After a Google search gone awry, I found myself at The Survival Mom, a website by Lisa Bedford, a "prepper" in Arizona. I'll admit to hoping my web activity wasn't going to suddenly be monitored by the ATF after scrolling around a site that tells you how to prepare (or "prep") for the end of days.
Fascinated, I still expected to find my polar opposite in motherhood, as well as personhood, when I got a look at her logo of a suburban mom with a rifle over her shoulder. So imagine my surprise when I found myself taking notes as I scrolled through posts like "Earthquake Survival for Your Head, Feet & Eyes" and started fantasizing about having my own sun oven.
So I gave Lisa Bedford a call to talk about this prepper business I had previously never heard of, and tried to find out if I could unearth some crazy. Turns out, not so much.
What's the difference between a survivalist and a prepper?
Traditionally, survivalists are very isolated. They want to live off the grid as much a possible, isolated from other people for whatever reasons. Preppers are more urban and suburban. Mostly because we can't get out of where we are. We have our roots, family, extended family, and job connections and school connections. There is the same outlook as a survivalist -- looking for ways to be more self-reliant -- but noting that our infrastructure and the things we depend on are more fragile than most people realize. But here we are. We're stuck in the city or the suburbs and that's just the way it is.
For me, it's not political or religious. I can't speak for preppers as whole.
This is relatively new for me over the past couple of years, with the downturn of the economy. I thought I could either sit here and watch my bank account turn to zero, or I could figure out what to do.
What types of events are you prepping for?
The number one disaster you should plan for is a job loss. That's far more likely to happen than a tsunami. What are most likely in families are furloughs: Hours are cut, and a dad or mom loses a job and doesn't get one for six months or a year.
I don't remember a time where there was so much uncertainty on so many levels. I have quite a few readers in D.C. and in New York City. Their concerns may be another terrorist attack and national security. People in tornado alley are prepared for a season, but now it's not just a severe weather event. It's a whole bunch of things.
When I became aware of the downturn of the economy, I also remembered Katrina and 9/11 and the impotence of the government response to those things. I will never be standing on a bridge waiting to be rescued. I want to make provisions for my family, and have a plan in place.
How does it differ for you, being a mom?
For moms who are constantly worried about their kids -- from school lunches to vitamin D -- we're already in the mind set. I don't have control over what's happening in Washington D.C. or Wall Street, but if there's a really good sale on Progresso Soup, I'm going to go buy 20 cans. It's an effort of trying to maintain control over what we do have control over.
It's really an extension of what you already do. When things collapse and you see the zombies come down the street, you grab your bug-out bag and head to the hills. A bug-out bag is no different than a diaper bag when I've got to take extra shirts and an extra pacifier.
What are three things everybody could do to prepare for an emergency or event?
Every individual and family should be ready for a one-week emergency, assuming you are completely on your own and there is no power. If you can put plans in place where you have extra food to get your family through seven or eight days and you have a way to heat water, a way to cook food, and you have toilet paper; that‘s a really good launching place. Then say, what if it was two weeks? What if the big trucks couldn't get into our area and the grocery stores were bare in a day or two? If you start thinking along those lines, you're thinking about being more self-reliant.
Second: What are the main components of survival? Shelter, water, food, heat, or cold. For water, what can we do? How can we purify water, and do I know how to use it? If our electricity was out and winter was coming, how do we keep warm? Address each one at a time.
Third: I talk a lot about learning practical skills like sewing, simple car repairs, being able to fix bikes, how to dehydrate food, and why you should take a first aid class. That's all part of being self-reliant instead of just whipping out a debit or credit card and learning how to pay for things.
What do you say to people who think you're crazy?
My response is, in reality, we are actually living in the tiniest of windows in human history. It's really only since the 1940s that the majority of Americans had no worry about the basics of survival. Would someone call your great-grandmother crazy because she had 50 jars of canned tomatoes? She knew the next growing season might be devastating and she prepared for that. That was just a way of life, and a way of thought for a thousand years. That is the way most people around the world live today. Their first thought isn't what shall I wear to work? It's: Today is meat day on the corner and I've got to go get in line.
The bulk of human accomplishments in technology and medicine happened during those years when we haven't had to worry about survival. It's hard to ponder on art or technology when you don't know where your next meal is coming from or being attacked by the tribe down the road.
What's up with the logo of a girl with a gun?
I want my kids to learn practical skills that might provide income in the future. They take riding lessons, they are on swim teams. So down the road they could be lifeguards or they could work in a stable. I want them to learn how to do things that are practical, and one of those was target shooting.
We started taking them to the shooting range, teaching them safety around fire arms. I don't have anything against it for food, but I'm not a hunter. I do want them to be more self-reliant. If they need to rely on it for hunting, they could.
Image via dumbledad/Flickr