Tell people you’re a Prepper, and you will get a reaction. Fellow preppers will start talking with you about what you have, what you do, what you think about something happening in the news, etc. However most people ARE NOT Preppers, and they just don’t know that prepping isn’t weird. Typical non-prepper reactions to the idea of prepping might include:
- Benign yet suspicious interest – I think people are trying to figure out just how big a wacko I am.
- Outright suspicion – They already know I’m a huge wacko. They usually take a step or two away.
- Hostility – Some people just think that it’s dumb that YOU have expended time and energy on something that THEY have neglected. I don’t think this is just about prepping – it’s about any decision you’ve made that is different from their decision. Politics. Religion. The Dallas Cowboys. These folks are why we can’t have nice things.
- Genuine interest – Lots have people have considered the bad things that might happen, and they’ve entertained the idea of preparing for those bad things.
This post is here to prove to you that prepping isn’t weird. If you feel obligated, you can then use your assurance of non-weirdness to defend your actions.
Why Do People think Prepping is Weird?
Prepping gets a bad reputation in many circles. I think there are a several reasons for people to look at prepping and preppers with suspicion.
- Some preppers come across as crazy. Crazy makes for exciting television, and television is in the advertising business. I live in a big, glass house on a rocky hill, so I’m not going to throw any stones. But seriously, some of the preppers on TV just obviously aren’t like the people who come to your house to watch the SuperBowl. I don’t like stereotypes, and this is a great example of why. This image of a guy in a bunker with a geiger counter, a million machine-guns, and 5 years worth of food is the first thing many people see when they hear the word ‘prepper’.
- People think that things are going to pretty much go the way they’ve always gone. The word for this is Availability Heuristic. It’s a cognitive bias, or a shortcut in the way people think. If you’ve never been in an earthquake (I haven’t) then it’s hard to imagine what it’s like. If you live in a place where no one has felt an earthquake, then earthquakes don’t dominate your thinking. Those experiences aren’t available to you, so you don’t spend much time thinking about them. On the other hand, many people who HAVE experienced calamity will suddenly become much more aware of said calamity. Case in point: 90% of you are on this site to some degree because of COVID-19.
- The Bandwagon Effect is another cognitive bias influencing perception of preppers. It basically says that people tend to think what other people think. If most of the people you know think prepping is weird and stupid, chances are you will think prepping is weird and stupid. The bandwagon may have a different opinion after the Winter and Spring of 2020.
- Other cognitive biases are in play, like
- The Confirmation Bias which helps reinforce what you already believe.
- The Illusion of Control which leads people to over-estimate how much control they have over external events.
- Similar to the Availability Heuristic is The Normalcy Bias which prevents people from thinking of things that have never happened before.
- The Optimism Bias. For the record, I’m an optimist. Or, as my wife recently told me, I’m an Apocaloptimist. I think it’s all going to shit, but it will be OK anyway, Again, I don’t worry. I’m prepared. I’m optimistic about the future because things generally work out…
- All of these biases kind of fit into our general idea that everything is fine. And for the most part, it is. But we over-estimate how ‘fine’ things are when we ignore the numerous bad things that might happen.
Ultimately what it comes down to is that it’s hard for people to BOTH be hopeful in the future AND prepared for bad things. We’d rather pick one, and most pick the hopeful future. I’m saying you can do both if you do it right.
Why Prepping Is Totally Normal and Not Weird
OK, time for the primary argument for this post…. In spite of what you’ve heard, Prepping isn’t weird, misguided, suspicious, crazy, or … (Insert your favorite ‘means weird’ descriptor here. To explain why, we’ll have to rely on the PrepperMill definition of Prepping.
Prep (v.): To take specific actions in anticipation of bad events that may occur. These actions are intended to mitigate or avoid negative impacts of these bad events.
Let’s break that down. Bad things might happen. We take actions in anticipation of these bad things. These actions help make the bad things less bad.
Based on this definition, Prepping would only be weird, useless, etc. IF you assume one or more of the following:
- Bad things won’t happen.
- We can’t anticipate the bad things in an actionable way.
- Our actions will not mitigate the effect of the bad things.
I’ll explore each of these assumptions below.
Faulty Assumption 1: Bad things won’t happen.
The first obstacle to a preparedness mindset is an idea that bad things won’t happen. Of course it’s obvious that this is a bad assumption. Bad things will happen. Bad things do happen. Here are some examples:
- People routinely suffer from financial hardships. (Yes, Financial Hardship is something you should prepare for!)
- Roughly 800K people declared bankruptcy in the US in 2018, mainly due to loss or interruption of their income.
- Roughly 1 in 4 Americans had trouble paying a medical bill in 2017.
- With the COVID-19 shutdown’s effect on the economy, 30M people have become unemployed in the first few months of 2020. This demonstrates how external events can impact real-world economics for real-world Americans.
- In a GOOD year (2018) 21 million Americans were laid off.
- Every single inch of the United States can be impacted by severe weather. This could mean loss of power, damage to property, impacts to transportation, injury, and death.
- Some parts of the country are susceptible to hurricanes. (NOTE: This is a high-res image and will load slowly)
- Some parts of the country are susceptible to ice storms and extreme winter weather.
- Some parts of the country may get hit by tornadoes, hail, and severe thunderstorms.
- Some parts of the country are susceptible to flooding.
- Fault lines criss-cross the US, and many parts of the country have routine seismic activity. Over our country’s history we’ve had many devastating earthquakes.
- We rely pretty heavily on our food supply, but it is subject to disruption due to things such as:
- Plant and animal disease
- Trade conflict
- Labor disruption
- Spikes in demand (I hate the phrase “Panic Buying”)
- Some areas have natural risks that are unique to them:
- Occasionally, man-made catastrophes occur:
- And there are rare events that impact the entire country or the entire world such as:
- War and Terrorism
- Civil Disorder
- Widespread Power Outages (either man-made or natural causes)
- Physical and computer attacks on key infrastructure, governments, and/or the economy.
All of this confirms what you already knew – bad things can happen to any of us. There are many circumstances that can impact us in a meaningful way. The good news is these things are all predictable and we can mitigate their impacts. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Faulty Assumption 2: We Can’t Prepare for Bad Things
The second obstacle to a preparedness mindset is the idea that we can’t prepare for bad things that inevitably happen in our lives. Some people think that the things coming to impact us cannot be foreseen. Others may feel that they lack the resources, time, knowledge, or skills to prepare in a meaningful way.
If the COVID-19 experience has shown us anything, it is the fact that we CAN see these things coming and make simple preparations to improve our outcomes. If you were paying attention in February of 2020, you would have seen some people in the grocery store buying a few extra items. Of course you would have also seen people buying every single square of toilet paper every morsel of meat, etc. That’s not what we’re talking about.
Here is a general recap of the news stories as COVID-19 appeared on the global stage.
- At the end of 2019, reports emerged of a new SARS-like respIratory ailment in China.
- There were widespread reports beginning in January of 2020 about closure of the City of Wuhan.
- By the end of January, surgical masks were becoming scarce across Asia.
- Soon thereafter, they became similarly scare in the US.
- The LA Times was discussing prospects of shortages in the US in early February of 2020.
- This article from Ian Mackay, a virologist in Australia was among the first to describe the need for individual preparedness.
- Another one from Dr. Mackay and some friends soon followed.
- By the end of February, the virus was accelerating in Italy.
- And then a rash of “get ready” articles.
- Followed shortly by another rash of ‘shortage’ articles.
I have little tolerance for the phrase, “Panic Buying.” I’ll save the details for another post, but I do my ‘panic buying’ very calmly throughout the year, and when the COVID-19 news developed, I took two trips to the store.
On January 21st, I went to Costco. On February 8th I went to Walmart. In both stores, I saw about 20% of the shoppers who appeared to doing the same thing I was doing. Panic buying! 🙂 My goal on these trips was informed by what I’d seen in Wuhan and in other Asian cities. I asked myself: “If I don’t want to (or can’t) leave the house for a month or two, what would I need?” More details on this thought process I will ALSO save for another post.
The point is this: If you’re watching, you can see it coming, and you can prepare. It hasn’t worked out EXACTLY like I thought it would, but overall I’m pleased with the result of my preparations. Which leads me to the final point of the series: Our preparations can mitigate the impacts of many of the bad things that might happen to us.
Faulty Assumption 3: Our Preparations Won’t Help
It doesn’t take much to make life better. Sometimes, it’s a little bit of TP when the rest of the world is scrambling to find it. Sometimes, it’s a few extra cans of beans or a pound of ground beef. For me, having extra food isn’t just about fending off starvation. It is an opportunity to help my neighbors in an emergency. It’s also a trip to the store that I DON’T have to take if I don’t think it’s safe.
Having Some Stuff Can Help
Buying and hoarding stuff is a big part of what defines prepping. I’m an advocate for having a certain amount of stuff on-hand. Extra food. Clean water or the ability to get clean water. Various things to build and repair what I need to build and repair. The means to defend myself. Having this stuff in my possession gives me peace of mind in an emergency. During COVID-19 quarantine, I’ve heard a LOT of talk about not being scared, not being worried, etc. The only time I was worried was when I went to the store, paid cash, and got a bunch of 1’s back. That was an unnecessary risk.
As Europe began to grapple with increasing infections, I assumed that the US would face the same scenario. I also decided that I would be ready to stay in the house for 2 months when that happened. I shared the following thoughts / advice with a few friends and family members: “If there are a bunch of people sick in my town, I want to be prepared to stay home for a couple of months. If that’s what I decide is the best thing for me and my family.”
And that’s what I did in my two grocery store runs in February. Note that I did NOT say, “Let’s see how much toilet paper I can fit in my garage.” I also did NOT say, “I’m going to buy all of the meat and sell it to people at a huge profit.” Nothing crazy – just two months.
As it turned out, I DID leave the house during the general lockdown, but I did so much less frequently. And I did so because I wanted to, not because I had to. Ultimately, I created the OPTION to self-isolate myself and my family. I promise you this helped me and my family weather this event.
If you make modest investments in stuff, then your prepping won’t be weird. But having stuff is only a very small part of being prepared.
Having Knowledge and Skills Will Help More
In addition to preparing stuff, I’ve also prepared myself for whatever might happen. I’ve learned skills in making, building, and fixing all kinds of things. Mechanical, electrical, structural. you name it I’ve probably messed with it. I’ve also had mixed results growing my own food. I’m a competent hunter and a quasi-competent fisherman. I can start a fire. (which I really think is an under-appreciated Man Skill. And Woman Skill for that matter. There are a lot of grown-assed men who can’t start a fire with a match.) I can forage, navigate with a map and compass, purify water, render First Aid, cook, camp, cook on an open fire, build a shelter, defend my family…
I know a lot of stuff in part because I’ve decided to be prepared.
The awesome thing about these skills is that I use them ALL THE TIME. The big difference between stockpiling stuff and stockpiling skills is that the skills add richness to your life every day that you have them. While all of the canned food in my pantry is useful, the ability to grow my own food is fulfilling and enjoyable.
Another key thing to understand about skills and stuff is some stuff requires skills to use properly. Examples:
- Food. What is freeze-dried food if you can’t find water or start a fire?
- Guns. I know lots of people with lots of guns who can’t hit shit with them. They also can’t reload them or clear a jam when it matters.
- Bugging Out. I’m not a big fan of bugging out most of the time, but you’ll find 37 gajillion articles on making a bug-out bag. Many of those authors don’t know how to spend the night outside.
A final advantage of skills over stuff is that you’re not going to survive catastrophe all alone. Whether planned or unplanned, you’re most likely to end up part of a group of people who are enduring the situation. Once the stuff runs out, your group / team / clan / whatever will only be as good as the skills of its members.
At Preppermill, we prioritize skills over stuff. The skills and the stuff can absolutely help you in the event of an emergency. Will it mean the difference between life and death? Maybe, maybe not. But for a few hundred bucks and a few hours a month, it sure seems like a good bet to me.
So, Obviously Prepping isn’t Weird Right?
Prepping is completely reasonable and normal as long as you assume the following:
- Bad things will happen from time to time.
- We can anticipate the bad things and prepare for them
- Our preparations can help make the bad things less bad.
Given these three assumptions, it’s clear that prepping isn’t weird.
Except when it is.
Because sometimes preppers can be VERY weird and off-putting. Let’s try to NOT be like that. How? Glad you asked.
Keeping it Not Weird
Preppers (like all groups of people) can do some weird things. We won’t go into that, because as I don’t want to cast fault on others when I am RIDDLED with faults. And I’m also weird in many ways. It’s a balance: It’s OK to be odd, but you don’t want to cross that line where people just don’t want to be around you. In my years of prepping experience, here are some do’s and dont’s as a prepper who wants to remain integrated with society:
- DON’T lead with it. I estimate that half of the people who know me know that I’m a prepper. I’m not AFRAID to talk about it, but I rarely lead with it. I mean, if I open up with, “Hi! My name is Judd and I have a bunker and lots of guns and ammo…” that is just not how to win friends and influence people.
- DO talk about it in the right context. I’m not ashamed, becuase… Well, because it’s not weird. So I’m not afraid to talk about it in the right scenario. When people ask me what I think about the news, I’ll tell them. When people ask me about any of my prepper-esque skills (see above) then I may or may not tell them that it fits into a larger preparation mindset.
- DON’T talk about it too much. I don’t recommend that prepping should be your defining characteristic. All of the people who know that I’m a prepper, most of them don’t have that immediate association with me and prepping. They know me first as a Scout Leader, a coach, a churchgoer, a reader, a maker, a hunter, a beer drinker, etc. (To be honest, most people just know me as Sissy’s husband. Because I married WAY out of my league.)
- DO help people if they show that they’re interested in learning more.
- DON’T think you’re the only one who knows how to live your life. If others don’t buy in to prepping, it’s not really your job to convince them. You get treasure in heaven for making Christians. Not preppers. So if people don’t think it’s a good use of their time and money, let bygones be bygones.
- DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT gloat when you’re prepared and someone else is not. C’mon man.
- DO help people in need. You never know how your fortunes will turn.
If you follow these simple rules not only will you not be a weird prepper, but you can also apply these rules to pretty much any topic or subject. Think about it. These do’s and dont’s can serve as a general guide to interesting conversation and being a good human.