A couple of weeks ago, on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, 40 people gathered at a church in Washington Heights for a show-and-tell session sponsored by the New York City Preppers Network. One by one, they stood in front of the room and exhibited their “bug-out bags,” meticulously packed receptacles filled with equipment meant to see them through the collapse of civilization.
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.
After showing off his own bag (parachute cord, a bivy sack, a two-week supply of Meals Ready to Eat), Mr. Charles, a New York City firefighter, told the group that he had just bought a dog. “So now I have to implement his plan, too,” he said a little worriedly. With a pause and a sheepish look, he added, “That’s weird, right?”
New York hardly seems like a natural location for what has become known as the prepper movement, but in fact the city’s prepping community is not only large and remarkably diverse, its leaders say, it’s also growing rapidly.
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.
It isn’t easy being a Prepper these days. The discipline has taken blows from TV programs like “Doomsday Preppers,” which — despite its record ratings and recent episodes, like “Escape From New York” — is more or less a weekly invitation to laugh at lunatics tunneling into mountainsides to escape a Russian nuclear attack. Last month, a chill went through the movement when it turned out that the mother of Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Newtown, Conn., killings, was a Prepper. Even though prepping is increasingly visible in the culture — through meet-up groups, books, films and weekend retreats at which canning skills are learned — it continues to be thought of as a marginal and unseemly business, something on par with believing that the Bilderberg Group controls world events or that the government is hiding aliens at Area 51.
MY OWN ATTEMPTS at prepping started at a point between the fall of Lehman Brothers and the corresponding rise of quantitative easing, when it occurred to me — as, of course, it did to many — that the financial system was appallingly unstable and that the realm of the possible now included a disruptive reduction in the value of our money. Egged on by admittedly heated readings of doomsday authors like John Mauldin and Charles Hugh Smith, I began to form a picture of the world as a system of unsustainable systems, a rickety Rube Goldberg machine in which the loss of any one piece — cheap oil, say — could derail the whole contraption, from truck transportation to the distribution of food.
In the wake of these insights, I called a family friend in Ohio, himself half-a-Prepper, and he advised me to purchase a quantity of Silver Eagle coins as an inflation hedge, which I did. Not long after came the hundred-dollar, home-delivered month’s supply of freeze-dried food — in the standard and the vegetarian options — from Costco.com. I bought my wife, which is to say, myself, John Seymour’s homesteading classic, “The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It.” I began the conversation about acquiring a gun.
While close friends visiting my home might be allowed a look at my haphazard bug-out bag, I mostly kept quiet about prepping, aware of the embarrassment I was courting. It was, therefore, with a measure of relief that I found myself this month among brethren Preppers who intuitively understood my desire to have at hand a packed supply of power bars or a LifeStraw personal drinking tool. You do meet Preppers in New York who are preparing for extreme events like solar flares or an eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera, but most say their concerns are more immediate, more local: chief among them being terrorist attacks, natural disasters and economic collapse.
“The Earth isn’t going to crash into Planet X and the Mayan thing never happened” is how Mr. Charles put it when I introduced myself at the show-and-tell. “But I’ll tell you this,” he added. “People here definitely used their preps during Sandy.”
Not surprisingly, the storm attracted numerous recruits to his group and joined a list of totemic prepping moments that already included the much-hyped Y2K fiasco, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. I learned that New York Preppers prep for reasons as varied as their anxieties and experience. “It was a pragmatic response to certain things I know,” said Robert Segal, a wine salesman between jobs, who once worked as an electrical technician on a nuclear submarine. “As an engineer, I’m sort of a student of how things fall apart.”
Some in NYS are waking up
Count me in
F Obama and every liberal scumbag