates unrealistic and erratic inflation statistics. Last year the food inflation rate was twice the core rate, and the growth of energy prices much greater than that. I don’t know about you, but energy and food make up the majority of my non-housing personal expenses (the average American spends 15 percent of her budget on food).

From a purely financial point of view, then, stockpiling staples makes sense. It is a way to save money, especially on items that do not expire, or have a very long shelf life.

Depending upon the severity and length of a crisis, a can of beans could end up being more valuable than a hundred-dollar bill. A severe disruption of our infrastructure, resulting in a halt to shipping of goods, could (and has) very quickly resulted in bare shelves at your local grocery store.

If Black Friday mobs can cause injuries in the scramble for bargain toys and computers, imagine how insane your local supermarket could be if it were suddenly common knowledge that there would be no more food shipments for a week. Grocery stores are referred to as “just in time” retailers. They do not maintain large inventories of goods. They receive shipments every day, re-stocking half empty shelves with goods straight off the trucks.

With over 300 million people in this country, relying on the government to ensure food and fresh water are available is simply irresponsible. Nearly 2,000 dead from hurricane Katrina prove that. Imagine if Katrina had been a nationwide catastrophe rather than a relatively localized disaster. The government simply does not have the resources to ensure the safety and wellbeing of 300 million people.

If you want to prepare for a major disruption in essential services and food distribution, what should you do?

Your first need is water. The biggest risk in a major crisis is dehydration, or illness from drinking unsafe water. There are a few inexpensive items you can toss in the corner of the garage to ensure that you have drinking water for you and your family should the unthinkable happen. A couple big bags of natural charcoal and half a dozen bags of sand can be used to create a very effective water filter, rendering even the dirty puddle in the street drinkable.

Simply take a garbage can, poke some holes in the bottom to create a filter container. Crush the charcoal into small (dime-sized) pieces, and layer the can like one of those sand sculptures, alternating charcoal and sand, finishing with sand on top. Capture the filtered water from the bottom of your filter, boil it, and you could quite possibly save the lives of your family following a disruption in the services we take for granted.

I do not suggest that you dig a bunker and stock ten years’ worth of dehydrated food, but being prepared to be self-sufficient for a few months is not only prudent and responsible; it can also save a lot of money, or even your life.



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Mike Shortridge

Mike is a former Marine who served in the Middle East. He is disgusted with both the Republican and Democratic parties, seeing them as two heads of the same beast. He writes from the conservative perspective, with a focus on making complex subjects easy to understand.


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