operational security

Radio Appearance: Morning AMp, Vocalo Radio 90.7 FM Chicago

Last Chicago-focused post until next week- I promise.

However, this one’s not a “downer” like the other posts. In fact, I’m happy that I can share this with readers.

Back on Friday, February 8, I blogged about a terrific piece on Chicago-area preppers and guns that was done by Aurora Aguilar, a project editor over at Chicago public radio station WBEZ 91.5 FM. Published on the WBEZ website two days earlier, “Preppers: Guns are the most important tool in preparing for the end of civilization,” was the second story in a series by Aguilar entitled “Our Guns,” which are “conversations with gun owners.”

Now, later that Friday, Ms. Aguilar invited me to participate in a local show she was to be appearing on at the start of the next business week. I accepted, and on Monday, February 11, I found myself on the Morning AMp, a call-in talk show hosted by Brian Babylon and Molly Adams on Vocalo Radio 90.7 FM Chicago.

(Editor’s note: I didn’t have many details about the show beforehand, so I didn’t alert readers about the event)

From the show’s archive section on the Vocalo website:

Preppers: Preparing for the end of civilization with guns

George describes himself as “half-hillbilly, half-Viking.”

WBEZ’s Aurora Aguilar talked with George Drouillard (a pseudonym) about his preparedness plan. It maybe a devastating blizzard or a government takeover, either way George is ready with canned food, extra batteries, shovels, and lots and lots of guns. Aguilar joins hosts Molly Adams and Brian Babylon in the studio while Christopher Hill, editor of Survival and Prosperity, calls in to discuss the lifestyle choice that George has made and the community that supports it.

Brian and Molly were gracious hosts and were great to talk to. Aurora was terrific- again. As for me? I thought I could have done better, quite frankly. But I really appreciate having been given the opportunity to appear on the show and contribute what I’ve observed and learned over the last couple of years. Thank you so much Brian, Molly, and especially Aurora.

You can listen to our discussion of Chicago-area preppers and guns on Vocalo here (click on the “Play” symbol under the photo of “George” near the top-left-hand-side of the page).

By the way, before I said goodbye to the group that morning I pointed out there were still people without electricity as a result of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast last October. CNBC noted the Friday before the interview that some 2,000 people in New Jersey and and New York were still without power from the costly severe weather event.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago-Area Preppers And Their Guns

Some time ago, I received a message from Aurora Aguilar, a project editor with Chicago public radio station WBEZ 91.5 FM. Her request was one that I’ve received with increasing frequency over the last year or so. She was hoping to interview a prepper. Not just any modern survivalist- but one who is “stockpiling guns.” I gave Aurora names and contact info of more well-known and visible preppers who might be willing to talk to her, while at the same time cautioning her about the shying away from publicity that’s common among survivalists. I explained:

If you don’t know already, many preppers tend to be secretive about their activities. Not because they’re doing something illegal, but rather because of something called operational security (OPSEC).

Last night, I came across Ms. Aguilar’s piece on preppers and firearms. Published on the WBEZ website Wednesday, “Preppers: Guns are the most important tool in preparing for the end of civilization,” is the second story a in a series entitled “Our Guns,” which are “conversations with gun owners.”

Another hack-job?

Hardly. Aguilar pretty much hit this assignment right out of the park.

Now, the headline “guns are the most important tool in preparing for the end of civilization” may be a bit of a stretch. Guns are certainly a tool but the “most important” one? Debatable. Also, while some modern survivalists prepare for the “end of civilization” plenty of others prep for emergencies, man-made and natural disasters, and the end of civilization- as we know it. Firearms could have a role to play in those scenarios as well.

But Aguilar comes back strong in the body of the article. Consider the following statements:

“A growing group of Americans who believe life, as we know it, will end”

“In a family of war veterans, hunters and farmers, guns are thought of as tools, meant to provide food and protection”

“The fear that their stockpiles of food or weapons could be stolen stops preppers from talking.”

“After all, the entire family needs to be prepared.”

“Preppers go through a lot of ammo because many practice shooting at least once a week. They also see ammo as an investment. They believe people will need ammo if there’s a catastrophe.”

“The idea is to always be prepared…”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Aguilar gets its. She demonstrates that she has a good handle on what the Prepper Movement is about.

Too bad the same can’t be said about many of her colleagues.

A terrific, refreshing article, which can be found on the WBEZ website here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Deep Earth Bunker’s Scott Bales: Most Prepping For Global Economic Crash

Last night I blogged about the Discovery Channel TV series Doomsday Bunkers. And before I forget, I recently came across a piece on the website of CBS affiliate First 12 News in northeast Texas in which Deep Earth Bunker owner Scott Bales talked about the prepper movement. Kristen Shanahan wrote on May 10:

“They’re worried about the dollar collapse, civil unrest, food shortages,” Scott Bales, owner of Deep Earth Bunkers, said…

“A dirty bomb could happen,” exclaimed Bales.

Those who believe the worst is yet to come are getting ready and they are known as “preppers”. For the past 14 years, Scott Bales has been in the business of building bunkers, shelters that can withstand just about anything designed to keep unwelcome guests out – including zombies.

“Zombies are people that didn’t prepare and then the world does whatever, and they’re the ones trying to get in your bunker to get your stuff that will kill you for your food and water. They go from procrastinators to zombies instantly,” Bales said.

Shanahan got a taste of operational security (OPSEC) while putting together the article. The KXII reporter and weekend anchor added:

Preppers come in all shapes and sizes. You could have a prepper next door to you and never even know it. Secrecy is just another tool for survival that is why none of the preppers we talked to would speak on camera.

“If you spend about half a million dollars on a bunker and you were going to hide there if there was a collapse, you wouldn’t want anybody knowing where it is because they’re going to know you have food and water in that bunker, and they’re going to come and get it,” Bales explained.

Having a number of preppers among his bunker clients, Bales talked about their gravest concern. From the piece:

He says people are preparing for all sorts of situations, but the most common is the potential crash of the worldwide economy.

“If we ran out of food right now and everybody ran to the store, there would only be three days of food left on every shelf and warehouse in the country. Three days,” Bales said.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

A worldwide financial crash? That’s just plain crazy.

Seriously, when was the last time the global economy was in that degree of trouble?

Sarcasm off.

Source:

Shanahan, Kristen. “‘Preppers’ preparing for the end.” First 12 News. 10 May 2012. (http://www.kxii.com/home/headlines/Preppers_getting_ready_for_the_end__150874255.html). 6 June 2012.

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STRATFOR’s ‘Fundamentals Of Terrorism’ Part 2: Detection Points In The Terrorist Attack Cycle

Back on March 16, I talked about Scott Stewart of the global intelligence company Strategic Forecasting, Inc., or STRATFOR, authoring a series of Security Weekly reports entitled “Fundamentals of Terrorism.” The first of these, “The Myth of the End of Terrorism,” was released on February 23, and I wrote:

It’s a good, informative read, and serves as a reminder that just because major terror attacks directed against the United States and its interests haven’t been too successful lately, the threat hasn’t gone away.

The second “Fundamentals” report, entitled “Detection Points in the Terrorist Attack Cycle,” came out on March 1, and pointed out that those planning a terrorist attack must follow something called a “terrorist attack cycle,” and certain stages opens them up to detection.

Reprinted with permission of STRATFOR:

Detection Points in the Terrorist Attack Cycle

By Scott Stewart

Last week’s Security Weekly discussed the fact that terrorism is a tactic used by many different classes of actors and that, while the perpetrators and tactics of terrorism may change in response to shifts in larger geopolitical cycles, these changes will never result in the end of terrorism. Since that analysis was written, there have been jihadist-related attacks in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Yemen and Pakistan, an assassination attempt against the president of Abkhazia, and a failed timed-incendiary attack against the Athens subway. (The latter incident, which militant anarchists claimed, reinforces that jihadists are not the only ones who practice terrorism.)

But while terrorism is a continuing concern, it can be understood, and measures can be taken to thwart terrorist plots and mitigate the effects of attacks. Perhaps the most important and fundamental point to understand about terrorism is that attacks do not appear out of nowhere. Individuals planning a terrorist attack follow a discernible cycle — and that cycle and the behaviors associated with it can be observed if they are being looked for. We refer to these points where terrorism-related behavior can be most readily observed as vulnerabilities in the terrorist attack cycle.

The Attack Cycle

Many different actors can commit terrorist attacks, including sophisticated transnational terrorist groups like al Qaeda; regional militant groups like India’s Maoist Naxalites; small, independent cells like the anarchists in Greece; and lone wolves like Oslo attacker Anders Breivik. There can be great variance in attack motives and in the time and process required to radicalize these different actors to the point that they decide to conduct a terrorist attack. But once any of these actors decides to launch an attack, there is remarkable similarity in the planning process.

First, there is the process of selecting or identifying a target. Often an actor will come up with a list of potential targets and then select one to focus on. In some cases, the actor has preselected a method of attack, such as a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, and wants to find a target that would be vulnerable to that specific type of attack. In other cases, the actor will pick a target and then devise a method of attack based on that target’s characteristics and vulnerabilities. Simply put, the execution of these steps can be somewhat fluid; some degree of planning or preparation can come before target selection, and sometimes target selection will be altered during the planning process. The time required to execute these steps can also vary considerably. Some attacks can be planned and executed within hours or days, while more complex plans, such as those used in the 9/11 or Mumbai attacks, may take months or even years to complete.

Frequently, those planning an attack will conduct detailed surveillance of potential targets to determine what security measures are in place around the target and to gauge whether they have the ability to successfully attack it. If the target is too difficult to attack — commonly known as a hard target — the attack planners will typically move on to their next target, which may prove easier to attack. (When they do continue with attacks against targets whose security measures exceed the attackers’ capabilities, those attacks fail.) We refer to this stage as preoperational surveillance, which means surveillance that is conducted before the operation is fully planned.

After the target has been selected, a second round of surveillance is conducted. This round will be far more detailed and is intended to provide all the details necessary for planning the attack. For example, if the attack is being planned against a static facility, this round of surveillance will generally try to obtain a detailed description of the target’s physical security features and security force procedures. It will also focus on establishing a baseline understanding of the activity that can be expected around the facility at the time of day the attack is anticipated.

If the target of the attack is an individual, the individual’s residence, office and other places the individual frequents will be surveilled. Additionally, the surveillance team will look for patterns and routines that the target follows between these known locations. The team will often analyze the target’s usual routes looking for choke points, or places the target must pass to get from one point to another. If the surveillance team identifies a choke point that the target passes through predictably, it will then try to determine whether that point will allow the attackers to deploy in secret, permit them to spot and control the target, and provide them with good escape routes. If it does, this point will frequently be chosen as the attack site.

In the case of large organizations, different groups or individuals may conduct different phases of the surveillance. Many organizations use specialized operatives for surveillance, though the operational planner will often attempt to get eyes on the target to help with the planning process. For instance, it is known from court testimony in the Mumbai case that David Headley made five extended trips to Mumbai as those attacks were being planned. The repeated trips were required because the operational commanders in Pakistan considered India a hostile environment and the operational planners could not go there to conduct the surveillance themselves. As a result, Headley was sent to observe and report on specific things as planning for the attacks progressed.

During the planning phase, the personnel to be used in the attacks are identified and trained in any special skills they may require for the mission, including languages, marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, small-boat handling or land navigation. To protect operational security, the operatives may not be briefed in any great detail about the target of their operation until they are very close to being deployed.

Many times the planning phase will end with a dry run, as the preparation did for the 9/11 attacks, when some of the hijackers took their assigned flights in August 2001. While conducting a dry run, the attackers will generally be unarmed to ensure they do not needlessly bring law enforcement attention to themselves.

Sometimes an attacker will have acquired weapons for the attack before the planning phase. Other times the concept of the operation will be constrained by the weapons and money available. But quite frequently, the weapons for the attack will be acquired during the planning phase, after the target has been selected and the means of attack have been established.

Once planning, training and weapons acquisition are complete, the attack team can be deployed. The attack team frequently will again conduct surveillance of the target, especially if the target is mobile and the attack team is deployed and waiting at a predetermined attack site.

If it was properly planned, an attack is very likely to succeed once it has moved to the operational phase. Sometimes attacks do fail because of mistakes or bad luck, but by and large there is no way to stop an attack once it has been set in motion.

At the attack’s conclusion, the attackers will seek to escape the scene. The exception is suicide attacks or when, like Breivik, the attacker intends to be captured as part of the media exploitation phase, the final step in the cycle.

Regardless of whether the attack is a suicide attack against a church in Nigeria or a timed-incendiary attack against a subway in Athens, the same attack cycle is followed. With an eye toward averting future attacks, a thoughtful observer can use the attack cycle model to understand how an attack was planned and executed.

Vulnerabilities

While plots are occasionally thwarted at the last second, for the most part law enforcement and security personnel must detect and interdict the plot before it gets to the attack phase to have any chance of stopping it. Once the bullets fly or the explosive device is detonated, there is little security forces can do but initiate their immediate action drills in an effort to reduce the body count. This means that an emphasis must be placed on identifying attackers earlier in the process, well before they are in a position to strike.

Unless security forces have a source inside the group that is planning the attack or manage to intercept the group’s communications, the only way to identify attack planners is by noting their actions. This is especially true of a lone wolf attack, where no external communication occurs. The earliest point in the attack cycle that the attackers can be identified by their actions is during the preoperational surveillance required for target identification.

There is a widely held conception that terrorist surveillance is generally sophisticated and almost invisible, but when viewed in hindsight, it is frequently discovered that individuals who conduct terrorist surveillance tend to be quite sloppy and even amateurish in their surveillance tradecraft. We will discuss what bad surveillance looks like, and how to recognize it, in more detail next week, but for now it is sufficient to say that poor surveillance tradecraft is a significant vulnerability in the terrorist attack cycle.

As noted above, additional surveillance is often conducted at later stages of the attack cycle, such as in the planning stage and even sometimes in the attack stage, as the attackers track the target from a known location to the attack site. Each instance of surveillance provides an additional opportunity for the assailants to be identified and the attack to be prevented.

During the planning phase and as the operatives prepare to deploy, communication between and movement of group members often increases. Additionally, group members may engage in outside training that can attract attention, such as playing paintball, visiting the firing range or, as was the case with the 9/11 pilots, attending flight schools. This increase in activity, which also might include money transfers, leaves signs that could tip off the authorities.

Another significant vulnerability during the attack cycle is weapons acquisition. This vulnerability is especially pronounced when dealing with inexperienced grassroots operatives, who tend to aspire to conduct spectacular attacks that are far beyond their capabilities. For example, they may decide they want to conduct a bombing attack even though they do not know how to make improvised explosive devices. It is also not uncommon for such individuals to try to acquire Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, automatic firearms or hand grenades. When confronted by this gap between their capability and their aspirations, grassroots operatives will often reach out to someone for help with their attack instead of settling on an attack that is within their ability. Increasingly, the people such would-be attackers are encountering when they reach out are police or domestic security agency informants.

As far back as 2010, jihadist leaders such as Nasir al-Wahayshi of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula recognized this problem and began to encourage grassroots jihadists to focus on conducting simple attacks against soft targets. Nevertheless, grassroots jihadists are consistently drawn toward spectacular attacks, as seen in the Feb. 17 arrest near the U.S. Capitol of a Moroccan man who thought his handler, who was in fact an FBI informant, had equipped him for a suicide attack. Unlike most jihadists, other types of grassroots militants, such as anarchists, are far more comfortable conducting simple attacks with readily available items.

Personality traits and psychological profiles aside, anyone desiring to plan a terrorist attack must follow the attack planning cycle, which at certain stages will necessarily open them up to detection.

Detection Points In The Terrorist Attack Cycle is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

Part 1 of STRATFOR’s “Fundamentals of Terrorism” series is reprinted here.

(Editor’s note: Link to original STRATFOR report added on “Resources” page)

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On TV: Doomsday Preppers, Episode 6

On Monday, I previewed episode number 6, “Nine Meals Away from Anarchy,” of the National Geographic Channel TV series Doomsday Preppers. This afternoon, I’ll be doing my review of the episode.

The show focused on three prepper groups this past Tuesday. In order of appearance:

Mike Mester and family, suburb of Atlanta, Georgia
“We’re preparing for civil unrest caused by a global economic collapse.”

Preston White, central Colorado
“Preston believes that a cloud of deadly radiation from Fukushima is heading towards the mainland United States and will soon contaminate food and water supplies.”

Riley Cook and family, Silverthorne, Colorado
“I’m preparing my family to survive a polar shift.”

Here are my thoughts about episode 6 of Doomsday Preppers, broken down by prepper group:

Mike Mester and family

Mike Mester is a contractor who lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, kids, and dogs. Prepping is a way of life for the entire family, so much so that they’ve been doing it for almost a decade. Mike warned:

The way the United States economy works today is not sustainable. We were once the greatest creditor in the world. Now, we are the greatest debtor. Where will all the money come from? Look at the news, look at the papers. Police departments cut. Fire departments cut. What will we do when there’s no one there?

According to the show:

Mike believes that as the global economy falters, the U.S. economy will fall deeper and deeper into debt. Banks will close. Power will go out. Basic services will grind to a halt.

Which led Mike to ask:

If the grocery shelves are empty, you’re only nine meals away from anarchy. What will happen then? Will you be prepared?

It’s revealed that oldest son Ryan is away at college 250 miles away. Mike declared:

My wife and I, our home is our family. That’s why we want to ensure that we get all our children home when things collapse. We will go to any extent to ensure their safety.

As a result, Ryan’s parents provided him with a “get home” bag full of supplies, including food and water, that will support him for 4 days. In case their son is unable to make it back to the Mester household by himself, his parents have a backup plan in place. Mike explained:

Heaven forbid our oldest boy can’t make it home. That’s why we have plans to retrieve him in 30 days.

From the show:

Mike believes that after an economic collapse, rioting will spread from urban centers in waves, with violence cresting in the first few weeks. So 30 days is a key timeframe for braving the road.

Mr. Mester suspects gasoline will be hard to come by in an economic collapse, so he stores 50 gallons of it out in his garage. He replenishes his stockpile every 3 months to keep the gas fresh. Viewers were also informed in the episode:

He is also teaching his son Kyle methods for stealing gasoline, if necessary.

Nice. How about:

He is also teaching his son Kyle methods for recovering gasoline from abandoned/disabled vehicles in a societal collapse.

It’s just not the humans who are prepping in the Mester household. Their two German Shepherd dogs, Storm and Thunder, both have bug-out bags and were later shown to be receiving training for protecting the home and family.

Putting his logistician background to good work, Mike has amassed and organized an impressive stockpile of food and water. It’s revealed 3 rooms of his 4,500 square-foot house are dedicated to food storage. He estimated they have 2 years of food for 10 people. Viewers are also informed:

Mike stores thousands of cans, sometimes for years past their expiration date. Expired food might not taste good, but Mike knows it could keep his family alive in a crisis.

Mike added:

There’s a difference between shelf life and life-sustaining. In Third World countries, they use rancid cooking oil. Certainly, it will not hurt you.

Another interesting bit of info provided about the Mester family’s preps was the alternative fuel source they were shown fabricating and stockpiling. They collect dead leaves in the fall and combine them with newspaper to create an alternative fuel source. The mixture is soaked in water for 5 days, the slurry is compressed to remove the liquid, and briquettes are formed and air-dried for a week to serve as emergency heating and cooking sources. Very nice.

Like a number of other suburban preppers, Mike and his family recognize the potential threats from living so close to a major American city should a SHTF situation arise- and are preparing accordingly. Mike said:

Security is an important part of the prepper’s lifestyle. If there’s an economic collapse, civil unrest will likely ensue the metropolitan areas, then spread out to the suburbs. Downtown Atlanta is only 45 miles away. We don’t know how fast that civil unrest will get to us, but we certainly will be prepared if it does.

The Mester family possesses a battery of home-defense firearms and a stockpile of ammunition, and trains monthly at the shooting range.

Mike left viewers with this thought:

If you think the government’s going to be there, are you going to sit back and wait for the cavalry? They may never come. So what are you going to do about it? Why don’t you start to prepare? Because it’s your personal responsibility.

In the “Expert Assessment” portion of the Mester segment, Practical Preppers LLC recommended:

You need to put your leadership skills to use in your community. Getting your neighbors aware of, and involved in your prepping, will only make your family more secure in a crisis situation.

Excellent advice. But I’d add, that depends on the neighbors. I’ve lived next to my share of wackjobs over the years. And here in Chicago, where a good number of the residents have bought into the notion of “cradle-to-grave” care and protection by the Nanny State, preppers/survivalists and firearm owners are looked upon with intense suspicion, if not disgust.

Finally, in the “Doomsday Preppers Update” portion, Mike Mester indicated that the family was planning to grow a 1,000 square foot garden in their backyard. Those who lived in Russia in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse will attest to how important a food garden is when society breaks down.

Preston White

Preston White is a web developer who lives in central Colorado. The recent disaster at the Fukushima power plant in Japan got him prepping. From the show:

Preston believes that a cloud of deadly radiation from Fukushima is heading towards the mainland United States and will soon contaminate food and water supplies.

White said:

People need to know Japan should be evacuated. California, Oregon, and Washington should be evacuated.

Convinced of this radioactive contamination, White makes putting together a seed bank a top priority. From the episode:

Believing that radioactive fallout from Japan will contaminate the American food chain, Preston is creating a seed bank, a store of fruit and vegetable seeds that can be used to grow radiation-free food in a post-apocalyptic world.

White has amassed so many seeds, he is shown displaying 11,000 different types for viewers. He explained:

A non-prepper might look at my supply and say, “Are you kidding me?” But if something happens- I win this game. People that aren’t prepared- they lose this game.

In the episode, Preston White worked with other preppers (Shane Anderson, Richard Dudas) to plant his seeds and create a radiation-free farm. A key component to the farm is the biosphere tent system, which acts as barrier to radioactive fallout while allowing enough light in to grow food year-round. In addition, these tents can be broken down/set up fast and easily transported should the situation call for it.

Besides growing food, these tents were also purchased so people can live in them. At this point in the episode, local Russell Preister brought in and demonstrated an HHO generator/home heater prototype that would hopefully provide energy, clean radiation-free water, and purified oxygen for the plant and human occupants. According to the show:

The HHO generator can turn water into highly-flammable gas by using electrolysis to separate water’s hydrogen and oxygen atoms. It can literally turn water into fire… HHO technology has become increasingly popular, with plans to build home generators readily available on the Internet.

Like the Mester family, White has a battery of home-defense firearms. He said:

If you’re a prepper, there’s 4 guns to have. You’ve got a 30-06 to kill a deer, shotgun, 22 rifle to protect your home, and a 9mm pistol. A sidearm for close contact. The guns I chose, I chose for defense.

Hope he meant to say that 22 rifle is a .223.

After learning a valuable lesson about violating operational security (OPSEC), White remarked:

I was faced with death. Decided I wasn’t going to be a victim. It changed my life the way I live tomorrow. I can affect my picture, and that’s what you do by prepping.

In the “Doomsday Preppers Update” portion of this segment, Preston said:

I’m hoping in the future to pick up a motor home and make it into a really good bug-out vehicle.

I always thought a mobile bug-out location was a neat idea. For those who can’t afford a fixed BOL, it might be worth investigating.

Riley Cook and family

Riley Cook is a welder living in Silverthorne, Colorado, with his wife and four kids. According to the show:

Riley believes that during his lifetime, there will be a catastrophic polar shift, a movement of the Earth’s North and South Poles along the Earth’s mantle. And this drastic geological change will unleash a litany of natural disasters.

The Cook family began seriously prepping 5 years ago. It was revealed they have already spent around $300,000 on prepping.

Prepping has become such an integral part of their lives, the Cook family’s welding shop recently became a disaster shelter building business. Because they construct customized underground bunkers, all sorts of features can be incorporated into a project. Even an incinerator to eliminate pesky intruders. Riley explained:

That’s what you get when you combine a prepper and a welder.

Getting back to the episode:

A bunker buried at a distant bug-out location is only effective if you can get to it. Riley expects that the catastrophic nature of a polar shift will cause severe fuel shortages. So he has used his expert welding skills to solve the problem of transportation. His latest prepping tool is a custom-made Cook original that he hopes will allow his family to carry supplies without needing a car or truck.

Riley designed and built a 100 lb. hand-crafted aluminum cart that allows him to haul almost 9 times his body weight by distributing loads like a horse and cart. In this case, Riley is the horse. It’s also water-tight and can float in a body of water. Pretty cool.

Not surprisingly, the Cook family has an underground survival shelter located at 11,200 feet in the Colorado mountains 10 miles from civilization. During the episode, Riley, his wife Sara(h?), and their kids are shown practicing bugging-out in severe weather up an unplowed, snow-covered mountain pass to the bunker. From the show:

Emergency preparedness experts suggest that you practice evacuating your home at least twice a year, and plot alternate routes in case roads become impassable.

Great advice.

The Cook family eventually made it to their “cabin,” and proceeded to hunker down for the remainder of their stay.

Overall, a really good episode. As I said in my preview earlier in the week, a lot of viewers can probably relate to the Mester family in the suburbs, the Cook family in the small town, and even Preston White out in central Colorado. And this week, a number of ideas (food gardens, HHO generators/home heaters, motor homes, etcetera) were introduced that might be worth looking into.

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.

And before I forget, have you seen the new Doomsday Preppers TV commercial yet? When I first heard it, I thought it sounded so similar to the beverage commercials from the late 70s/early 80s it had me wondering if the original crew hadn’t been hired to produce it…


“I’m a Prepper, You’re a Prepper”
YouTube Video

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On TV: Doomsday Bunkers TV Series

The end… is near. In every corner of America, people believe our world is changing. To them, civilization is falling apart. And the rest of us are in denial. They call themselves preppers, and they’re getting ready for the Apocalypse. They’re piling up guns and food, but what they really need is the perfect place to lay low. Real low. Enter Scott Bales, and Deep Earth Bunkers.

-Intro to episode 1 of Doomsday Bunkers

Wednesday night was the premiere of the new Discovery Channel television series Doomsday Bunkers. While I talked a little about the project Tuesday, this morning I will be reviewing episode 1, “Bunkers, Bullets and Blast Doors.”

Enter Scott Bales, an engineer by trade and owner of Deep Earth Bunker out of Dallas, Texas. From their website:

We manufacture and design, Bunkers and Storm/Hurricane Shelters Panic Vaults and Safe Rooms!

According to Bales, DEB started off fabricating storm shelters first, then added bunkers due to prepper demand. From the show:

Extreme weather and a volatile economy have triggered an explosion of new preppers. Scott’s Texas plant has been bombarded with new orders.

The company has built and installed hundreds of bunkers to date.

Other DEB personnel who appeared in episode 1 included:

• Jesse Saul- Floor Manager
• Scott Free- Special Projects Manager
• Charlie Christie- Quality Assurance/Carpenter
• Alex Bales- Scott’s 22-year-old son. Dad would like him to run the business some day.

Viewers were shown a 1,700 square foot DEB-constructed off-the-grid bunker at an undisclosed location. This particular shelter had multiple generators, filtered air, a 7,000 gallon water tank, and a full-service sewage system. It also came equipped with an above-ground hatch that led to an underground staircase and an armored blast door, along with an escape hatch. While I understand that many of the company’s bunkers share similar features, a bidet was requested by the client for this project. The interior was also designed and decorated to resemble a real nice apartment/condo unit. Bales explained:

Our bunkers are unique. We build them as close to being at home as possible to make you feel more comfortable when you’re in that bunker for an extended period of time.

The premiere focused on two clients of Deep Earth Bunker. First, there’s Shea Degan, a prepper, a former cop, and “master military tactician.” Degan discussed his interested in a bunker:

My number one priority is to protect my wife and children… My biggest fear is social unrest. We’re on the verge of having another recession. When people get desperate, they do desperate things. Home are broken into, business looted, chaos ensues. If the government collapses, and you weren’t a prepper, you don’t have the things in place to protect yourself or your family, you’re in trouble. You have civilized folks that can turn uncivilized very quickly. It becomes survival of the fittest.

Degan opened up 88 Tactical two years ago, a 168-acre complex in northern Nebraska. He explained:

88 Tactical group is a training organization. We’ve taken all of our law enforcement training, and we’ve opened up a number of courses for civilians.

88 Tactical is beta-testing a new training course that teaches people how to live in a bunker, and how to re-integrate into society after emerging from the shelter. As such, Degan wanted the DEB bunker for two purposes. He said:

I am buying this bunker for two different reasons. To teach people how to live in a bunker. And to protect my family- if need be.

Recognizing that this particular project would violate operational security (OPSEC) in that plenty of people would know of the existence and location of the Degan family’s underground survival shelter, Bales pointed out:

Clients call us with crazy ideas all the time. Shea is actually going to show people where his bunker is. You can’t get any more crazy than that.

He told Shea:

I can already see right now that we are going to have to put one hell of an engineered door in this thing, because everybody’s going to know where it is. And when the s*** hits the fan, they’re coming for your bunker, I don’t care what you’ve trained them to do. They’re naturally are going to come right to the bunker. The door has got to be able to stop trained guys from getting through.

Shea replied:

Well, that’s why I’m relying on you, Scott.

The two hammered out the specs for the project. According to the show:

Shea’s bunker needs to hold 4 people for up to 6 months. Scott decides on a 3-unit bunker complex. With over 1,100 square feet of underground space. A living room and full kitchen. Storage for over 6 months of food. And a sleeping wing with a full bathroom. Total cost, $450,000.

Scott talked more about this latest undertaking:

To live underground, there’s a bunch of stuff you have to have- clean air, water, and a solid septic system. Shea’s bunker gets fresh clean air through a nuclear, biological, chemical filter. The sewage will be collected in underground tanks. And for fresh water, Shea’s property holds a major advantage. Shea’s bunker has an underground well that’s dug seven hundred feet down to an aquifer under the earth. He’ll have water forever.

Deep Earth Bunker staff started work on Shea Degan’s shelter, while Scott focused on “the most complicated part of the build project”- the blast door. He explained:

The door is the most important part of any bunker or shelter.

DEB happens to have their own debris testing center which includes a pneumatic air cannon that shoots 2 X 4s over 600 mph. They proceeded to fire these projectiles at a number of different doors before selecting a potential candidate for the Degan job.

At this point in episode 1, viewers were introduced to Mike Hagans, another client of Deep Earth Bunker. Hagans lives with family on the Florida coast. Having already had an underground shelter built for him by Deep Earth Bunker, Hagans contacted Scott Bales about a recent situation in which the generator for his bunker was stolen.

This hideaway is tucked away in an undisclosed mountainous location hundreds of miles away. He said:

My bunker will protect me from tsunamis. I’m up over 1,500 feet.

Hagans explained why he wanted a bunker:

The reason I wanted to get a bunker? Piece of mind.

His underground shelter is only two- years- old, is 8 X 7 X 30, and cost him $70,000 to construct. He is prepping for crises that could last up to 6 months. Hagans said:

I first thought I needed a bunker when I was doing research. I started seeing all the severe weather we’ve been having- the tremendous amount of earthquakes, tornadoes. It just seems those things have been getting worse. You’re going to have some type of catastrophic event that will change everything. The people who aren’t prepping become zombies. They will kill you for anything that will help them survive.

Scott got busy working on a solution for Mike that will allow him to remotely-monitor his bunker.

Returning to Shea Degan’s project, it’s revealed that Shea’s “dedication to prepping is causing conflict at home.” His spouse, Jeannette, recalled:

The first time he brought up prepping, I thought he was crazy.

She’s apparently concerned about the amount of money that’s being spent on supplies. However, Jeannette fully supports her husband training their two kids to defend themselves.

In what could be the funniest part of the show, Scott is shown tinkering with motion-triggered security systems. To test out his latest creation, he affixes an automatic Airsoft gun to it and proceeds to spray his staff with plastic BBs as they break for lunch.


“Doomsday Bunkers: Bunker Defense”
Discovery Channel Video

While Scott worked on a solution for Mike, the prepper resolved himself to taking care of business at his Florida home, which is also full of gear and supplies for the Hagans family to bug-in if needed. Mike said:

You’re actually never done prepping. There’s always something a little bit more you can do.

Like Shea, Mike trains family members in self-defense. But instead of working on hand-to-hand fighting skills, the Hagans family headed to the shooting range in this episode.

The show returned to the ongoing construction of the Degan bunker at DEB, where it was explained:

Building the interior of a bunker is just like building a home- in reverse. The team primes the steel walls first, to protect from rust. And then goes about adding plywood and drywall.

At this point in the episode, Scott’s son Alex gets upset about the wrong screws provided to both him and Charlie Christie, DEB’s carpenter and quality assurance guy. Floor manager Jesse Saul is forced to speak with Alex about his outburst.

The discovery of plywood that’s already been installed in the interior becoming warped due to intense humidity got the team refocused on the task at hand. Unfortunately, the plywood had to be removed and replaced.

While Scott still needs to perfect his motion-triggered security system (future episode?), he was able to figure out a way for Mike Hagans to remotely-monitor his bunker. A 360-degree camera system with 2-way speakers that can be viewed/operated from the underground shelter and remotely via the Internet was installed high in the trees surrounding the mountainous bug-out location. Scott and Mike tested the new system out, and the bunker client was satisfied with the results.

Returning to the Degan project, the DEB crew was shown busting their tails before Shea returned to the facility for a walk-through. Bales explained that the company usually conducts a client walk-through when a project is almost done. Despite Scott’s concerns, his employees made significant progress, and Shea was impressed by what he saw.

The two attended the test of a blast door that DEB hoped would be strong enough to keep the bad guys out of the Degan bunker. Local SWAT team members fired long guns and handguns against the door, to no effect. Next, a shotgun and crowbar-like tool were used to try and breech the door, without success. Finally, a demolitions expert the team brought along with them rigged the entryway with 3 lbs of explosive. Even after detonating this, the blast door refused to budge. DEB had themselves a winner.

With nearly 1,000 hours of work invested in the project, the Nebraska site was prepped for installation by removing 1,400 tons of dirt, leaving a 12-foot deep hole. A crane was used to drop the bunker onto a concrete slab in the hole. And weeks later, well water and septic were hooked up, and the bunker was finally covered. Shea Degan proceeded to stock the shelter with 1,500 lbs of food, enough for his family of four to live 6 months underground.

Overall, I enjoyed episode 1 of Doomsday Bunkers. I’ve always liked learning about underground shelters, so this was right up my alley. “Bunkers, Bullets and Blast Doors” was very interesting, informative, and even funny at times. The Deep Earth Bunker staff that appeared on the show were likeable and seemed professional.

That being said, I’m not a big fan of “reality” TV, and two elements of that genre appeared in Doomsday Bunkers. First, there was drama from Shea Degan’s prepping “causing conflict at home” and from Alex being the owner’s son (as evidenced by the incident with the wrong screws). Second, there was the fast-approaching deadline with the client walk-through.

While I understand that “reality” television is a big hit among many Americans, I can’t help but wonder if the person that tunes into Doomsday Bunkers isn’t the “reality” show type. First off, the preppers/survivalists in the audience already pride themselves from being distinct from the “herd.” Second, from my experience, fans of “reality” TV flock to such programming because (as ironic as it sounds) it diverts their attention away from their own reality. Prepper Mike Hagans may have inadvertently described these folks when he said in the episode:

The people who aren’t paying attention out there- they don’t know what’s going on. Nor do they care to know what’s going on. They don’t want to know what could happen. They’re welcome to think that way. Doesn’t mean I have to.

In my opinion, the Discovery Channel and viewers stand to gain more by having Doomsday Bunkers focus more on the client’s reason(s) for wanting an underground shelter (how about bringing in outside experts to talk about the various threats?) and the engineering/technological features of the bunkers (for example, why wouldn’t the bad guys just attack the air supply system instead of messing around with a blast door?), rather than go down the increasingly-stale “reality” TV route. The rest of us already have enough drama and deadlines in our lives.

According to the Discovery Channel TV schedule, episode 2 of Doomsday Bunkers will air on Wednesday, March 14, and episode 3 on Wednesday, March 21, both at 10 PM E/P each day. Check it out!

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Preview Of Doomsday Preppers, Episode 6

If you think the government’s going to be there, are you going to sit back and wait for the cavalry? They may never come. So what are you going to do about it? Why don’t you start to prepare? Because it’s your personal responsibility.

-Mike Mester, “doomsday prepper”

Last week, I received an e-mail about participating in part two of National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers Blog Carnival. By agreeing to take part in the event, I’d get a sneak peak of the next Doomsday Preppers episode airing on the National Geographic Channel on Tuesday, March 6. More importantly, I’d be able to provide Survival And Prosperity readers a preview of episode number 6, “Nine Meals Away from Anarchy.” I watched the show, which focused on three prepper groups. In order of appearance:

Mike Mester, a contractor living in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, kids, and dogs
“We’re preparing for civil unrest caused by a global economic collapse.”

Preston White, a web developer living in central Colorado
“Preston believes that a cloud of deadly radiation from Fukushima is heading towards the mainland United States and will soon contaminate food and water supplies.”

Riley Cook, a welder living in Silverthorne, Colorado, with his wife and four kids
“I’m preparing my family to survive a polar shift.”

Now, because this post in only a preview, I can’t give up too much information. However, I think those that are interested in preparedness and who are following the television series will really enjoy this installment of Doomsday Preppers. How so? Well, I’ve learned that preppers come from all walks of life here in the United States. As such, plenty of viewers will relate to the Mester family and their situation in the suburbs, the Cook family and small-town living, and Preston White, the mild-mannered, techno-geek prepper. Personally, I can identify with all three parties. I grew up more or less in the Chicago suburbs, a lot of it in a town writer Ernest Hemingway once supposedly-described as consisting of “broad lawns and narrow minds.” I’ve also spent a good deal of my time throughout the years in a small town in southeastern Wisconsin that’s generally succeeded in not being overrun by throngs of vacationers from northern Illinois. Finally, with the word “eccentric” having been used to describe me before, coupled with my ongoing interest in computers from an early age (borrowed my uncle’s TI-99 back in 1983, picked up an Apple IIc in 1984, and never looked back), I think I understand where White is coming from.

I think viewers that are prepping or are interested in it will also appreciate episode 6 of Doomsday Preppers because many topics will probably hit close to home. Sorry, but no umbilical cords being handed out in this installment. From the Mester family section:

• How to retrieve family members during a SHTF situation who are located a long distance away from the household
• Prepping for pets, particularly dogs
• What to do with expired food
• A cheap, alternative heating and cooking source
• Preparing for civil unrest that might spill into the suburbs from the city in a major crisis

From Preston White’s section:

• A personal seed bank
• Tents to grow food year-round and for living- in a radioactive environment
• An HHO generator and home heater
• A home defense firearm battery
• A graphic lesson about maintaining operational security, or OPSEC

From the Cook family section:

• Underground shelters
• An alternative form of transportation
• Bugging-out in severe conditions

Now, the Cook family is prepping because they fear a polar shift is coming. You may recall that in episode 4 the O’Brien family had the same concern. From that episode:

Kevin believes that a 2012 polar shift will cause the earth to move on its axis, resulting in an onslaught of natural disasters… and since Florida is a low-lying coastal peninsula, Kevin believes that his home state will be completely devastated by a polar shift.

I feel it’s important to point out, once again, that what I think the O’Brien and Cook families are really concerned about is not a magnetic pole shift, but what’s known as “true polar wander,” or the solid-body rotation of the Earth with respect to its spin axis, causing the geographic (not just the magnetic) locations of the North and South Poles to change, or “wander.” Some theorize that rapid TPW could lead to scores of natural disasters taking place across the world over a small period of time.

Overall, I think you’ll really get into episode 6 of Doomsday Preppers. Like I said, many viewers should be able to identify with the featured preppers and topics. I thought this episode covered the most interesting material to date- although I leave it up to you to decide on Fukushima. While I liked learning about the Mester family’s suburban stronghold and the Cook family’s mountain retreat, I thought the HHO generator/heater that Preston White and his friends were playing around with was way too cool. Then again, that’s the techno-geek in me coming out.

Tune into Doomsday Preppers episode 6, “Nine Meals Away from Anarchy,” on Tuesday night, March 6, on the National Geographic Channel.

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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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On TV: Doomsday Preppers TV Series

Back on August 3, 2011, I wrote about a show called Doomsday Preppers that appeared on the National Geographic Channel that prior Sunday. Little did I know at that time that the one-hour special was really a pilot for a new series that goes by the same name and which debuted on Nat Geo last night. From their website:

About the Show

Doomsday Preppers explores the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Unique in their beliefs, motivations, and strategies, preppers will go to whatever lengths they can to make sure they are prepared for any of life’s uncertainties. And with our expert’s assessment, they will find out their chances of survival if their worst fears become a reality.

The first two episodes of the new series were broadcast Tuesday night, and a total of seven “prepper” individuals/groups were assessed, including (in order of appearance):

Paul and Gloria Range, the “Retiree Preppers,” outside of Floresville, Texas
“We’re preparing for a polar shift that will cause a sudden climate change and change life as we know it forever.”

Christopher Nyerges, the “Street Survivor,” Los Angeles, California
“I’m prepping for a killer earthquake that could completely flatten the city of L.A.”

Megan Hurwitt, the “Young Urban Prepper,” Houston, Texas
“I’m prepping to survive a catastrophic oil crisis.”

David Sarti, the “Hillbilly Prepper,” outside of Nashville, Tennessee
“I’m prepping to survive an EMP detonation that will wipe out our nation’s transportation system.”

Kellene (and Scott) Bishop, the “Gourmet Prepper,” Orem, Utah
“I’m prepping for a collapse of our financial system that will mean the end of the world as we know it.”

Kathy (and Bruce) Harrison, the “Doris Day of Doom,” somewhere in New England
“I’m preparing for a black swan event like a catastrophic New Madrid earthquake.”

Dennis Evers, the “Godfather Prepper,” rural Colorado
“I’m prepping to protect my family against global chaos caused by hyperinflation.”

Watching these first two episodes of the new television series, I thought back to something I wrote last year regarding the 2011 pilot:

Watching Doomsday Preppers, one soon realizes that the use of the term “doomsday preppers” is somewhat misleading. None of these families indicated they believe the end of the word is at hand. Instead, they plan and prepare for anticipated large-scale, near-term disasters, natural (CME) and man-made (EMP strike, financial crash). This use of “doomsday” reminds me of the situation with Apocalypse PA, in which I suspected having “apocalypse” in the title was merely a marketing ploy.

And which worked, in my case.

That same situation applies here. None of these seven prepper individuals/groups believes the actual end of the world is at hand- or at least it wasn’t said on camera. Otherwise, what would be the purpose of prepping? Their reasons for preparing are best illustrated in quotes attributed to them on the Nat Geo Channel website and which I listed above.

I also picked-on something else from the pilot. I wrote back on August 3 last year:

My only beef with the National Geographic Channel in Doomsday Preppers was their not identifying who their prepper “expert” was. I run across a lot of “experts” in my research, and it’s highly-debatable whether a good number of these individuals are deserving of such a title.

This time around, Nat Geo did identify those conducting the assessments of the preppers. Who are they? In the original pilot, one of the groups assessed were the Kobler and Hunt families out of South Carolina, who formed a prepper community in anticipation of a global economic collapse. I wrote last year:

And David Kobler and Scott Hunt not only have their own YouTube channels, southernprepper1 and engineer775 respectively, but are also prepping consultants, heading up Practical Preppers LLC, “Providing tactical and technical solutions for all your prepping needs.”

The experts assessing the preppers in the new series? Practical Preppers. From their website:

National Geographic Project

Practical Prepper’s Scott Hunt and David Kobler were featured on the pilot episode of “Doomsday Preppers”, on the National Geographic Channel.

Then, they were asked to be the experts for 10 episodes of that series on prepping.

Four to six families are profiled on each show. After each family’s segment, the experts — Practical Preppers — evaluate the family’s level of preparedness, on several different scales. They also suggest approaches for improving their plan.

Congratulations Practical Preppers LLC on the sweet gig.

Some other thoughts about the new Doomsday Preppers TV series include:

Operational Security, or OPSEC- Obviously, I wasn’t the only individual contacted about casting for the new series. Others blogged about it last year, and one of the concerns brought up was the violation of operational security, or OPSEC, by appearing in such a production. The thought being, once the show airs, the “world” now knows you are sitting on valuable equipment and supplies, and should the poop hit the fan, you will find plenty of people, both good and bad, at your doorstep. Even without a major crisis, you may have unwillingly set yourself up as an attractive target for thieves. I was surprised that one prepper went so far as to reveal that the cost of her and her husband’s preps amounted to six-figures. Shhhh!

Firearms- Which brings me to my next thought, which is about guns. One prepper said in episode 2:

It’s easy to feel a little left out of the prepper community if you live in New England and if you’re not fairly right-wing and conservative politically. But I just don’t spend my time worrying about storing guns and ammunition. Because our security comes not from stockpiling weapons but from having a community that respects each other, supports each other, and we have each other’s backs.

While the right of the law-abiding individual to keep and bear arms is enshrined in the Bill of Rights under the Second Amendment, I understand that owning a gun may not be right for everyone. However, keep in mind that in a SHTF situation, there are individuals/groups this prepper and her community could very well come into contact with who have come out and said (future post) they don’t bother stockpiling food, water, and other supplies because they intend to take these items away from others under threat of force (guns). Firearms are without a doubt one of the most effective tools for self-defense, and with the proper training and tactics, our prepper and her beloved community might actually have a chance of keeping their preps safe against these roving bands of human parasites.

“The Odds”- At the end of episode 1 and each section of episode 2 (refinement is often a good thing), there’s a part of the show called “The Odds” in which the likelihood of a particular prepper’s overriding concern (earthquake flattening Los Angeles, for example) is addressed. At the end of Kellene and Scott Bishop’s segment, viewers are told:

What are the odds of a financial collapse actually occurring? While hyperinflation and severe depressions have occurred in major economies in the past, most economists do not believe the United States is currently at risk.

At the end of Dennis Evers’ segment? We’re informed, once again:

What are the odds of hyperinflation actually occurring? While hyperinflation and severe depressions have occurred in major economies in the past, most economists do not believe the United States is currently at risk.

Then again, most economists didn’t see the 2008 global financial crisis coming. And the housing bubble. And the the dot-com bubble. The list goes on. And on.

In fact, quite a few economists and other financial-types who correctly-called the 2008 event now warn of a coming hyperinflation, severe depression, and a financial collapse. Not too surprisingly, those who didn’t spot the crisis three-and-a-half years ago are the ones claiming the U.S. economy is on a sustainable path to recovery. Who’s got the street cred here?

So does all this mean I didn’t like the first two episodes of the new Doomsday Preppers TV series? Actually, I’m rather kind of impressed. The production company could have taken the easy way out and cast some of the more eccentric members of the prepping community to attract an audience through shock value. Instead, the preppers introduced in these episodes didn’t seem much different than people I’d run into on the street in 2012. Then again, I’m from Chicago, soooo… All kidding aside, I do like the show. I especially liked how a number of themes emphasized in the prepper community- skill development, innovation, redundancy- made it into the first two installments. At times I found myself jotting down ideas gleaned from the show. Overall, I found the new Doomsday Preppers TV series interesting, informative, and even humorous at times. The production company succeeded in taking what is a scary subject for many and making it more palatable for the masses- without diluting the more serious aspects of the show.

New episodes of Doomsday Preppers will be on the National Geographic Channel Tuesday nights at 9 PM Eastern/Pacific Time. From the Practical Preppers’ website, it looks like viewers can expect at least 10 episodes in this new series. For more information, go to the Nat Geo Channel site here.

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On TV: Livin’ For The Apocalypse

Back on August 9, Dennis McClung of Doomsday Preppers-fame informed Survival And Prosperity readers that he’d be appearing in a TLC one-hour special called Livin’ for the Apocalypse on August 28. From the TLC website:

They have stock piles of canned goods, gas masks, bomb shelters and even a tilapia pond. They are the families featured on TLC’s newest one-hour special LIVIN’ FOR THE APOCALYPSE, premiering on Sunday, August 28 at 10 PM ET/PT.

Amid the world’s latest natural disasters, cultural doomsday predictions and economic collapses, there are those who are convinced that this is the end of civilization, as we know it. LIVIN’ FOR THE APOCALYPSE takes a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of families who have spent years preparing for the day that they believe will mark the end of mankind. From rabbit-raising to meat-canning, no measure is too over-the-top when it comes to preparing for one’s post-apocalyptical survival. The fascinating special will document these extreme actions and personal survival guides as these unique families prepare for the future…or not.

While I caught the special on TV, I haven’t been able to review it- until now. Livin’ for the Apocalypse focused on four different parties. First up was Scott and Peggy Layton of Manti, Utah. The Laytons have been married for 33 years and have 7 children. Peggy shared with viewers why her family was preparing. She explained:

I know there’s going to be an apocalypse in the near future, and I have an urgency to get completely set up with emergency preparedness supplies, so that we can live through this and take care of our children.

The show highlighted a number of the Laytons’ preps, including their accumulation of food supplies, their garden, and their root cellar. During the part about food storage, Peggy pointed out:

I have a philosophy. If it’s unorganized, and it’s messy, and you can’t find it- then it’s hoarding. If it’s organized, and it’s put away, and you can find it when you need it- then it’s being prepared.

The show also revealed that the Laytons have “bug-out” property (an emergency location) in the nearby mountains.

Now, Peggy Layton is no stranger to the prepper/survivalist movements. As she explained:

My greatest passion and my love is for being prepared. It has propelled me into a business. I started out with one book on the subject of food storage, and it has grown into several books.

Perhaps the most well-known of these is her Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook.

Peggy runs her food storage company (PeggyLayton.com, “Food storage Preparation essentials”) out of a building she purchased a few years ago that contains, of all things, a bomb shelter. In the show the Layton family was in the process of “updating” the space with running water. Peggy concluded:

I feel a great urgency to be prepared, and to have my family prepared. It’s a possibility we can have an earthquake, we can have just economic collapse.

Next up was “Survival Doc” and “Lisa,” a married couple from St. Louis, Missouri. When it comes to preparing, “Survival Doc” is big on precious metals. He explained:

One of the biggest threats that I’ve always been afraid of is the collapse of the dollar, because that’s what’s happening. The dollar is buying you less than it did before. But the same amount of silver that would buy you a gallon of gas say a few decades ago will still buy a gallon of gas. I could see this whole scenario coming down the line in the late eighties, and that was when I actually decided to start buying silver. The government- they can just print money, and print money, and print money- but they’re eventually going to print so much money where the dollar is going to be worthless. And that is the whole reason for buying precious metals.

“Survival Doc” touched on the importance of operational security, or OPSEC. He told viewers:

I don’t want to use my real name, because when the stuff hits the fan, the people who know that I’m storing a lot of silver, they might decide to come over to my place to get my stuff.

Makes sense. A couple of years ago I was watching CNBC when one of the talking heads boasted he didn’t need to own gold because he’d just take it away from “goldbugs” using force if it ever came to that. Doubtful. I know of quite a few precious metals owners who also happen to be armed. Heavily, in some instances. Good luck with that, Mr. Talking Head.

“Survival Doc” discussed the importance of food to his preparations. He noted:

There are a lot of people out there warning about food shortages. A year from now, it might cost $100 to buy a loaf of bread.

Like the Laytons, “Doc” stressed the importance of growing one’s own food and storing it. In addition, he recommended people “produce” their own meat as well (he keeps rabbits). And like Peggy Layton, “Survival Doc” is known to a number of members of the prepper/survivalist community, as he not only hosts his own YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/thenewsurvivalist) but runs the disaster preparedness and self-reliance educational website TheNewSurvivalist.com.

Other useful information shared by the “Survival Doc” included:

• Alcohol makes a great bartering item
• Redundancy is essential. “One is none, two is one.”
• Firearms are important tools for self-protection. The “Doc” carries a handgun on him whenever possible.
• Have other means of self-defense. The “Survival Doc” just took up martial arts recently.


“Livin’ for the Apocalypse- Ready for War”
YouTube Video

The third household looked at in Livin’ for the Apocalypse was Dennis and Danielle McClung from Mesa, Arizona. The McClungs have two small kids. Dennis shared their reasons for preparing:

My wife and I are, and have been, preparing for catastrophic events to happen in and around December 21, 2012. After that, I see the end of the world as we know it. There is all of these prophecies that can be interpreted to the end of the world age: the St. Malachy prophecies, the Hopi prophecies, the Mayan calendar, the Book of Changes, the Chinese book of I Ching. So you have all of these world cultures, all of these prophecies, pointing to a past world calamity and saying, “Hey, it going to happen again, it’s only a matter of time, because history has a tendency of repeating itself.”

Even though the young couple’s children are only 2 and 5-years-old, they’re already learning survival skills. When the McClungs purchased their home, it came with a swimming pool. As tempting as it might have been to use it for its intended use, the family transformed the pool into a self-sufficient aquaponic greenhouse that feeds them 365 days a year. Plants, chickens, and an abundance of tilapia fish in the deep end comprise the system. They also raise Nigerian goats for milk. Inside the home the McClungs have a “survival supply room” which contains plenty of freeze dried food, canning supplies, and other preparedness items.

Dennis and Danielle McClung are striving to be self-sufficient by 2012. Dennis explained:

The nice thing about having a deadline- 2012- is it puts pressure on us to continually work on our project until we reach where we want to be.

Once again, Dennis McClung is no stranger to preppers/survivalists due to his disaster supply business at 2012Supplies.com and his appearances on shows like Doomsday Preppers. Dennis concludes:

I don’t see ourselves as fear-mongerers. I don’t even consider us negative people. I think we’re actually very optimistic people- we’re an optimistic family. We’re just preparing for the worst case scenario- and hoping for the best. Maybe in preparing for the worst, it brings out the best in humanity. A rule of thumb for your typical survivalist is to keep low-key and tell no one of your preparing. The problem with that is, we feel we have something to offer the public. To show them what can be done by an average young family… We feel we need to inform the public how to be a little more prepared. And to us that’s a better situation because if more people are prepared, there will be less chaos in the end for us.

Finally, there’s Jackie and Gidget from the Southwest desert of the United States (again, practicing OPSEC by not revealing more than that information). Gidget explained why the two roommates were preparing for disaster:

We’re preparing because the world as we know, and especially our country, is coming to an end… In 2012, I really feel that life as we know it is going to come to an end. So we’re going to be prepared for whatever happens.

Consequently, Livin’ for the Apocalypse showed the two looking at and shooting firearms. The roommates also shared with viewers the extent to which they’ve already gone to build up their food supply. Canning is especially big with these two.

As Jackie underwent transgender surgery 10 years ago and requires various hormones/medication, these items need to be stockpiled. Taking these costs and the expenses of other preps the two still want to carry out into consideration, the roommates hold a garage sale and put up Gidget’s doll collection and some of her creations as a seamstress for sale to raise funds.

TLC’s Livin’ for the Apocalypse concluded with the following:

Gidget and Jackie, the Laytons, “Survival Doc” and “Lisa,” and the McClung family are all part of a growing number of Americans who feel the Apocalypse is near. But they all prepare in very different ways.

It’s true- all four parties prepared in very different ways. However, a number of their preps overlapped here-and-there, including:

• Having the ability to grow one’s own food
• Being able to store this food through canning and other means
• Building up a food supply
• Redundancy
• Acquiring firearms as tools for self-defense
• Implementing operational security as it concerns one’s preparations

All the individuals in the show had at least one thing in common in that they all strived for some degree of self-sufficiency in the event of disaster.

Livin’ for the Apocalypse was very informative, very interesting, and kind of funny as well. Hard-core preppers/survivalists might dismiss it as being too rudimentary. To be fair, they probably weren’t the intended audience to begin with. I highly-recommend watching it the next time it appears on TLC.

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Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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