Doomsday Preppers are Socially Selfish

There are those who think the Doomsday Preppers is an extreme model of self-preparedness; I just see them as an extreme model of selfishness.

THANK YOU FOR READING THIS! When I wrote this blog, I was reacting to the National Geographic Channel show “Doomsday Preppers”.  The message created quite a storm among the general prepper community and an opportunity for me to get educated on what preppers actually do.

In addition to reading this one, check out the followup blogs:

Doomsday Preppers vs Disaster Preppers (posted 12/2)

Doomsday Preppers: Mea Culpa (posted 12/4)

OK, I get it. Preppers Are Not Selfish. I was wrong.  I apologize.  (posted 12/6)

The Case for the Lifestyle Prepper (posted 12/8)

Merging Preppers with Emergency Management (posted 12/11)

A Short Note From A New Prepper (posted 12/13


First, an admission:  I have ignored National Geographic’s The Doomsday Preppers since it debuted in February. There are lots of ‘reality’ shows out there (I am personally fond of Top Chef and Project Runway), but being in the business of dealing with disasters on a regular basis, watching it seemed like a busman’s holiday – and a ‘way-over-the-top’ one at that.

What drew it to my attention was my friend David Burns, CEM.  David has lots of experience in emergency management and response and my respect forever, even if there have been times we disagree on the details.  For example, I passed on an offer from the producers of the History Channel documentary “After Armageddon” in early 2010 and recommended they talk to David.  David had the best line in the final cut:  he said “We’re gonna die and there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it.”  Blunt, but brilliant.

(BTW: You can still buy that video or watch it on YouTube.)

Doomsday Preppers took the concept and made it a reality show, with real people talking about how they are preparing for their own personal vision of a catastrophe. It is the highest rated show EVER on the National Geographic channel – beating such offerings as Border Wars and Dog Whisperer

The official NGC description for Doomsday Preppers says this:

Doomsday Preppers explores the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Unique in their beliefs, motivations, and strategies, preppers will go to whatever lengths they can to make sure they are prepared for any of life’s uncertainties.

For example – one couple was preparing for the day the North and South poles swap places and cause major climate changes.  There are individuals, families and small groups preparing for nuclear war, the upcoming economic collapse when China takes over the world, or the inevitable electromagnetic pulse attack on America that will wipe out radios and cell phones. If these folks weren’t so earnest in their beliefs, it would make a great science fiction series.

After the Preppers detail their plans, they get graded:  And with our expert’s assessment, they will find out their chances of survival if their worst fears become a reality. 

And guess what!  You can get your very own Prepper score!  The survey asks how much food and water you have stored away, AND whether you have a renewable food or water supply. Do you have a bunker, can you generate your own electricity, how many firearms do you own, do you have items for bartering – they recommend silver as the more tradable commodity. (Based on their criteria, I could only survive 1-2 weeks on my own with no outside help – and without helping anyone else.) Doomsday Preppers has an official Facebook page, with 179,061 ‘likes’ as of this morning.

David’s comment about the series: “Not sure if this is good or crazy good? A little prep is good, too much prep, maybe not so good, some of those Texan's can be quite scary," he said. "Good grief; just reinforced that there can be too much of a good thing ..."

This was from my personal ‘GO-TO’ person on catastrophic disaster planning!

You might wonder why someone like me, who has been in the business of encouraging disaster preparedness for a very long time, is so critical of people who are doing just that. It’s because they are being socially selfish – preparing themselves and the hell with everyone else.  Instead of spending time and energy making changes that would benefit the larger community, in their very narrow focus of loyalty they are more concerned about themselves.

Emergency Managers can’t afford that kind of attitude.  It is diametrically opposed to everything we do. Our job is to prepare individuals and communities and jurisdictions and regions and – ultimately – the globe for disasters, knowing we won’t always succeed.  I could find statistics about how unprepared some citizens are, and then show you hundreds of active and volunteer CERT teams preparing whole communities. In major disasters (think 9-11 or the Christ Church earthquake or Superstorm Sandy), survivors for the most part WANT to help each other.

Sure, I’m optimistic.  Think about historical disasters and the societies and cultures that collapsed:  the Roman Empire is always a good example.  The cultural and political system that was the Roman Empire was brought down by natural disasters, barbarian invasions and social instability; yet there were still established pockets of civilization that remained to become the seeds of the Renaissance. 

The only catastrophe I can think of that might cause the type of destruction these folks are preparing for is a comet hitting the earth, aka: Lucifer’s Hammer.  That is a great science fiction story - scared the bejesus out of me - but the world still survived.

There are those who think the Doomsday Preppers is an extreme model of self-preparedness; I just see them as an extreme model of selfishness.