Apocalypse Soon

Flashlights, batteries and subterranean tunnels

by Andrew Braverman

The subterranean saferoom lies approximately 20 feet under the ground. A pair of dead mice on the floor contributes to the unwelcoming air of the place. Dimly lit, the room has a low ceiling. In the main part of the house, there lies an adjacent saferoom separated from me by a thousand-pound bombproof door which is opened by cranking a massive revolving handle. Bare cement floors, walls and ceilings greet me on the other side of the door and are only interrupted by a wooden workbench and complementary shelves lining one side of the room. The workbench is stacked with a variety of firearm shells and ammo, to the tune of tens of thousands. Grenades, flashbangs, flashlights and many more nondescript boxes of combat equipment line the shelves. A corded telephone hangs on the wall.   There are a few dozen firearms situated on the same wall.  A .50 caliber rifle—of questionable legality—accompanies dozens of different assault rifles and handguns. Escape routes from the house connect to a neighboring building on the property and reach some hundred feet away from the house to emerge in the nearby woods. In the quasi-normal part of the home above lies an immense gun safe loaded to the brim with more weapons, hidden compartments, curved hallways (it would be easier to escape from attackers) and reserves of food and water that could last well into the next decade. Not to mention the military-grade searchlights and siren adorning the roof. 

This eccentric home lies at the base of the Collegiate Peaks, outside the small mountain town of Salida.  Its previous occupants were just two of what the Daily Mail estimates to be three million American “preppers.” Broadly speaking, preppers constitute the most recent wave of survivalism. They accumulate weapons, food, water and other resources, as well as survivalist training, in anticipation of some event that will create instability in society, understanding that self-sufficiency is a must for survival. A Newsweek article on the topic explains that large numbers of preppers are members of the Mormon faith. Mormonism stresses self-reliance and actively encourages members to “have an emergency plan that includes at least a three-month supply of food…and ‘long-term storage.’”

Many websites where preppers congregate to share strategies and other survivalist tactics explicitly insist that “prepping” is not necessarily a prediction of an impending apocalypse that will bring about the end of mankind. Rather, it’s a safeguard against any potential source of disruption. In reality, preppers prove slightly more reasonable and less romantic than how shows like National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers” make them out to be. (The show’s website offers a complementary quiz to determine how prepped you are. I was candidly informed that I would last “0 to 1 weeks.”) 

Colorado-preppers.blogspot further explains, “Prepping doesn’t mean we think the apocalypse is coming or the earth will blow up. It simply means that we are preparing for any eventuality that may strike here in Colorado (USA)…from swine/bird flu to blizzards to global financial collapse to loss of income and more.” Linda_Ames on homesteadingandprepping.com says, “Am I expecting a major earth shattering event? Not today, but it could happen.” A man referred to as Bob Valenti was the subject of an article in The Week profiling “preppers.” The article explained that his major concerns were rooted in “the implosion of our highly leveraged financial system” or a potential “global pandemic.”  With the recent popularity that prepping has gained, or the so-called “doom boom,” a wave of opportunistic businessmen have capitalized, peddling “nuke-proof multimillion-dollar luxury condos in abandoned missile silos, complete with spas, rock-climbing walls, hydroponic farms, and HDTV windows programmable to the pre-apocalyptic view of your choice.”  The occurrence of any pseudo-apocalyptic event is bluntly referred to in prepper vernacular as “SHTF” or when “shit hits the fan.”

With the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the global financial meltdown five years ago, the rise of terrorism and worsening environmental conditions, there are hoards of newcomers in the prepping world. On the message boards, new preppers seek advice from the veterans. This new wave of survivalists has slowly started to pervade many different walks of life too. Instead of this “hobby” restricting itself to apocalypse-preaching hermits with a proclivity to collect guns, many types of people have found sound reasons to begin prepping.  Doctors, lawyers and executives with spouses, kids and very normal lives have joined the fad. Lisa Bedford, described in a Newsweek article as “a stereotypical soccer mom,” is another prime example. After becoming “more and more unsettled about everything [she] was seeing” going on in the world, Bedford began taking some prepping measures. She equipped the trunk of each family car with an emergency kit and set aside fully-packed bags with emergency finances in case her family needed to get away in a hurry.  A year ago, she had never shot a gun in her life. Now she regularly brings her family to target practice.

More and more people have started to ask themselves, “Should we be prepping?” Perhaps always being prepared is a good idea, one that more of us should adopt. Natural disasters ranging from Katrina in 2005, to the 2001 Midwestern tornadoes leaving hundreds dead and many more homeless have rationalized any degree of survivalist efforts for many. When your electricity is down and grocery stores are closed, having some backup food and flashlights could prove to be the difference between life and death. 

This new wave of survivalist thinking prepares for possibilities, not inevitabilities. With a minor financial sacrifice—more of an investment than anything—you too could prepare for any of these eventualities and gain peace of mind in an increasingly unpredictable world.