Practical Preppers

On TV: America Unplugged

Cade Courtley. Now that’s a name I haven’t heard for a few years.

Back on December 23, 2010, I informed Survival And Prosperity readers about a survival-themed television series- Surviving Disaster– that had aired on Spike TV the previous year and whose episodes had been uploaded on that channel’s website. I blogged:

From the network’s website:

What will you do when disaster strikes? Spike TV’s new original series Surviving Disaster, led by Navy SEAL Cade Courtley, vividly takes viewers through catastrophic scenarios and arms them with the knowledge needed to survive the unthinkable…

I added later:

I’ve watched several of the episodes, and I’ve enjoyed them all. Courtley is a fantastic host…

And now Cade’s back as host of a new survival show- America Unplugged– which debuts tonight, June 5, at 8 PM Eastern Time /Pacific Time on the Sportsman Channel. From the New Berlin, Wisconsin-based national television network’s website:

Hosted by former Navy Seal Cade Courtley, America Unplugged is a new series that takes viewers on a cross-country journey to meet the folks that are unplugging from society. Each of the eight episodes provides a riveting look at the excitement and danger of living off the grid. The terrain, wildlife, and food sources are as varied as the people who choose this lifestyle. But they are all motivated by the same thing; they want to live free, as they pursue their own version of the American Dream.


“America Unplugged”
YouTube Video

Sounds and looks very interesting. Here’s what’s on tap for the next two Thursdays:

Week of Jun 02: THU 8:00PM/THU 11:00PM/FRI 12:00PM
Scott Hunt – All New
Robotics Engineer, Scott Hunt, prepares for his family’s survival in the event of a Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) in South Carolina.

Week of Jun 09: THU 8:00PM/FRI 12:00PM/THU 11:00PM
Robert Allen – All New
A close up look at Robert Allen’s tactical military training techniques as he moves his family toward independence in Arkansas.

Scott Hunt of Doomsday Preppers and Practical Preppers-fame. Met him at that Food Insurance conference I attended in Dallas last spring. This guy knows his stuff.

Interested in watching America Unplugged tonight? 8 PM ET/PT on the Sportsman Channel. Click on the banner ad below for more information about this new TV series.

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

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On TV: Doomsday Castle ‘Water From a Stone’ Review

Earlier this week, I found some time to watch the third episode of the new National Geographic Channel TV series, Doomsday Castle. “Water From a Stone” first aired on Tuesday, August 27.

In the prior episode, “A Stone From the Sling,” the family focused on accessing a sustainable food supply and on defending the road leading up to the castle via a medieval siege weapon. This time around? Brent Sr. said:

Today I’ve prepared an exercise for my kids so they can experience a real life situation. They’re going to be attacked by an unknown enemy. Their mission is to defend themselves and to defend this castle.

Basically, they worked on patrolling and defending from within the castle, learning how to use the protection it provides to their advantage.

The episode started off with the family- minus their father- patrolling the castle grounds with paintball equipment. Ghillie suit-clad Brent Sr., along with another individual, ambushed the “patrol” and cut the kids down one-by-one. Dad confided:

My kids failed miserably. I’m not going to be around forever. I need to know that they’ll be able to protect themselves.

Enter Mike Moore, a retired Army Ranger First Sergeant. Brent Sr. said:

All of our prepping will have been wasted if marauders can come and take over this castle. I have brought in Sergeant Mike to teach battle and weapons tactics so my kids can better defend the castle.

Michael and Linsdey were shown training with “Sergeant Mike,” while Brent Sr., Brent II, Ashley, and Dawn-Marie looked for a source of fresh water on the property, the other focus of this episode. Brent Sr. shared:

We definitely have plenty of water here. Only one problem. We have to figure out how to get it up 600 feet to the castle. And we’ve got to make sure it’s pure.

Lindsey’s and Michael’s training didn’t go so smooth. The middle daughter self-admittedly floundered while providing cover fire for Michael as the two attacked Sergeant Mike in the castle. Michael confided:

I can’t defend this castle all by myself. But at the same time, it’s not like I can really depend on my brother or my sisters in an end of days attack situation. Survival. This is life and death, and they need to realize that.

Brent Sr. brought in Scott Hunt, a fellow prepper and water expert, to help tackle the water problem. Hunt, who featured in the Doomsday Preppers pilot (reviewed here) and assesses preparations of other “doomsday preppers” on the popular show via his company, Practical Preppers, helped the family construct a solar power gravity collection system for the family. This system “consists of an earthen dam at the head of a mountain spring that collects water and feeds a series of filters that clean out dirt and bacteria. The water is driven through the system by a pump that is powered by solar panels situated on the castle perimeter.”

As Scott and a number of family members pieced together the new water system, tempers flared as Dawn-Marie and Ashley insisted on fabricating a zipline to haul down the gravel and clay for the project rather than carrying the material down the hill. While the concept may have been good, implementing it took too long. Brent Sr. revealed:

I was so frustrated with these kids. Not only are we losing daylight, but I’ve reached my absolute limit.

Frustration followed the family home that day, leading Brent II to draw up a “family constitution,” rules of conduct family members would agree to abide by, and which Dawn-Marie initially didn’t sign.

The next day, Sergeant Mike trained Brent II and Dawn-Marie on weapons, while Brent Sr. took Michael and Lindsey along with him to work with Scott on the new water system. After adjusting a solar panel, water started flowing way up at the castle. Brent Sr. explained:

When the End Time comes, our solar pump system will produce hundreds of gallons of clean water every day.

Nicely done Scott.


“Doomsday Water”
YouTube Video

The episode ended with a simulated night assault on the castle using paintball guns again. Being informed of the attack beforehand, the family was assigned the task of defending the castle. Twin Michael didn’t like Brent II being appointed team leader beforehand for that night’s exercise, and after the family failed to hold the castle, the two got into a shoving match, with Brent Sr. having to step in and keep them apart.

Some thoughts about “Water From a Stone”:

I thought the use of paintball guns for weapons training was a good idea, considering the castle sits on all that land and a lot of that instruction can take place outdoors. Still, I wonder how easy it is to get yellow paint off castle stone. Brent Sr. said in the episode:

Paintball might seem like a game, but it’s really an effective way to learn tactical techniques, teamwork, and strategy.

I like the fact that outside experts were brought in to help with the family’s weapons training and water system. While there’s a lot to be said for taking care of such things in-house, as a viewer, I was interested in seeing how the “pros” tackled such challenges. Take Scott Hunt’s solar power gravity collection system for the water on the castle property. Would the family have come up with the same solution without outside help?

While “Water From a Stone” provided viewers some food for thought, the “reality” TV aspect was ratcheted up quite a bit in this episode- to my disappointment.

I’m curious- do any readers who watch the show actually like the drama?

Anyway, as Brent Sr. acknowledged at the end of “Water From a Stone,” the family continues to make progress on the castle, which is good.

For more information about Doomsday Castle, visit the National Geographic Channel website here.

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

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On TV: Doomsday Preppers ‘The Gates of Hell’ Review

It took a while, but I finally got around to watching season 3, episode 2, of Doomsday Preppers– “The Gates of Hell.” From the National Geographic Channel website:

An economic collapse could mean total chaos for the U.S. — looting, riots and civil unrest are top concerns. In Washington state, Steve works with a stern hand to prep his family for the potential threat. South Carolinian David Appleton is a comedian, but the idea of a devastating earthquake is no joke to him. His job doesn’t always pay the bills, so David must Dumpster dive to find supplies to make a DIY camouflage net to hide his preps.

Once again, there was more to the episode that aired last week than just the segments on Steve H. and David Appleton. The show also introduced Suzanne Strisower living out in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.

My thoughts about “The Gates of Hell”:

Part 1: The heavily-defended bug-out location

Season 3, episode 2, of Doomsday Preppers opened with a segment about “Steve H.,” who told viewers:

I’m preparing my family for the imminent collapse of the United States economy.

According to the show:

Steve H. a contractor in Washington state, fears that economic collapse will encourage widespread riots and looting, and that his home, in an easily-accessible neighborhood, could become a target.

While Steve, his wife Kim, and sons Nick and Steven James work on their preps every week, most of their efforts are directed towards their bug-out location, a cabin 50 miles away in the mountains and where the family heads to on weekends.

The BOL and the preparations that have gone into constructing it are impressive, not the least of which is a concrete bunker that houses supplies.

Steve, along with friends Nolan and Dylan, have also put a lot of thought and effort into making the cabin highly-defensible. The prepper group is heavily-armed, utilizing even binary explosives to protect against intruders making their way up the only road to the cabin.

For those readers not familiar with binary explosives, according to the BATFE website:

Binary explosives are pre-packaged products consisting of two separate components, usually an oxidizer like ammonium nitrate and a fuel such as aluminum or another metal.

The remainder of the segment showed what an attack on the mountain hideaway (not really, as it looks to be right off a paved road) might look like. Those into big guns (.50 caliber) and even bigger explosions (those binary explosives were put into action) probably enjoyed this part a lot. I know I did.

Two things stood out in this segment for me. First, I’ve heard/read concerns about youngsters participating in preparedness activities (usually, it relates to firearms). So has Steve, who has little man Steven James involved in the family’s prepping. Dad had this to say:

My mother says that our prepping is a negative influence on our 8-year-old son. But I say it’s a positive influence on my son. Reality is what reality is. And the sooner that we face reality, the sooner that we’re going to be able to do something about it. I don’t want to lose anybody in our family. I don’t people in my family to be hungry. I don’t want people in my family to be discomforted or in pain. And so I’m taking these steps beforehand, to see to it that that doesn’t happen to us.

Second, Practical Preppers awarded Steve and the group 79 points out of 100 points for their efforts. Instead of disputing the assessment- which happens quite a bit- Steve was incredibly open-minded about the whole thing. Steve confided with viewers:

I think the assessment is spot on. Especially about the security. There’s a lot of things that we can do that would be better. And I think that I’m going to seek some training.

Good for him.

Part 2: The dumpster-diving prepper

In the second segment, viewers met David Appleton, a professional comedian out of Charleston, South Carolina. Appleton explained:

I’m actually preparing for a catastrophic earthquake to hit Charleston, South Carolina.

“Apples,” as David is known on the comedy circuit, added:

I’m prepping for an earthquake because it’s happened in the past.

The show went on to confirm that it has- and in a big way.

It’s revealed David and his wife, Lauren, have 72 hours of preps set aside at their home, then they plan on bugging out in the event of a longer-term emergency.

Appleton is a also a self-admitted dumpster-diver. And using his scavenging skills, he’s been able to acquire materials that allow him to construct items like a multi-purpose rickshaw made out of PVC pipes. During the show, he demonstrated how to make camouflage netting out of what looked to be a discarded painter’s drop cloth, wire mesh, and various cans of spray paint.

The finished product looked like it might be pretty functional for its intended use.

Those who desire camouflage for their bug-out vehicles (especially trucks) but who don’t want to spend much money for it- take note.

Not all of the couple’s preps are scavenged. He’s acquired an old Army truck for a BOV and an old pontoon boat from his parents (shown with outboard engine). In the event David and Lauren ever have to get off the island where they live (only three earthquake-vulnerable bridges connect them to and from the mainland), they plan on trailering the boat and driving it down to the waterfront to escape. David was even shown fabricating and installing a rain catchment system onto the boat should they need to collect fresh water while on the “high seas.”

Part 3: Lifestyle prepping

In the final segment of “The Gates of Hell,” viewers were introduced to yet another pacifist from California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains- Suzanne Strisower- and her partner Dave. The couple reside on 30 acres there.

Strisower told viewers:

When the economy collapses, I’ll barter everything I have to survive and thrive.

She added:

The United States is not going to be the global standard for the currency anymore. I think we’re going for sure have some kind of currency collapse, where money is not going to be worth what it used to be worth. And I think it’s going to get worse. I tell everybody- listen, you need to have a plan. You need to know what you’re going to do if something comes down. So, it’s about mindfulness. It’s about preparation. It’s not about fear. That’s why I really advocate for people to be lifestyle preppers- not doomsday preppers.

The couple plans to survive TEOTWAWKI through bartering. From the show:

Suzanne’s lifestyle plan for an economic collapse is to turn her mountain retreat into a giant doomsday swap meet. All her resources will be alternate currency she’ll use to barter and trade for whatever she needs.

Strisower is a gifted barterer. She is shown putting this skill to work in order to acquire a dehydrator.

Recognizing the need for being able to protect themselves, the pacifist was shown visiting Surplus City, a local military surplus store, and talking to Robert Pratt there about what might best-suit them. Since lethal weapons are out of the question, Pratt suggested a stun gun. Strisower didn’t like the fact that it would require her to get close to an attacker to be able to use it.

Pratt came up with a different option for her- a paintball gun.

Used correctly, paintball guns can inflict a lot of pain on an aggressor some distance out. Strisower asked Pratt to come up to the couple’s place to demonstrate the gun, she tried it out, and was subsequently impressed.

Needless to say, viewers shouldn’t have been surprised when Practical Preppers only awarded her 3 out of a possible 20 points in the “Security” category of the assessment. Oh well. As Pratt said earlier in the segment:

I get it. You don’t want to have to hurt somebody. You don’t want to have to do it. But to me, you have to be willing to accept it. Willing to go with the fact that- I might have to.

Overall, a good episode.

For more information about Doomsday Preppers, visit the show’s web page on the National Geographic Channel site here.

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

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On TV: Doomsday Preppers ‘Don’t Betray The Colony’ Review

“As long as nothing happens, preppers are idiots. The day after something happens- we’re geniuses.”

-Tony C., prepper featured on National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers episode “Don’ Betray the Colony”

In addition to watching the premiere of National Geographic Channel’s latest prepper/survivalist-themed project, Doomsday Castle (blogged about here), I caught the latest Doomsday Preppers episode, “Don’t Betray the Colony.”

Question- Was Tuesday night’s airing the start of season 3 of the show (making this episode 1), or is it a continuation of season 2 (making this episode 31, according to Wikipedia)?

Moving on, from the Nat Geo Channel website:

Some preppers believe in safety in numbers — as is the case for Jeff Mann, who leads “the Colony,” a community of 25 preppers unified with the single purpose of surviving doomsday. Watch as he prepares his son, Colten, to take the reins by having him hunt down live boar in the Florida swamps and builds the Colony’s very own gallows — an important message that there are laws to be upheld, even in times of chaos.

Actually, there was more to the episode than just Jeff Mann- “We’re preparing for an economic collapse”- and the prepper “colony.” The show also introduced Tony C.- “I’m preparing for a space-borne disaster”- and Cheree- “We’re preparing for a mega-earthquake.”

My thoughts about “Don’t Betray the Colony”:

Part 1: The prepper “colony”

When I heard this new episode would be featuring a “colony,” I wasn’t sure what to expect. Actually, I came away pretty impressed with the 21-year-old son Colten Mann. Fearing the worst, I reluctantly kept watching, suspecting the culinary school student might flounder (remember, this is “reality” TV, where drama plays a big role in the genre). I was relieved when Milandred and Hennessey put Colten through the paces and he managed to show a good deal of promise (got to give him a lot of credit for gutting and getting all up in that wild boar like he did).

But then there was that part with the gallows. Just prior to that, there was talk of a “city council” and “laws.” Now, I don’t see anything wrong with discussing a post-apocalyptic judicial system. “Post-apocalyptic” being the key words here. But throwing up that gallows on private property these days might have raised the eyebrows of authorities. If not local- higher up. And if these authorities are anything like the ones I know and have worked with in the past, thoughts of “Waco” probably crossed their minds. I’m just saying.

Personally, I would mothball the gallows until a situation exists without the rule of law. But as much as I might be inclined to agree with Milandred on just banishing the guilty parties, Hennessey may have been on to something here. You see, in a hypothetical societal collapse, banishing a colony member could mean unintentionally providing hostiles with intel about any vulnerabilities the setup may have. I suspect Hennessey was aware of the potential for this happening.

Last point about the prepper colony. They received an assessment score of 89, or a “19 month initial survival time.” That’s got to be one of the highest scores (highest?) ever given by Practical Preppers to a prepper individual or group. I’m impressed.

Part 2: The underground RV shelter

WTSHTF, some people will bug out in their recreational vehicles. Others, to an underground shelter. But Tony C. and his family, an underground RV shelter. I’m intrigued. Not only because it’s something I don’t come across too often (the Vivos Survival Shelter & Resort in Kansas notwithstanding) but also because it sounds like something that might be more affordable than building out an underground bunker with utilities. According to the episode, Tony dug a hole in the Indiana woods 52 feet long, 40 feet wide, and 12 feet high, and then parked his RV in there, constructing an underground compound with 1,200 square feet of living space. Tony explained:

The reason for that is everything’s done in the RV. You have all the comforts of home, and all the systems- the wiring, the plumbing, pressure pumps, inverters. Everything’s in an RV because it’s designed to be self-contained living.

I’d be curious to find out how much it cost him to build his shelter, minus the RV and supplies.

One other thing. That homemade filtration system Tony C. “MacGyvered” up- I wonder if he’s put it to the test yet? And if so, was it effective? It’s just as cool a contraption as that hand-held water pump in the final part of “Don’t Bertray the Colony.”

Part 3- The pacifist prepper camp

In the last part of Tuesday’s show, viewers were introduced to 27-year-old Cheree and her parents Jessica and Carl. They own and operate a 21-acre Christian camp in the foothills of the California’s Sierra Mountains. Cheree is concerned about a mega-earthquake striking the area, and wishes to follow in Christ’s footsteps and take care of disaster victims after the event. Very noble.

While hosting friends and family from the Bay area for a disaster aftermath dry-run, viewers are informed that Cheree adheres to a strict policy of non-violence and no weapons. The problem is, one of their group, Garry, wants a firearm for protection. He explained:

In a critical scenario, where you have people scrambling for food, for water, for shelter, for whatever. If they want it, and they have weapons, they’re going to take it. So, in that respect, I have to take appropriate action.

Cheree sticks to her guns, and “Garry is voted out of the group, and asked to leave the premises.”

Cheree later said:

I think that my faith brings me peace. And it may not necessarily better equip me physically prepping, but mentally and emotionally, He’s the one I turn to. I realize that whatever’s going to happen is going to happen, and God’s in control.

Hmmm. Two things come to mind here. First, this is a situation that has come up before in Doomsday Preppers. Specifically, in season 1 episode 2, “I Hope I Am Crazy.” I blogged back on February 8, 2012:

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.

By the way, that future post about human “parasites” is here.

And the other thing that comes to mind when the “Pacifist Prepper” said “whatever’s going to happen is going to happen, and God’s in control”? Consider the following…

It rained for days and days and there was a terrific flood. The water rose so high that one man was forced to climb on top of his roof and sat in the rain. As the waters came up higher a man in a rowboat came up to the house and told him to get in. “No thank you, the Lord will save me!” he said, and the man in the rowboat rowed away.

The waters rose to the edge of the roof and still the man sat on the roof until another rowboat came by and another man told him to get in. “No thank you, the Lord will save me!” he said again, and the man rowed away.

The waters covered the house and the man was forced to sit on his chimney as the rain poured down and a helicopter came by and another man urged him to get in or he’ll drown. “No thank you,” the man said again, “The Lord will save me!”

After much begging and pleading the man in the helicopter gave up and flew away. The waters rose above the chimney and the man drowned and went to heaven where he met God.

“Lord, I don’t understand,” he told Him, frustrated, “The waters rose higher and higher and I waited hours for you to save me but you didn’t! Why?”

The Lord just shook his head and said, “What are you talking about? I sent two boats and a helicopter?!”

The moral of the story? Help God help yourself.

Otherwise, you may just succeed in teeing the Almighty off.

After getting yourself killed just prior to that accomplishment, of course.

For more information about Doomsday Preppers, visit the show’s web page on the National Geographic Channel site here.

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

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Preppers Under Attack, Part 2

“All this prepping, it gives people an identity, a group to belong to. But it definitely is emerging as the ‘new kid on the block’ as far as cults go.”

– Dr. Peter Behrens, Penn State-Lehigh Valley professor

Last Friday night, I blogged that it seems to me “preppers” are coming under increasing attack these days.

Funny how things can change so dramatically in just a few days, as “seems” is now a significant understatement in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings.

But before I talk more about that horrific incident and its possibly-implied “relationship” to prepping, I want to discuss a recent piece I came across on the Nazareth, Pennsylvania Patch website. On December 13, Elizabeth Rich wrote about preppers/survivalists and said:

According to Dr. Peter Behrens, preppers are buying into a cult.

Dr. Behrens, a Penn State-Lehigh Valley professor who specializes in the history of psychology, abnormal psychology and personality psychology, says that the most recent form of Doomsday preparations have all the earmarks of an active, recruiting cult.

“From a psychological perspective [Doomsday prepping] is bizarre. Members spend so much time and energy readying for the end of the world. Prepping is just people trying to control what is beyond their control.”

Dr. Behrens believes that clusters of preppers and the movement as a whole has all the markings of a cult.

“I think this is just a modern iteration of the phenomenon of people believing that the end is coming in their lifetime. That idea is so selfish, so self-centered, so narcissistic. It’s mind control.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Unlike Valerie Lucus-McEwen and her concerns about the preppers featured on the National Geographic Channel TV show, according to Rich, Dr. Behrens attacks the prepping movement as a whole. It having all the markings of a cult.

A cult, huh? Would that make Doomsday Preppers evaluators Practical Preppers their Grand Poobahs then? And could National Geographic Channel now claim non-profit status on their taxes for spreading “the word” via the Doomsday Preppers TV show? Of course a uniform will be needed. Try this one on for size.

(Editor’s warning: video could be offensive to some)

Since I completed the first draft of this post, I’ve come across two more web articles that don’t paint the modern survivalist movement in a positive light.

In fact, some might argue they’re attempting to connect prepping with the Sandy Hook school shootings.

From The Telegraph (UK) website yesterday:

Connecticut school shooting: Adam Lanza’s mother was preparing for disaster

The mother of the gunman who killed 20 children and seven adults in America’s worst school massacre, was a gun-proud “survivalist” preparing for economic collapse, it has emerged.

Nancy Lanza, whose gun collection was raided by her son Adam for Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook school, was part of the “prepper” movement, which urges readiness for social chaos by hoarding supplies and training with weapons.

“She prepared for the worst,” her sister-in-law Marsha Lanza told reporters. “Last time we visited her in person, we talked about prepping – are you ready for what could happen down the line, when the economy collapses?”

And then there’s this from The Independent (UK) site this morning:

Mother of Sandy Hook school gunman Adam Lanza was a ‘prepper’ survivalist preparing for economic and social collapse, say reports

Friends and family have portrayed Mrs Lanza as a paranoid ‘survivalist’ who believed the world was on the brink of violent collapse.

Yep. Undoubtedly, preppers are under attack these days.

Sources:

Rich, Elizabeth. “Are Doomsday Preppers a Cult? A Lehigh Valley Professor Says Yes.” NazarethPatch. 13 Dec. 2012. (http://nazareth.patch.com/articles/are-doomsday-preppers-a-cult-this-professor-says-yes-7da6a028). 17 Dec. 2012.

Foster, Peter and Swaine, John. “Connecticut school shooting: Adam Lanza’s mother was preparing for disaster.” The Telegraph. 16 Dec. 2012. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9749217/Connecticut-school-shooting-Adam-Lanzas-mother-was-preparing-for-disaster.html). 17 Dec. 2012.

Williams, Rob. “Mother of Sandy Hook school gunman Adam Lanza was a ‘prepper’ survivalist preparing for economic and social collapse, say reports.” The Independent. 17 Dec. 2012. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/mother-of-sandy-hook-school-gunman-adam-lanza-was-a-prepper-survivalist-preparing-for-economic-and-social-collapse-say-reports-8422298.html). 17 Dec. 2012.

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On TV: Doomsday Preppers ‘Taking From The Haves’ Review

Sorry for getting this review of episode 5 (season 2) of National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers TV series out a little later than usual, but I’ve been tied up with other things. “Taking From the Haves,” which aired Tuesday night, December 4, featured four preppers- John Adrain, Jeff Bushaw, and neighbors Allen and Franco.

John Adrain

During the first part of the show viewers were introduced to John Adrain, an inventor living in the Pacific Northwest with his two dogs. According to John:

I am preparing for the unexpected.

From the show:

John’s not sure which “doomsday” scenario will play out first- a supervirus, biological terrorist attacks, natural disaster. But he’s certain something’s coming. And since travel is often restricted in states of emergency, “bugging out” is the absolute last resort in John’s survival plan.

As such, the episode focused on John and his large fortified home in which he plans to “bug in.” From the show:

His primary goal is to turn his home into a technological fortress, in which he can keep rampaging survivors at bay.

John told viewers:

It doesn’t matter how many preps you have if you can’t protect them from others. Because the “have nots” are going to be taking from the “haves.”

John is shown trying out a .50 caliber long-range rifle called the Beowulf, upgrading the internal/external security of his home, showing off some home security gadgets he invented such as the Burglar Blaster and BedBunker, and practicing some home invasion drills during the remainder of the segment.

Jeff Bushaw

In the second part of the show, viewers were introduced to Jeff Bushaw, a full-time prepper living in Vancouver, Washington. According to Jeff:

I’m preparing for the Yellowstone supervolcano that may end the world as we know it.

From the show:

Yellowstone National Park’s majestic vistas, diverse wildlife, and impressive geysers draw more than 3 million visitors each year. But underneath the seeming tranquility of the park lurks an active supervolcano, one so large that that should it ever blow, the force of the super eruption could be as if 1,000 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs were going off every second … The force of the blast is likely to annihilate everything in the immediate vicinity. Even though Jeff lives more than 800 miles away from Yellowstone, he still doesn’t feel safe. That’s because the supervolcano could spew enough smoldering ash into the atmosphere to bury half of the United States at least several inches deep.

Besides the immediate loss of life and property from such an eruption, the episode noted:

Scientists believe it could take a decade for vegetation in parts of the Midwest to recover from the damage done by the massive ash clouds. Jeff fears the volcano will devastate crops, leading to food shortages throughout the U.S.

Fearing the effects of a “volcanic winter,” Jeff, along with son Hayden, are shown preparing for such an event, socking away food, participating in storage unit auctions in the hope they’ll find valuable preps, practicing bug-out drills, and taking flying lessons to give them the option of bugging out via plane should it come to that.

Allen and Franco

In the last part of the episode, two “neighbors” in Southwest Missouri were introduced. First up, Allen is an electrical engineer and veteran prepper with more than thirty years of experience. Allen said:

I’m preparing for an economic decline of the U.S. economy.

From the show:

Allen worries that the economy is failing, and that as the dollar’s value declines, food prices will skyrocket out of control.

Next, there’s Franco, a master electrician and newer prepper. Franco told viewers:

I’m preparing for the rise of food costs, food shortages, and the corruption of the food supply through big business.

Both Allen and Franco plan on “bugging in” when the food shortages come, but not after they’ve taken charge of their own food production via aquaponics. From the show:

In aquaponic systems, fish and plants are grown together in a closed environment, where the fish waste is converted into food for the plants. The fish excrete waste and ammonia into the water. That water is pumped into the grow beds, where bacteria convert the waste into nitrogen, which the plants use as fertilizer. As the plants use the nitrates, they filter the water, which is then sent back to the fish tanks, completing the circle.

While a challenge to maintain, the results are impressive.


“Doomsday Preppers: Prepper Profile: Franco and Allen”
Nat Geo Channel Video

My thoughts about Doomsday Preppers “Taking From the Haves”:

• While John Adrain’s “technological fortress” is amazing, I wonder how effective it would be in a long-term, grid-down event. His security system is comprised of an electronically-controlled entry gate, a computerized command center, 12 high-definition surveillance cameras, and a front door with sophisticated recognition software, among other things. Does Adrain have enough back-up power to operate this technology should the utilities go down for an extended period of time? And what if a device malfunctions or breaks?

• “But if the attackers come in multiple vehicles and penetrate the gate, John wants to be able to engage them at a distance before they cover the 1,000 feet from the gate to his front door.” Enter the Beowulf, a .50 caliber rifle that Adrain’s weapons guy Bill Alexander brought to the party. Three words. I LIKE IT!

• Another security feature of John Adrain’s fortified home is that its windows are coated with something he called “embassy tint,” a strong film that holds glass together in case it shatters. I’ve done a little bit of research on window security film, and from what I’ve seen via the Internet, the technology is pretty impressive. So much so I’d consider using it on my future residence.

• Adrain busted out some of his inventions in the episode. The Burglar Blaster is a self-contained electronic OC (oleoresin capsicum) spray anti-burglar system. When the infrared detector is tripped, the Burglar Blaster releases OC pepper spray in the immediate area, chasing away the intruder. The BedBunker is a concealed safe that replaces a bed boxspring. Another of Adrain’s inventions shown but not really discussed was the ConsoleBunker, an all-aluminum vehicle center console for storing firearms. The ConsoleBunker is tied in with the vehicle’s factory door locks and has a timing mechanism that prevents unauthorized access. Really neat and useful stuff.

Now I see how John can afford the big house and nice toys.

• In the segment with Jeff Bushaw, the Vancouver, Washington-based prepper was shown taking flying lessons in the event he and his family needed to bug out from the effects of a Yellowstone National Park supervolcano eruption. However, from what I recall, the show never mentioned Bushaw owning a plane. If he doesn’t, and an eruption did take place with an ash cloud headed his way, it might be difficult- if not impossible- to rent a plane in that type of situation. From looking at a map of Vancouver, I can’t help but wonder if he shouldn’t plan on bugging out of the area via ean-going boat.

• Speaking of maps, here’s a link to a 2007 FOX News web article with one showing (right arrow to slide 2) where ash fell from previous Yellowstone National Park supervolcano eruptions.

• In the segment with neighbors Allen and Franco, both preppers were shown riding scooters. While attending the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in the early nineties, these were cherished forms of transportation for many broke-ass college students such as myself (I didn’t own one, but could be seen riding on the back of one from time to time. That must have been a scary sight.) . I wouldn’t be surprised if some preppers/survivalists are including scooters/mopeds in their preps, especially if they anticipate an energy crunch and sky-high gasoline prices down the road.

• Like the preceding Doomsday Preppers episode, this one had its gross-out moment when Franco ingested one his red wigglers. Classic line by his young daughter though:

I’d rather drink pee.

• I found the following particular interesting in the “Assessment” portion of the final segment:

PRACTICAL PREPPERS LLC: You currently lack weapons, and have no tactical training. Without them, you will be unable to protect your home in a crisis.

FRANCO: Yeah, you’re right about the weapons. I do not possess them nor do I plan on possessing them. It’s not what I believe in.

To each their own. But considering what a juicy target he, his family, and his food could be in a real SHTF situation, I just hope Franco’s got something else up his sleeve to deal with those with weapons wanting what he has.

New episodes of Doomsday Preppers air on the National Geographic Channel on Tuesday nights at 9 PM Eastern Time.

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On TV: Doomsday Preppers ‘The Time of Reckoning’ Review

I recently watched the latest installment of National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers TV series, “The Time of Reckoning,” which aired Tuesday night, November 27. Episode 4 of season 2 featured the prepping team of Dr. Tom Perez, a retired chiropractor, and Steven M. Vanasse, a radiation safety officer, both from Houston, Texas.

Dr. Tom Perez

The first part of the show focused on the Perez family. Dr. Perez is married to wife Monica and the couple have thee children, Katarina (17-years-old), Thomas (12), and Matthew (6). According to Tom:

I’m preparing for a terroristic attack.

From the show:

Tom fears the dirty bomb- an everyday explosive like dynamite or TNT packed with radioactive material. Once detonated, its blast can spread radiation anywhere from a city block to several square miles. But that radioactive debris could lodge in buildings, and chemically-bind with concrete and asphalt, making decontaminating a city difficult and possibly forcing affected neighborhoods to be abandoned… A single dirty bomb could contaminate an area 30 times the size of the initial blast site which could cover up to 20 city blocks. The radiation would not be detected by human senses, and the effect of exposure could be immediate.

In the event of a dirty bomb detonation in Houston, the family would bug out to their 700-acre compound- “The Alamo”- 300 miles away in Brackettville, Texas.


“Doomsday Preppers: Doomsday Alamo”
Nat Geo Channel Video

Steven M. Vanasse

Later on in the show viewers were introduced to Steven Vanasse, Tom’s prepping partner. Steven is married to Gobriella Gubimelli and they have a daughter, Victoria Vanasse. According to Steve:

I’m preparing for a dirty bomb blast in the city of Houston.

In the event of such an attack, the Vanasse family plans on bugging out of Houston and meeting up with the Perez family at “The Alamo.”

Tom is the firearms expert. Steve is the radiation expert. And both are training the members of their young families to be preppers.

My thoughts about Doomsday Preppers “The Time of Reckoning”:

• Both the Perez and Vanasse families plan on bugging out of Houston in the event of a dirty bomb explosion. A number of viewers probably wondered why they wouldn’t just bug in, seeing that this type of weapon is intended to cause fear more than casualties and fleeing Greater Houston and a good portion of its 6.08 million residents could be very difficult- if not impossible- in such a situation. From the show:

Tom’s bug-out route bypasses over 3,000 miles of Houston’s highways, and once on the open road, they travel due west to their safe house- 300 miles away in Brackettville, Texas… It’s normally a 6-hour drive to Tom’s compound.

I’m guessing that drive would take significantly longer with a lot of other Houstonians on the road after a dirty bomb attack, and that Tom and Steve would rather not shelter-in-place because of the perceived danger from civil strife and other sorts of chaos that could happen in Houston after such an event. Considering the extent these guys have planned and prepped, I’d be surprised if bugging in wasn’t a viable option for them.

• “The Alamo” is an impressive bug-out location. When I first heard that Tom Perez had stockpiled 46,000 rounds of ammunition, I was kind of surprised at the large number. However, upon thinking the situation through (the Perez family alone consists of 5 preppers and their firearms) and being familiar with a number of recommendations being circulated in prepper/survivalist circles as to how much ammo should be stored for a SHTF event, that amount didn’t seem so astronomical anymore.

• On the other hand, when it was revealed that the Perez family only had 9 months of food socked away at the retreat, I was somewhat shocked. Considering all the preps Dr. Perez had already taken care of, I would have thought he’d have at least a year’s worth of food stored- if not more- at “The Alamo.” I’d seriously-consider buying more food before an armored car, as Dr. Perez said they were looking into at the end of the episode.

• When I heard Tom say:

I also have taken the liberty of contaminating 10 percent of my food and water supply if it is ever compromised. I am the only one that knows which supplies are affected.

I was initially surprised (concerned?) here too. But once I thought the situation through yet again, should this prepper network ever get dislodged from “The Alamo” by raiders, it would probably just be a matter of time before the unwelcomed “guests” get sick, giving the Perez and Vanasse families the opportunity to retake their retreat.

• I have to believe there’s a certain amount of distrust among the law enforcement community when it comes to preppers/survivalists. I thought it was a good idea for the Perez family to coordinate their preparedness efforts with local law enforcement. By doing this, not only did they establish a relationship with them- perhaps decreasing the chance they might be seen as dangerous “kooks” by the police- but they even received some helpful advice during their combined drill with the off-duty officers from the local sheriff’s department. For example, Deputy Ramon Gutierrez pointed out that the Perez family are less vulnerable if they stay in the limestone structures during an attack, and Deputy Forrest Spence emphasized family members need to be real aggressive when confronting a threat.

• I was impressed that Tom taught 17-year-old Kat, 12-year-old Tommy, and 6-year-old Matthew how to shoot, among other things. From the show:

Matthew, who’s been shooting since the age of 4, can hit a target from 100 yards away with his child-size sniper rifle.

Cutest little sniper you ever did see.

• Question- What’s up with Matthew’s boots? They look gargantuan on him.

• Another question- Is it just me or does Steven Vanasse look a lot like a younger version of actor Randy Quaid?

• The way the relationship between Steve and daughter Victoria played out in the episode was funny. Steve would say something about how proud he was of Victoria and how she’s coming on board with the prepping, and the young lady would indicate otherwise. In one scene, Steve brought her shooting for the first time at an indoor gun range. Victoria gave it a try- and it looked like she was a natural at it. Steve was just beaming about Victoria’s performance. Victoria tells viewers she probably won’t go shooting again. I had to chuckle when I saw that. A lot of my friends were just like that at that age. I was an angel, of course.

• The National Geographic Channel definitely got their shock value’s worth from this installment. If the Molotov cocktails and slaying of the goat weren’t enough (or Steve’s munching on its cooked eye), Tom Perez almost suffering permanent injury to his hearing from Steve firing his rifle in the hunting blind really took the cake. Cuidado, Esteban!

“The Time of Reckoning” was really interesting to watch, especially as Tom Perez and Steve Vanasse appear to be way ahead of most of their prepping contemporaries. This was apparent in the score they received from Practical Preppers LLC right before the show wrapped-up. But the episode was also painful to watch at times. Even more painful to make by the looks of things.

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