DOOMSDAY Preppers vs. DISASTER Preppers - What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

I believe in the power of local preparedness to make society better; I don't believe preparing for Doomsday helps make that happen.

These are the blogs related to the one you are about to read. 

Doomsday Preppers are Socially Selfish (posted 11/29)

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)


A few days ago, I posted this blog: Doomsday Preppers are Socially Selfish.  The role of a blogger is to foment discussion an  it certainly appears that’s what I did.  I very much appreciated most of the 150+ comments – except perhaps the ones that called me ‘stupid’, ‘nuts, ‘arrogant’, ‘ignorant’ – and a few personal emails that were much more graphic.

I wrote this for the emergency management community, who pretty much understood what I was saying.  Social media is certainly powerful and I had no idea this would be so controversial.

FIRST .. let me offer a heartfelt apology.  The title of that blog was misleading because there is a difference between DOOMSDAY Preppers and DISASTER Preppers. My sister, Marilyn, is a great example of a Disaster Prepper – although she calls it stocking up while working with her community.  I asked her what the difference was and she said Disaster Preppers want to prepare for a prolonged power outage (all to common these days), while Doomsday Preppers are preparing for half the world to be destroyed. 

For the record, I was a practicing emergency manager for over 20 years before I retired last year.  The words 'All Disasters Are Local' are permanently inscribed on my brain. I would NEVER discourage or disparage work being done in communities as part of CERT or any other volunteer group.  Those are the folks who are going to save the world.   I can also unequivocally state (and I don’t know an emergency manager who would disagree with me) that NOBODY should expect help from their government during the first few weeks of any major disaster. The issues we saw in Katrina and Sandy (among others) only confirm it.  The people who needed help right away were the ones who didn’t prepare. They took away resources that could have been used to recover infrastructure and bring the communities back on line a lot sooner.

Also for the record, I did go watch six of the more recent episodes before I wrote the blog.  What I saw was a reality show that celebrated extreme people taking extreme measures for a black swan event, with an very heavy emphasis on security.

The most interesting comment was one about altruism.  I define altruism like most dictionaries do – the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others. One commenter suggested that altruism is only done out of selfish interest to feel good about oneself.  I would have liked to discuss the differences, except he/she called me stupid and suggested I was too old for a social collective and old, ignorant people like me were a drain on resources for the young and strong. Harsh. Definitely not conducive to an intelligent conversation.

There were many suggestions that I should do some research before I started writing crap, and I’d like to throw that back. If it has been a long time since you paid any real attention to what FEMA was doing, and before you just dismiss them now, look at their “Whole Community” initiative.  This is a summary of what it says, but I’d encourage you reading the whole thing:

We fully recognize that a government-centric approach to emergency management is not enough to meet the challenges posed by a catastrophic incident.

This larger collective emergency management team includes, not only FEMA and its partners at the federal level, but also local, tribal, state and territorial partners; non-governmental organizations like faith-based and non-profit groups and private sector industry; to individuals, families and communities, who continue to be the nation’s most important assets as first responders during a disaster. 

Both the composition of the community and the individual needs of community members, regardless of age, economics, or accessibility requirements, must be accounted for when planning and implementing disaster strategies.

When the community is engaged in an authentic dialogue, it becomes empowered to identify its needs and the existing resources that may be used to address them.


  • Understand and meet the actual needs of the whole community
  • Engage and empower all parts of the community.
  • Strengthen what works well in communities on a daily basis.

In other words, FEMA doesn't believe in a government-centric approach to managing disasters; the first responders are always the individuals and the community; the needs of everybody in the community must be considered (including the elderly, disadvantaged and disabled); and empowering the community to help itself is the way to make this all happen.

Outside of the FEMA logo on that, what is there to argue with?  It is the difference between being altruistic and being selfish. Selfish is defined as concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself, seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage or well being without regard for others. By that definition, Doomsday Preppers are socially selfish – Disaster Preppers are not.

Finally, let me repeat what I said in the last blog:  I am optimistic.  I believe in the power of working at a local level within our communities while looking at the larger picture of making society better. I don't believe preparing for Doomsday helps make that happen.