Prepping: what is it, and why you should know

In the past couple of years, there seems to have been a large increase in conversations and cultural phenomenons about the end of the world as we know it. Popularity has certainly grown in books, movies and television about the subject. From the dystopian Hunger Games book series and movie to TV shows like Revolution, it seems like we just can’t get enough of the doomsday factor. There are also numerous disaster scenarios to pick from: nuclear war, economic collapse, terrorist attacks, global warming, zombie apocalypses, the rapture, asteroid impacts, solar flares, plagues – the list goes on and on. And let’s not forget the all of the hype just about a month ago for the Mayan calendar prediction of the end times on Dec. 21.

Whether these scenarios are ridiculous or realistic, the events happening in the world around us may be the inspiration behind our vast concerns. Just look at the political upheaval in the Middle East. Syria has been ravaged by a civil war that is said to have taken the lives of more than 60,000 people so far, and concerns have also been voiced over the potential for chemical warfare occurring there. Not only that, but also Egypt has suffered from violent protests caused by complications over the new government headed by President Mohamed Morsi. Need I even mention the situation in Afghanistan?

And not all the trouble is overseas. Many worry that a combination of a suffering economy and a staggering national debt could cause a major economic collapse right here in the U.S. Natural disasters continue to hammer certain areas of the country as well. The Northeast has been suffering through the horrible aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, while not too long ago other disasters such as the tornado in Joplin, Missouri and Tropical Storm Irene were making headlines. Droughts and wildfires also hit close to home in Austin after the September 2011 Bastrop County Complex fire destroyed many homes and Lake Travis continues to get shallower each day.

With so many situations like these going on in the world today, no wonder people are concerned about what fate awaits for the world. And whether they believe there will be some sort of apocalypse or not, many are trying to prepare for whatever may be thrown at them. From simply storing a month’s worth of food and water for the average family, to fully stocking a compound complete with a nuclear fallout shelter, people who try to prepare for any potential situation, otherwise known as “preppers,” have been brought into the spotlight.

At first this topic might be a little hard to take seriously or to treat as something worth learning more about, especially with the stereotype that portrays preppers a bunch of gun totin’, paranoid anarchists. But it actually may be a smart idea to be ready for anything that might interrupt or threaten your normal life. As you probably are aware, most Americans live in urban areas and are no longer farmers. I don’t know about you, but the last time I got my own food from the ground instead of the grocery store was in elementary school when I grew a single little carrot out of a pot (I didn’t even end up eating it). I’m guessing some readers may be more knowledgeable than me about farming (this is Texas after all). However, I doubt a majority of Westlake students’ families own a self-sustainable homestead that meets all of their needs.

And so we instead head out to H-E-B every so often to restock our nutritional needs. But many in the prepping community, myself included, believe that there are many overlooked vulnerabilities to this food system. Don’t get me wrong, I love how convenient it is to be able to walk into a store and have a huge shopping cart full of food 30 minutes later. But sadly, grocery stores have a big weakness: they are known as “just-in-time” markets, which means that as items are bought and start to run out of stock, the next shipment of food is delivered right before the original supply runs out, in order to be more efficient and cut down on storage costs.

But if something goes wrong to disrupt our normal life, like a natural disaster or an act of war, and it causes transportation to grind to a halt, the grocery stores’ trucks won’t be able to deliver food. And since grocery stores don’t have large inventories to store extra supplies, items tend to run out very quickly. Having grown up in Florida and experienced many hurricanes, I can tell you it doesn’t take very long for shelves to be cleared out after a major storm had been predicted.

Some of the other important resources we rely upon may be compromised in a moment of crisis as well. Gas stations get their gasoline from delivery trucks, too, and if they aren’t able to get there, supplies start to run low. See why giant lines to buy gasoline formed after Sandy? If that type of situation lasted for weeks or months, it would become difficult to power our cars, which would cause a whole new set of problems.

And if power outages were also caused by a crisis, such as a storm knocking down power lines, there would no longer be electricity to run our homes. Things powered by electricity that we may take for granted such as lighting, cooking and storing refrigerated food, talking on the phone, using the internet and heating our homes could become impossible to do if it wasn’t fixed quickly. If you have a generator or backup power source you may fare better than others who don’t, but if it is powered by gasoline and the gas stations have been affected by the same crisis that took out the electricity, power would run out once the existing fuel supply had been exhausted.

So prepping might be a pretty good idea, considering the problems that could form in these areas of our lives in a moment of crisis. If you are interested in learning more about how to prep, but you have no idea where to start, stay tuned for Part 2: “The Featherduster’s Guide to Prepping.”

Also, feel free to check out the links in the citation below if you would like to find out more about the reasons behind prepping.

Citations:
http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/08/world/meast/syria-civil-war-compare/index.html
http://stealthsurvival.blogspot.com/2010/04/prepper-definition.html
http://www.examiner.com/article/what-is-a-prepper
http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/politics-blue-collar/2012/nov/29/doomsday-preppers-are-they-crazy-or-are-you/
http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/read-this-first-before-you-decide-that-preppers-are-crazy
http://www.trucking.org/Newsroom/Trucks%20Are/When%20Trucks%20Stop%20America%20Stops.pdf
http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/11/hurricane-sandy-the-aftermath/100397/