Doomsday Preppers: Mea Culpa
There is a continuum of preppers out there, ranging from the family with three days of supplies to that guy in the bunker planning for Armageddon.
These are the blogs related to the one you are about to read.
Doomsday Preppers are Socially Selfish (posted 11/29)
Doomsday Preppers vs Disaster Preppers (posted 12/2)
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)
Writing a blog is a funny thing – there are posts you expect to be controversial and aren’t – and then there are the posts where you don’t expect any reaction and are overwhelmed with the response.
I posted a blog five days ago intending to draw attention the National Geographic Channel show, Doomsday Preppers. I watched the last half dozen episodes and was appalled at what I saw. These folks are planning to survive an ‘end-of-the-world’ catastrophe and all their preparations were narrowly focused on themselves and their families. They have stockpiled resources including lots of guns and ammunition, and created bunkers or safe houses where they will defend themselves against hoards of unprepared neighbors. This is, as a fellow emergency manager noted: “a level of indulgence that is selfish and counter productive to providing for the common good.” I called it socially selfish.
I recognized that the show was melodramatic and exaggerated – what reality TV show isn’t? I was concerned enough to write a blog because it was commanding a space in the media market that could discourage ordinary people from preparing at all. I have spent my career pushing emergency preparedness and I know there are lots people out there who are apathetic, ignorant and would use any excuse to avoid taking care of themselves. I saw this show as a detriment to overall emergency preparedness.
And even though I was targeting only those extreme preppers, the whole ‘prepper’ community came unglued and there was a firestorm of impassioned comments. Much more, quite honestly, than I expected. Silly me.
It turns out there is a continuum of ‘preppers’ out there, ranging from the family with three days of supplies to that guy in the bunker planning for Armageddon. In between there are both the obsessed, compulsive hoarders who give all preppers a bad name, and the seriously dedicated people preparing themselves and working with their neighbors and communities
The comments from the blogs could pretty much be divided into those two groups:
The obsessed preppers condemned me as a government shill, living on taxes paid by an oppressed people, and part of the state who would use force to make them give up their ‘preps’. This group had a lot of real bad things to say about the government in general and FEMA specifically as they prepared for a total societal collapse. Here is an example of a comment from this group:
"FEMA wants people to have enough food that they don't get out of hand before the buses come to take them to the camps where the "emergency managers" can properly "manage" them. Don't want to go? Too bad, that's why they bought 400 million rounds of 40 S&W hollow points."
These preppers threatened me, called me names, addressed me as “Ms. Hypenated-Progressive” (who knew?) and worse. My apology is not for this group, which is just as well, because I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t accept it.
The dedicated preppers are the ones to whom I am addressing this blog: These folks were angry and hurt because I didn’t recognize the work they were already doing to help themselves, their families and their neighbors. They wrote intelligent, passionate posts about why I was wrong and talked about the concept of personal responsibility and accountability. They were frustrated by how hard they had tried to get their families and neighbors to be prepared, and the barriers thrown up by their local authorities. Lots of them don’t like the NGC show because it paints “all” preppers as extremists. They are amateur radio operators, community volunteers, and active on local CERT teams. They were angry and hurt they would be called selfish for taking care of themselves. These are two of those comments:
The prepper I know tries earnestly to educate his family, friends, and neighbors, not by giving sponsored presentations, but by having heart-felt talks with them. Those who understand, prepare. But most laugh and ridicule the prepper as "crazy", then run down to the mall to buy more stuff they don't need with money could've spent preparing for short-term or long-term disasters.
No one here said anything about existing outside a community, and I don't know any preppers, myself included, who intend to try to exist on their own.
I would like to very sincerely apologize to these dedicated preppers. I hope they understand that I didn’t intend to lump them in with the extremists. I am awed by what they have done against some pretty heavy odds and I am grateful they are out there. What is the phrase? To err is human, to forgive is divine. I erred and I am asking forgiveness.
There was small subset of the dedicated preppers who emailed me directly and were more interested in educating me than condemning me. They taught me a lot, helped me alter my perspective, and led me to some great resources. Check out the Marshall Preppers in Alabama, who have over 500 members and are actively engaged in neighborhood outreach. I bookmarked a website that allows preppers to share ideas about how to overcome some of their problems– they also have a Facebook page and a mention in Wikipedia. I was invited to a CERT Rodeo in Harris County, Texas in February.
They talked about how hard it is to get people interested in preparing – which should resonate with every emergency manager out there. They talked about the problems they have with their local emergency managers – who see them as extreme or ‘kooky’. Several mentioned the reluctance of their local jurisdictions to use their skills because of liability – and all you emergency managers out there know what I mean.
Emergency management professionals spend a lot of time lamenting the fact that the public doesn’t listen to their messages about preparedness. All sorts of approaches have been tried. In my experience, the only one that really works is when the community itself wants to be prepared. That is the basis for FEMA’s ‘Whole Community’ program: “…individuals, families and communities, who continue to be the nation’s most important assets as first responders during a disaster.” It seems to me there are resources out there emergency managers could work with and don’t.
So, this is what I’d like to do: I’d like to offer some of this blog space to those preppers who are struggling to prepare themselves and their neighbors: let them to use this space to talk about how they feel, show what they have done, what they want to do, what their problems are, and what they need. A lot of emergency managers read this; some of them might appreciate the education I have been given.
My agenda is to create a dialogue that might help EVERYONE be better prepared. Up front, I will add that I can’t answer everything sent to me or use everything offered, because I am only human and have a life outside this blog. If you are one of those dedicated preppers and want to talk to me, I’d like to listen. Send me an email directly to email@example.com Please put ‘prepper’ somewhere in the subject line.
Finally, one commenter dared me to make a video apology and post it on YouTube and offered me $100 if I did. Uh … I’m not gonna do that. Besides, I’d rather he used the money to buy disaster supplies for one of his unprepared neighbors.