On TV: Doomsday Preppers, Episode 5

This weekend I got around to reviewing episode number 5 of National Geographic Channel’s new TV series Doomsday Preppers. “You Shall Not Fear,” which aired on February 28, focused on three prepper groups. In order of appearance:

Michael Douglas and family, Augusta, Maine
“I’m preparing for overpopulation to reach critical mass”

Larry Hall, Kansas plains
“I’m building a luxury survival condominium to protect against solar flare, worldwide economic collapse, or anything Mother Nature could throw at us”

Becky Brown, Salt Lake City, Utah
“Because of our nation’s high unemployment rate, Becky believes that the economy will collapse, causing the government to forcibly take over and declare martial law, which would dismantle democracy, and strip American citizens of their basic constitutional rights.”

Here are my thoughts about episode 5 of Doomsday Preppers, broken down by prepper group:

Michael Douglas and family

Michael Douglas is a former U.S. Marine who is now a wilderness school instructor. He lives on a 30-acre farm in Augusta, Maine, with his wife and three kids.

Michael is concerned about overpopulation. According to the Nat Geo Channel:

The global population first reached 1 billion in 1804. In only 200 years, the global population has soared from 1 billion to 7 billion. Researchers believe that the planet can only sustain a limited number of people. And Michael fears, that we are fast approaching critical mass, and will soon exceed the world’s carrying capacity.

The prepper added:

Overpopulation reaches critical mass, soils will be depleted and turn into deserts. Once those deserts establish themselves, it’s irreversible. Giant dust clouds turning the sky red for days will cover the landscape. What’s going to happen? Massive food riots in the streets. Violence. A gallon of water would cost more than a gallon of gas.

Not only has Michael been developing his survival skills for the last 20 years, but he’s also been teaching his three kids to be preppers and to be able to live off the land. He explained:

It’s important to have every family member on board if we are to survive as a family.

Michael predicts food and water shortages ahead. The farm produces food and has 400 gallons of water cached. However, he thinks the key to his family’s survival is to become “hunter-gatherers.”

Instead of utilizing traditional alarm systems, Michael has been teaching his kids to decipher alerts among the local bird population. He believes this gives them around 5 minutes warning of approaching danger. While this sounds good on the surface, what if there are no birds present in an area at a particular time? Or what if another sound (farm equipment, or steadily falling rain, for example) drowns out the birds? Then there’s the evening, when the family retires indoors to bed. The Douglas family might want to consider adding additional layers of alarms, such as a battery of motion detectors, particularly for those times when they’re inside their residence.

On the topic of protection, the show revealed:

Most preppers stock up on firearms for self-defense. But Michael does not possess guns. He believes population would cause ammunition to become a finite resource, and he does not want to become dependent on it.

Instead, the Douglas family uses martial arts, the tomahawk, and the throwing stick to protect themselves.

While I’m glad to hear that the family is paying attention to their personal safety, I wonder about the tools they’ve chosen. Martial arts has a limited effective range, as does the tomahawk and throwing stick. Introduce a firearm like a carbine or battle rifle into the equation and they could have a real problem. Also, in a confrontation, you’re likely talking about one tomahawk/one “stick,” one throw. Advantage, “high-capacity” magazine? Finally, while the family may be able to effectively deal with one or a small number of lightly-armed intruders with what they’re working with, I’m concerned the outcome might be different in other circumstances. The more bad guys, armament, training, and distance of engagement, the more likely the attackers will prevail.

Ammunition availability is a major concern for many preppers. The solution I often come across in my research? Get out there and start buying ammo, and be sure to “stack ‘em high and stack ‘em deep.”

Michael said he conducts self-defense drills every day, multiple times a day, and often without warning. That sounds great, although I hope he doesn’t end up like Cato from the Pink Panther movies some day.

The children are being guided towards a “rite of passage” event in which they are to recognize they have the essential skills they need to survive. In the episode, the middle child, 12-year-old Ryan, was undergoing such a rite. Initially, Ryan was shown as not being too interested in the whole program. The young man even said:

I don’t need to know all the different skills that he teaches me. Like, for the food, pizza. Fire, matches. Water, sink. Not drinking out of moss.

His rite was to require of Ryan to build a shelter and a fire using a blow drill and piece of notched wood. Turns out, Ryan was pretty darn good at doing both.

Michael Douglas is not one for accumulating survival “toys.” He announced:

A lot of preppers get sooo infatuated with new toys. They’re temporary conveniences that will rust, fall apart, break, get lost.

Great point- which is why preppers should obtain the best-quality “toys” they can afford.

Larry Hall

Larry Hall is an engineer turned real estate developer who is building luxury survival condos somewhere on the plains in Kansas. The condos are being constructed out of former nuclear missile silos. The structure is 14 stories deep (175 feet), embedded in up to 9 feet of concrete. It will contain room for 70 residents, including Larry, his wife, and 6-year-old son. He said:

The survival condo project is a one size fits all solution to solar flares and loss of the grid, avian bird flu, a nuclear explosion, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions.

The complex is stocked with a combination of freeze-dried and dehydrated food- approximately 5 years’ worth of food for each resident at 2,500 calories per day. Psychologists were consulted and recommendations implemented (high ceilings, for example) when dealing with potential “cabin fever.” Artificial windows, available with a number of different scenes, are being built into the structure. Redundancy has been achieved for key life support systems.

According to Hall, residents of the complex will perform preventative maintenance and man security details. The structure is almost completely hidden from view. A half-million dollar 4-stage security plan is in place:

• Security Stage One- 7-foot high perimeter fence
• Security Stage Two- Complex surveillance system monitoring interior/exterior
• Security Stage Three- Concrete-encased entrance offers protection for armed defenders
• Security Stage Four- 70 armed, battle-ready residents can be mustered if necessary

Each condo unit will be offered for between $1 to $2 million. A prospective buyer by the name of Sara(h?) visited the complex during filming. From the show:

Many Americans can identify with Sara(h)’s sense of impending dread. A recent poll found that 41 percent of Americans feel that preparing for a disastrous event is more important than saving for retirement. And over half believe some kind of catastrophic event will occur in the next 10 years.

Near the end of the second part of the show, Larry Hall offered up this little nugget of advice to viewers:

Be prepared, because you don’t want to deal with the alternative.

In the “Expert Assessment” section, Practical Preppers suggested:

However, you should think about recruiting inhabitants with advanced skills sets, including those with medical and military training.

Great advice. Larry responded with:

I agree 100 percent with that comment. We attempted to do just that, but given the economic conditions that we have today, that option became overcome by events, for lack of a better term.

I think I get what Hall is trying to say here. If that’s the case, the project leaders might want to coordinate top-notch training with the future inhabitants as soon as they sign on the dotted line.

One last thing. Residents who live some distance from the Kansas complex must figure out how to get to the bug-out location safely and promptly when all hell is breaking loose. Otherwise, their purchase might be for nothing. I wonder if this is something the project assists with (providing armed escort and transportation that is strategically-positioned around the country, for example) or is each party on their own. I’m guessing it’s the latter due to the significant costs that would be involved with the former.

Becky Brown

Becky Brown is a thirtysomething business school student living in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was introduced in the episode with:

Because of our nation’s high unemployment rate, Becky believes that the economy will collapse, causing the government to forcibly take over and declare martial law, which would dismantle democracy, and strip American citizens of their basic constitutional rights.

Brown herself added:

I foresee the government takeover happening within the next year or two. Honestly.

Brown is pretty intense about her prepping. She spends 4 hours a day thinking about prepping. She revealed that she has spent $50,000 on preps to-date- $30,000 in the last year alone.

Brown lives near the Utah State Capitol building. She said:

Having the Capitol right behind me is a constant reminder that the government could declare martial law and take over the city. So, it’s a blessing that I’m living so close to be able to put the clues together.

Then again, one can put the clues together while not living so close to a high-profile government facility. Her proximity to this building might make bugging-in and bugging-out more difficult in a SHTF event. Or it might work in her favor, as the amount of security in the area might provide some stability in a major crisis. I’d still keep an eye out for a good bug-out location though.

Brown dedicates 200 square feet of her 1,800 square foot apartment to supplies and preps. She fears water will be in short supply during a major crisis:

We won’t have a water supply. They’re going to hold the water for the most elite.

Brown owns several bug-out bags. Preppers are often known to utilize a vehicle bug-out bag and an everyday carry bag, or EDC bag, in addition to their main bug-out bag positioned at their residence.

Becky owns a stun gun, but not a firearm. She said:

I’m a girl, I’m feminine. I’m not supposed to love guns.

However, she added:

But you get in a different mentality when you’re protecting your family, and your home, and the things that are most important to you.

Consequently, she is shown receiving firearm instruction from a friend of hers, a “professional contract sniper.” In addition to some handgun training, she is given a scoped bolt-action sniper rifle for hitting targets 1,000 yards away. She explained:

I’m taking sniper training, because then I can keep people as far away as I needed to.

She proceeded to hit targets out to 200 yards with the long gun. That’s great, but I can’t help but wonder if she shouldn’t be concentrating on learning fighting skills in a particular order. Based on her not owning a firearm and living in an urban environment, she might want to consider learning hand-to-hand fighting skills first. After this is done, perhaps training in basic handgun, basic shotgun, and basic rifle should be pursued, possibly in that order. Sniper training might be further down the list of priorities for her, considering her personal circumstances.

In the “Expert Assessment” portion of the segment, Practical Preppers recommended to Becky:

If you have to leave Salt Lake City within a matter of minutes, it will be difficult to carry your supplies.

She responded with:

That’s why I have a big-frame hiking backpack , and so that’s the thing I would take if I were on foot.

Since it appears Becky has a large amount of supplies stored in her apartment, being able to take only a backpack-full of supplies in a “Get Out Of Dodge,” or G.O.O.D., situation seems wasteful. If she hasn’t done so already, she might want to select a good bug-out location (place of refuge in a major crisis) and pre-position supplies there and along the primary/alternate routes to the BOL in supply caches.

Becky recently appeared in a YouTube video with updates on improvements she’s made with her preps:


“National Geo Update.MP4”
YouTube Video

Another good episode. Funny how two of the preppers featured didn’t own firearms- although I wonder if Ms. Brown hasn’t changed her mind regarding that. Not as many good ideas worth looking into this time around- although I was intrigued by those artificial windows. I wish these three prepper groups success in their endeavors.

New episodes of Doomsday Preppers 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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