On TV: Doomsday Preppers, Episode 3

On Tuesday, February 14, episode 3 of the new National Geographic Channel TV series Doomsday Preppers aired (I blogged about the first two episodes here). In “Back to the Stone Age,” four prepper groups were assessed. In order of appearance:

Tim Ralston and family, suburb of Phoenix, Arizona
“My major concern is an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP.”

Jason Charles and family, New York City, New York
“I’m preparing for the Yellowstone National Park supervolcano to explode.”

Jules Dervaes and family, Pasadena, California
“We’re prepping for the catastrophic collapse of the modern food system.”

Patrick and Lynette Brabble, small town somewhere in North Carolina
“I’m preparing for the downfall of society through hyperinflation.”

Here are my thoughts about episode 3 of Doomsday Preppers, broken down by prepper group:

Tim Ralston and family

Tim is prepping along with his wife and three kids. Ralston informed viewers that at first, his spouse “really wasn’t on the same page” as him when it came to prepping. This situation is something I’ve come across a number of times in my research. Ralston reacted by doing two things. First, he became a “closet prepper,” taking grocery money and keeping a couple dollars back, for example (probably not the greatest idea- if you get caught, the significant other could wonder what else you’re hiding from them). Second, Tim shared information with his wife. He said:

The more information I started to give to her, then it opened her eyes to the potential threats that are out there.

Gradually taking the time to discuss the hazards that exist out there in the world these days, and explaining how prepping is like an insurance policy that aims to protect your current lifestyle in case something real bad happens, may be a more effective way to get a partner and/or family members on board with the program than bombarding them all at once with scarier-than-hell images.

Tim considers himself a “prepper entrepreneur,” in that he and his business partners invent survival tools. One of their inventions featured on the episode is the Crovel, which combines thirteen different tools into a five pound package. Besides being a multifunction tool, it can also serve as a weapon, as Tim and his partners demonstrated on a deceased pig during the show. The shovel and crowbar multi-tool looks real promising.

Tim and his family are constructing a “secret desert bunker” as a “bug-out” location. He is building the shelter out of shipping containers. He explained:

The reason I chose a shipping container is it’s already got all the reinforced walls. We don’t have much time, so it’s already pre-fabbed for us. All we’re doing is building up the insides.

According to the show, these containers cost around $2,500 each. In addition, they’re also thought to be EMP-proof, which is important to Ralston. Like the Crovel, the shipping container also seems worth exploring.

Every couple of weeks, the Ralston family practices “bugging out” to their desert bunker. In the episode, the Ralstons are shown loading up a trailer behind what looks to be a late-model Jeep Wrangler, and then departing. Should that vehicle be hit by an electromagnetic pulse of the magnitude Tim fears, I’m not so sure how EMP-resistant it will be. Perhaps they’ve had some work done to it, if that’s possible.

Something that plenty of viewers probably weren’t expecting was Tim Ralston suffering an accidental gunshot wound during firearm training in the desert with his sons. Did he shoot himself, or was it the result of a misfire/something else? Ralston said:

It was one of those malfunctions. My thumb went in front of the barrel, and it went off.

Regardless, I wish him a complete recovery. Others might shy away from firearms after an incident like this, but Tim proclaims a prepper/survivalist mentality, as evidenced by the following statement:

As a prepper, the most important tool is your mind. We have a survivor’s mindset. Things like this, you can persevere, you can push through.

Jason Charles and family

Jason is prepping because he believes the Yellowstone National Park supervolcano is going to explode and New York City will be negatively-impacted by the event. He is worried about the resulting ash cloud falling back down to earth in NYC, clogging lungs and the water system, among other things. However, significant ash fallout from such an eruption is not expected on the East Coast. Historic fallout maps from past Yellowstone supervolcano events show the volcanic debris zone stopping just short and west of the Mississippi River.

Jason revealed he has ten bladed weapons. On firearms, the New York City firefighter says:

Why do I have so many knives? Well, you can’t have a gun. So, this is as good as it gets.

From what I understand, since it’s pretty difficult to get a handgun license in New York City, residents take the easier route and apply for a rifle/shotgun permit. As many of you probably already know, shotguns are an effective home defense firearm.

As part of their “bug-in” strategy for their urban apartment, the Charles family is shown dispersing crushed glass in front of their unit’s door. Jason said:

For a bug-in situation, I keep a box of crushed glass by the door for security.

I’m guessing the reason for this is two-fold:

1. The noise made when the glass shards are stepped on will alert the Charles family that someone is approaching the door of their apartment.

2. The broken glass makes it look like their apartment has already been looted.

Am I missing anything else?

The family also fills up a WaterBOB in their bathroom. Looks like a neat piece of equipment. From the WaterBOB website:

The waterBOB is a water containment system that holds up to 100 gallons of fresh drinking water in any standard bathtub in the event of an emergency. Constructed of heavy duty food grade plastic, the waterBOB keeps water fresh and clean for drinking, cooking, washing and flushing.

Jason left viewers with some pretty good advice when it comes to prepping:

My advice for everybody who’s unprepared, to start preparing, for any disaster that might happen. You never know when you’re going to need that food supply, that water supply. And I’ll do what I have to do to protect my family.

Jules Dervaes and family

Jules Dervaes said that he and his three grown children prep because they fear the “catastrophic collapse of the modern food system.” Dervaes talked about farmers moving to genetically-modified crops, which were created to weaken pests that destroy the crop. He thinks this is a “disaster waiting to happen.” Dervaes claimed superpests are adapting to the GM crops, and are becoming stronger. He points to the example of the corn rootworm. Last year, an Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann reported that Western corn rootworms in four Iowa fields had evolved to resist the natural pesticide in the genetically-modified corn plants. However, Monsanto, the maker of the GM crop, argues there’s no scientific confirmation of pest resistance to its Bt corn and claim less than 0.2 per cent of acres planted with the corn were affected by rootworm damage last year. In addition, some scientists believe the problem could be partly the result of farmers who are planting Bt corn year after year in the same fields.

Regardless, the Dervaes family became determined to grow as much of their own food as possible, and by the looks of their lush backyard food garden, they’ve come a long way. In fact, the show revealed the food the family produces makes up 90 percent of their diet during summer months. Impressive.

Jules said that their Pasadena, California, property is 100 feet from an 11-lane interstate highway. In certain SHTF situations, highways could become jammed with refugees. A number of these will almost certainly try to scavenge food and other items, possibly threatening the garden. I hope the family is taking this into consideration- and preparing accordingly.

Taking full advantage of their suburban garden, the Dervaes family trades flowers, vegetables, and fruit for waste vegetable oil from a local fast food restaurant. They take the used oil and utilize a biodiesel processor to produce clean biodiesel fuel for their diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz station wagon. According to the show, the family saves up to 80 percent on regular gas prices. Something else that might be worth looking into, especially if you suspect higher gas prices are on the horizon.

In the “Expert Assessment” portion of this segment, Practical Preppers recommended the family purchase a diesel generator, “so that in a blackout, you can use the biodiesel you make to help power your home.” Great suggestion, because in a situation where regular gasoline becomes harder to obtain, having both a biodiesel processor and diesel generator on hand allows a family like the Dervaeses to trade for waste vegetable oil, refine it, and use it to power their vehicle and home.

Near the end of the segment, Jules said something that probably struck home with a lot of viewers. He pointed out:

Everybody else seems looking to be dependent on government, dependent on corporations, dependent on the banks, dependent on others. But we are providing for ourselves and living a self-sustaining life here.

Pat and Lynette Brabble

Pat Brabble and his wife Lynette live in a small North Carolina town, prepping for the “downfall of society through hyperinflation.” You may recall that Dennis Evers, the “Godfather Prepper” out in rural Colorado, voiced the same concern back in episode 2 (blogged about here). Some of the same people who predicted the 2008 global economic crisis are warning that the nation is heading for hyperinflation. Recent examples of such rapid inflation include Argentina a decade ago and Zimbabwe.

At one point in the segment, Lynette Brabble asks here husband if he could go to the barn and get her a jar of peanut butter. Pat walks out to another building and proceeds to access a false wall while the show says:

Pat follows the preppers’ rule of operational security. He keeps his preps in a secret location on his property. Only family members, and close friends, know its whereabouts.

I really hope the Brabbles purposely misled viewers as to the actual whereabouts of their preps, because based on the footage shown, some are probably thinking they have a pretty good idea where all this stuff might be located on their property. I’m not saying the Brabbles are guilty of violating operational security, but now is as good as any other time to remind everyone about the importance of OPSEC.

Continuing on, the show asked:

But what would happen if his home, and all of his preparations, came under assault?

Pat responds that the couple has 60 or 70 firearms in their safes. Viewers are then shown a variety of guns the Brabbles own. After watching this, the term “gun nut” might come to the minds of those not familiar with firearms. However, I’ve learned that firearms are considered tools by many gun owners, where a specific tool (gun) is called upon to complete a certain task. For example, you wouldn’t use a sledgehammer to nail two small pieces of wood together. Likewise, a rural property owner wouldn’t (normally) use a .50 caliber Barrett gun for pest control. And with the realities that come with rural living, different types of guns may be carried and used on a regular basis. Keeping this in mind, along with the prepper mindset that “two is one, and one is none,” and 60 or 70 firearms no longer sounds so extreme.

In “The Odds” portion of this segment, the show said:

What are the odds of catastrophic hyperinflation occurring? While the Fed considers a sustained rise in commodity prices a threat in the coming years, they project only modest inflation rates of about 2 percent over the next several years.

Now, the Federal Reserve doesn’t have the best record when it comes to forecasting. The central bank under both Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke didn’t see the U.S. housing bubble, the 2008 financial crisis, or the “Great Recession” coming. In fact, one can argue that the Fed actually helped create the conditions that led to these events by taking the federal funds rate (interests rates) down as far, and as long, as they did after the dot-com crash and 9/11, resulting in people who couldn’t afford to buy a TV set somehow ending up as proud “owners” of a McMansion.

All in all, a real good episode. Plenty of ideas worth looking into. I wish all these prepper groups success in their endeavors.

I hope to have the next review out a lot sooner.

New episodes of Doomsday Preppers will air on the National Geographic Channel Tuesday nights at 9 PM Eastern/Pacific Time. For more information, go to the Nat Geo Channel website here.

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3 Comments to On TV: Doomsday Preppers, Episode 3

  1. What is the best, cheapest way to provide electricity to my family when the elec grid fails??

  2. Angela Wall on February 28th, 2012
  3. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Jason Charles on March 11th, 2012
  5. Sure thing Jason. Great job on Doomsday Preppers and thanks for stopping by the blog.

  6. Editor on March 12th, 2012

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