THE EVOLUTION OF A PREPPER

In today’s episode of the Survivalist Prepper Podcast Lisa and I talked to Anthony about his preparedness journey. Anthony has been at this for over 2 decades and started around the time of the Y2K scare.

The following is a write up from Anthony who has been a member of the Survivalist Prepper Academy and podcast listener for around 5 years.

Where it all began

In the late 90s, I worked in the IT industry. For a few years in the lead up to the year 2000, the majority of my time was spent testing IT systems for Y2K rollover compliance. At least half of the systems I tested failed miserably, and although they were all office based software systems, it certainly opened my eyes to how vulnerable computer based systems were and what the impact might be to society if something more critical than a customer database failed.

I was newly married with a 1yr old toddler and had recently purchased my first house. From a financial perspective, we were riding pretty close to the edge while restricted to a single income.

I don’t have a memory of the moment I decided to start “preparing” for Y2K, but I think it was around the end of 1998, which gave me a good 12 months to get my house in order. The front room of the house became the Y2K room, with an ever expanding pile of buckets full of rice, beans and cans of food. I already owned firearms, so that part was easy. As luck would have it, I came across an old 12v generator that someone gave me for free when I expressed and interest in it. That then led to stockpiling fuel for both the generator and the 4wd.

These “preparations” did not go unnoticed by my friends and family. It was surprising to find out who was supportive and who just laughed, as it wasn’t always who I expected. The one advantage I had when talking to people about it was that most of my job consisted of testing for this event, so I had at least a small measure of credibility.

My perception of the what the worst case Y2K scenario might look like was basically a power grid failure. I thought that there was a reasonable likelyhood of the testing missing some obscure system or part of a system that might then fail and cause a domino effect of cascading failures. Based on this assumption, I hoped that any outage would be limited to weeks or at worst a month or two. Just to be sure, I ended up with 3 months worth of food, water and other essentials all ready to go on New Years Even 1999.

New Zealand is the first country to experience rollover into the new year, so as their rollover to the year 2000 happened, I was searching for any news reports on the internet saying NZ had gone dark. If the NZ grid failed, then we had 4 or 5 hours notice that the same would likely happen to us. Luckily for everyone, NZ didn’t miss a beat. This news, or at least absence of bad news, dropped the anxiety levels considerably as it meant that any outages would be due to isolated issues and not a world wide vulnerability.

In the weeks after the Y2K date rollover, people actually laughed even more at my stockpiles. I laughed a bit with them and joked that I had done my job of testing and fixing systems too well, as nothing had failed. Inside, I was doubting myself pretty seriously. I was trying to work out if I had over reacted and gone a bit off the rails for the previous 12 months. In the end, I guess I just wrote it all up to experience and was grateful that nothing bad had happened.

Fast forward 13ish years…

Life had rolled along as it does. I had a total of 3 kids, an ex wife, and a pile of debt resulting from a combination of divorce, losing my job during the GFC and suffering a very uncomfortable period of unemployment. I was also newly remarried and travelling a fair amount for work. Things were stable and happy, with the trend definitely up.

One afternoon during a work trip, I was waiting in my hotel room for approval to inspect an underground mine. While flipping through the channels, I came across Doomsday Preppers. The episode was about a guy who was putting measures in place to make sure he could contact his extended family if the grid failed. He was using a combination of VHF and HF ham radio systems to make contact with family members in the same town to the other side of the country. That got me thinking about how I would make contact with my family if anything went wrong. The next expisode I watched was about people preparing for a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). I did laugh a bit at this one, as the people featured was absolutely rediculous! The next evening, I was curious about exactly what a CME was, and how likely it would be to occur.

This research brought me to information about the Carrington Event, and then raised the subject of an EMP. After a few hours of internet research, it’s safe to say that I was worried. It wasn’t just a CME or EMP that put you in a world of hurt, there was this generic term called SHTF and pretty much anything can cause SHTF!! Oh, and I also found Alex Jones.

I’ve since described the feeling as being unexpectedly woken from a deep sleep to find something horrible happening, like a burglar or fire. Suffice to say I was now awake, and it didn’t feel good. It was similar to walking through a hostile crowd and not knowing if the next second will bring a hit to the back of the head that you don’t see coming. I’ve never before had this feeling over an extended time. Sure, when any of the examples I’ve listed happen, you get a big adrenaline dump and could fight a thousand men, but then the threat passes and you crash. This didn’t pass.

I got home from my trip and clearly remember laying in bed, trying to work out how I could tell my wife how vulnerable we were, and how worried I was, without sounding like a crazy person. I remembered how my close friends and family had looked at me before Y2K, and that was an event that I could prove was a threat. This threat was completely intangible and unable to be proven. I was completely isolated in my own bubble, scared to tell anyone what I was thinking and feeling, but unable to get past it and back to “normal” either.

The only way I’ve ever known to deal with things is to understand them. Initially this threat had seemed too wide and varied to get a handle on, so I just started reading about one SHTF cause, and progressed onto the next one when I felt I understood the risks. This took a few weeks before I was thought I mostly understood the big picture of which threats were likely to occur, what the impact would be and how best to deal with each type.

At this point, I’d like to seriously thank a few people for providing the resources that enabled me to take a quick brain dump of the issues and how to prepare for them. I’ll list all the influencers here, even though some made and appearance later than others. After Alex Jones, who I had to stop listening to because he stressed me out, came Jack Spirko. Jack had this laid back approach to learning and doing that really resonated with me. Dale and Lisa Goodwin provided a fantastic resource for newbies with their Survivalist Prepper Academy, and the archived podcast episodes perfect for someone who was desperate to get a handle on the different topics under the SHTF banner.

I binge read every post apocolyptic fiction book I could find, so thanks James Rawles, Angery American, Franklin Horton, Sarah F Hathaway, Mark Goodwin, Scott B Williams, Bruce Buckshot Hemming, Joe Nobody, Arthur Bradley, William R Forstchen, Glen Tate, Steven Konkoly, Jonathan Hollerman, Matthew Stein, Shelby Gallagher, Rick Austin and Charley Hogwood. I’m sure there were others too, but these guys were the ones that have really helped me get to where I am now.

Action Time

This part I found much easier than dealing with the emotion of awakening. I had a well paid job at the time and a small but comfortable amount of savings in the bank. It took me only a few weeks to install some shelving in the garage and acquire enough bulk food to last at least 6 months. My Jeep Wrangler loved having a lift kit and long range fuel tank installed, along with a full compliment of camping gear. I still had my guns, but given the ever left leaning political environment in Australia I thought it prudent to diversify in this department, so I took up archery as well.

Some wise prepper somewhere said that skills weigh less than equipment. This made a lot of sense to me, so I also embarked on a mission to learn anything and everything I could that related to self sufficiency and suvival.

The study topics included the learning required to pass my ham radio license. It didn’t take too long before I worked out that ham radio people are often weird and socially awkward and I didn’t really want to hang out with them. Luckily I found a sub culture within ham radio called Summits On The Air (SOTA).

This was a group of people who took their radios with them while hiking. When they got to the top of a mountain, they would set up the radio and talk to as many people as possible before having to leave. These SOTA guys were pretty normal and the hiking / bushcraft aspect fitted in very well with where I was at.

In hindsight, the massive task I set myself was too big for the short time I tried to complete it in. I did get overwhelmed many times, and often felt emotionally exhausted trying complete it on my own. I was continually both grateful and annoyed that I had been working so hard to be quickly prepared, but nothing had happened to justify it. Until…

My SHTF

Somewhere around 18 months to 2 years after starting on the prepping path, my wife had our first baby and a week later I lost my job. The job loss was completely unexpected, and although they paid a fair redundancy payment, it wasn’t good. Prior to her materity leave, my wife had been in a great permanent role in Government that she could technically go back to at any time, but you can’t go back to work a week after having a baby! We didn’t have any immediate concerns, as the redundancy payout would cover me for at least 3 months.

Unfortunately, at that time, the job market was particularly difficult. I had a number of possibilities that I was fairly certain would result in at least 1 job offer, but even though these companies had a need, the economic climate meant that none were able to commit.

Weeks turned into months, with no real light at the end of the job tunnel. It didn’t take too long for me to decide to err on the side of caution and cut costs as much as possible. I decided to start using the food stores instead of shopping each week. I thought it would be better to have the cash in the bank to pay for rent & other necessary expenses if needed. This turned out to be a very good choice. It was just on 12 months before I was able to get full time employment again.

I had started a part time business sharpening knives for people at the weekend farmers markets, but that only brought it about 1/3 of what we needed to sustain ourselves long term. We had been able to stretch the food stores, reduce our wastage and simplify our lives to the point where we really didn’t need much to live. Funnily enough, apart from the stress of the ever decreasing bank balance, we were happy! I had been able to spend the first year at home with my wife and new baby girl. That part was amazing!

The Doldrums

I’m sure it’s pretty normal to settle into an easy life of earning real money again after a significant period of unemployent. Even though my prepping mindset and our combined savings had actually saved us from serious hardship, for some reason I just wanted to forget it all and be normal! I didn’t rebuild the food stores properly, and neglected most of the areas I’d spent so long learning / building to ensure we could weather a SHTF.

Some of this I can put down to it not being the type of SHTF that has wide spread impact. Maybe there was some thought that lightning won’t strike in the same place twice, so I should be safe for a while. Regardless of the reason, I can tell you with certainty that if I had a group of people I trusted, that were all on the same journey with their preparedness, I would not have gotten away with being so lax.

Being stuck in the prepping doldrums is no fun. It’s a bit like always feeling guilty for not doing something that you know you really should be doing.

It wasn’t until I had to travel again for work that I realised how bad I had let things get. If I was on the otherside of the country again and something happened, my wife really wouldn’t have much of an idea what to do. This situation, along with a podcast I heard from Mark Goodwin gave me the kick in the backside I needed to get things back on track. For those that are from the church background, maybe this verse will also provide some motivation for you:

1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

The Making of a Lifestyle

At the beginning of this year, I was fortunate to be able to make a trip to Las Vegas for the Preparedness Experience with Brian, Dale & Lisa. I should really include Forrest Garvin in this, even though he wasn’t formally part of the team running it, his contribution during the weekend was memorable. There were some huge learnings for me during the weekend.

The main one being that nobody can sprint for ever. Preparing has to be a way of life, not a target to reach or a list of tasks to complete. So many of the topics discussed reinforced the concept that “this” should be normal. Apart from a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, I was table to take home some really serious changes in perspective on how I had been doing things.

So now, if SHTF in a big way tomorrow, there’s definitely things I’ll wish had been completed. But the reality is, that would probably be the case regardless. The odds that something on an apocolyptic scale will happen tomorrow are relatively low, so finding the balance to ensure life quality now is critical.

No point getting 10 years down the track with nothing having happened and looking back on 10 unhappy years of your life. I’m working on getting the balance right so that the critical things are catered for, and the rest is in progress.

To help with this, I’m working on finding like minded people who I can share the journey with. My wife is very supportive, but she won’t proactively take her own action in this area. I’m now making connections with people that are in the same boat as I am. It’s helping already, although I wouldn’t say I have a formal “MAG” yet. At this point I would describe it as a small group of like minded mates. A work in progress.

Advice for New Preppers

  • There are a couple of things I wish I knew at the beginning:
  • It’s normal to feel scared and completely powerless
  • It’s ok that you don’t know what to do
  • There are lots of people that are willing to help you learn
  • There are lots of people who have no idea what they are doing, even though they sound like they do. Make your own mind up!
  • It will be a rollercoaster for while
  • Prepper fiction is great to get perspectives on what might happen, but most of what you read is very unlikely
  • Most people do experience SHTF in their lives, but it’s nothing like the books
  • Taking control of your destiny empowers you
  • Taking responsbility for the future of yourself and your family seems like hard work to begin with, but it actually gives you freedom
  • There are cycles in prepping and you will repeat them despite your best intentions
  • When you find a like minded person, invest in your relationship with them
  • Stop caring what people think of you, what would they know anwyay
  • Keep your perspective centered on the things that matter. #1 Family.
  • Finding balance is a seesaw process
  • Don’t get too angry with people who aren’t “awake” yet, life is too short, just move on
  • Prepping has nothing to do with your politics, it’s about being able to take care of yourself and your family when the system can not
  • Do the best you can with what you have where you’re at
  • Live by the 7 Ps. Propper Prior Planning Prevents Pathetically Poor Performance. You’ll learn soon enough when and where to apply this.
  • Live your life!
  • Be happy!
  • Be fee!

Dale
Dale

Survival and being prepared should not only be a passion, it should be a lifestyle. The definition of a prepper is "An individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances, without substantial resources from outside sources" Like the Government, police etc. I don't believe that the end of the world will be the "end of the world" I believe it will be the end of the world as we know it now. You can also find me on Google Plus and Twitter

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