Friday, November 16, 2012

Are you "prepped"?

It's cold and flu season, and your friendly neighborhood Go Big Read blogger took a sick day earlier in the week and spent the afternoon on the couch.  Buried under blankets, I ended up catching a few episodes of the show Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel.

An underground fallout shelter.  Image source.
In Radioactive, Lauren Redniss recounts an interview with Vic Rantala, president of Safecastle, LLC.  Safecastle is a major seller of "prepping" materials, from meals-ready-to-eat to body armor to portable solar power generators to full-blown fallout shelters.  Vic Rantala describes how his personal experience, working as a "designated NBC - Nuclear, Biological, Chemical - specialist" in Germany during the Cold War, led to his personal belief in preparing for worst-case scenarios.  "You don't have to be a wacko," he says.  "You don't have to be a gun nut.  You don't even have to suspect the government of any conspiracies.  It's logical to have a plan. [...] What I'm selling is not necessarily protection.  What I'm selling is peace of mind. Whenever something big happens, it's going to be something that no one expected." (Redniss 149)

Doomsday Preppers explores the lives of people who have taken Rantala's philosophy to heart, and are busily preparing for the end of the world, whatever form it happens to take.  Preppers stockpile food, water, and other resources; they build fallout shelters in their homes or maintain shelters elsewhere; they practice "bug out" drills (bugging out refers to quickly leaving home for a safer location in the event of an emergency) and outfit themselves with body armor, hazmat suits and, yes, weapons.  You can view clips of the show on the National Geographic Channel website, and you can even take a quiz to determine your own "prepper score." (Your score is determined by the length of time you would likely survive in a worst-case scenario. If that's not anxiety-inducing, I don't know what is!)

As bizarre as this might seem to some of us, however, prepping is certainly not a new phenomenon.  Anyone who studied the Cold War in high school or college will probably remember the famous Duck and Cover video, put out by the Federal Administration for Civil Defense in 1952.  Below, a clip from the film.

 Federal Administration for Civil Defense, 1952.

These were the scariest years of the Cold War, the height of the McCarthy era, when every stranger was a potential communist and it was assumed that the Soviet Union could be deploying its nuclear weapons at any moment (weapons built, of course, on the foundation of the Curies' research on radiation—though neither of them lived long enough to see where their research had led).  At this time, citizens were encouraged by civil defense organizations to build fallout shelters in their homes and to stockpile food, water, gas masks and other resources to help them survive in the event of a nuclear war. Today's Doomsday Preppers are only following in a long tradition. Though the Communists with their atomic bombs may no longer be the "Big Bad" of our collective cultural imagination, there are other things to fear: global warming, government conspiracies, bioterrorism, a zombie apocalypse, the supposed "2012 prophecies," and more.

Certainly, there are things in this world that are frightening, and preparation for certain disasters and emergencies is wise. As Vic Rantala points out, peace of mind is a valuable thing. However, sixty years from now, these prepping extremes might seem as silly and antiquated as Bert the Turtle and his "duck and cover" technique—or maybe the preppers will have the last laugh after all.

To learn more about modern-day prepping, head over to the American Preppers Network, and check out their guide to getting started in prepping.  Or visit either of these sites for more information. You can also check out Vic Rantala's company, Safecastle, LLC.

Doomsday Preppers airs Tuesday nights at 8pm CT on the National Geographic Channel.

Brooke Williams, Go Big Read grad student

Labels: , , , ,

Comments posted to the Go Big Read blog are moderated. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that include any of the following:

  1. Offensive or inappropriate language
  2. Personal attacks
  3. Copyrighted materials used without permission in cases where permission is required
  4. External links and/or comments that are not relevant to the original post


Blogger Kyle Mitchell said...

I agree that preparation for certain emergencies and disasters is wise but you cannot live in fear all your life. Some people accept this idea of preparation too literally and become obsessed. We should be emotionally prepared that such things happen but not live in fear the the world will end.

Handy Moves

November 29, 2012 at 5:54 AM  
Anonymous incometer said...

I found it quiet interesting ,Thank you for posting the great content…I was looking for something like this…, hopefully you will keep posting such blogs…

June 29, 2014 at 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Pengobatan Tradisional Varises said...

The information you convey very useful indeed, thank you ..

July 17, 2014 at 10:59 PM  
Anonymous Daniel Ware said...

Proving what everyone feared: the show is still focusing on extreme, sensational stuff - especially anything that includes explosions - and not on basics at all.

July 28, 2014 at 10:47 AM  
Anonymous mebel jepara said...

I think you cannot live in fear all your life and money people accept this idea of preparation.
Thank you for share guys

August 10, 2014 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Yan - said...

The idea behind prepping is basically for insurance. We all have insurance on our house and car if something happens and yet those are just 'things'.
Having food or stored water (which is not that expensive) is insurance on possibly your life, which is obviously more important, don't you think?

October 25, 2014 at 11:41 PM  
Anonymous Akhil Arora said...

Thank you just for this great blog post. It absolutely was extensively helpful and to the point. I am glad I found this blog through google.

November 18, 2014 at 7:03 AM  
Anonymous mebel jati said...

This is a great article, Thanks for giving me this information.

November 26, 2014 at 10:07 AM  
Anonymous دهانات الجزيرة said...

Thank you very much the subject of very cool

December 5, 2014 at 7:35 PM  
Blogger Be Prepared Solar said...

Very good article! A great way for you to be prepared is to have a non-gas generator for emergency back up power because gas is almost always in short supply during a disaster. Solar generators don't use gas and will provide you and your family with clean, reliable power. To learn more about solar generators visit

December 5, 2014 at 10:31 PM  
Anonymous stungun murah said...

very cool

December 11, 2014 at 12:51 PM  
Anonymous David Holstein said...

How is possible to be prepared for something you actually do not expect? And if expecting, then it's more likely to live, waiting to happen, or in fear. Completely agree with Kyle Mitchell.

December 13, 2014 at 12:08 PM  
Anonymous kamar set said...

Very good article! A great way for you to be prepared is to have a non-gas generator for emergency back up power because gas is almost always in short supply during a disaster. Solar generators don't use gas and will provide you and your family with clean, reliable power

December 14, 2014 at 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Daniel Hermanson said...

Preparing for the doomsday can be really pointless in my opinion. If it is the end of the world it means that everything on Earth will die. Keeping a shelter underground full with food and reserves will make the agony longer. In case that there is a short time cataclysm and things will get better in a relatively sort time, a shelter underground is useful of course.

Very informative, thank you!

December 24, 2014 at 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Dedot16 said...

I strongly agree with what was said.
Preparation is important, because there is not anything that would run smoothly if there is no previous preparation. Health is a very valuable

December 31, 2014 at 2:44 AM  
Anonymous Hot-Prepper said...

Great show! Yes-they focus on the crazies prepping for things like a zombie apocalypse, or alien invasion, but the show also brings light on some of the rational reasons for being a prepper. The way they rate preppers in terms of their survival chance may help others realise that they get prepared - even if only for a 72 hour emergency.

January 3, 2015 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous What is GRE said...

Feeling appreciated is one of the most important needs that people have. When you share with someone your appreciation and gratitude, they will not forget you. Appreciation will return to you many times
What is GRE

January 12, 2015 at 9:34 AM  
Anonymous car service said...

You make total sense. I must say Doomsday Preppers is a fantastic program.

February 6, 2015 at 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Austin said...

As much as it may seem smart or proactive to prep, I think some people think it's totally unrealistic.

February 15, 2015 at 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Trade Certificates said...

Preparing for something you do not expect is difficult but sometimes you should be prepared for all you, an interesting blog and thanks for the read

March 1, 2015 at 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Furniture Jati said...

Keeping a shelter underground full with food and reserves will make the agony longer. In case that there is a short time cataclysm and things will get better in a relatively sort time, a shelter underground is useful of course.

March 3, 2015 at 4:15 PM  
Anonymous jual semut jepang said...

This article is very useful to be able to increase the knowledge of the reader as well as the lives of people who live under the ground sort of Iglo therefore I thank the creator of the blog

April 7, 2015 at 6:35 AM  
Anonymous Solar Panels said...

Great post!

April 14, 2015 at 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

We were initially told to keep 3 days of food and water, but now it's up to seven days. So take note of that when preparing. One other thing that was left off was to make sure you get an emergency radio, it's really important.

April 20, 2015 at 7:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home