The term “prepping” has a variety of connotations. Often, when people hear that term they think of extreme actions on the part of the tin-foil hat conspiracy crowd….something they won’t ever need to worry about. But the fact is, everyone should be prepared for an emergency - at least those who want to survive one.
All of your friends, family, and neighbors will be better off if they know what to do should the worst occur. No matter your politics, demographics, or where you live, there is no shame in being prepared. In fact, most “preppers“ are intelligent, rational, and successful. They just know they want to protect themselves, their family, and everything they’ve worked so hard for.
The fact is that life is pretty easy, relatively-speaking. We are at a time in history when technology, medical advances, and modern conveniences have made things very comfortable for most of society. Too often, we take for granted that things will always be this way. However, it’s not a good idea to assume that this trajectory will continue indefinitely. We live in a volatile world that can be unpredictable, and many experts believe that there are plenty of things that could go wrong in the near future. Spend enough time watching the news and you’ll notice the trends. For example, our planet is changing and natural disasters have become more frequent. Being complacent and assuming things will always be the way that they are now is a recipe for trouble.
That’s one reason people take comfort in prepping. Many parents feel that it’s an important part of their mission. A lot of others have a desire to be more self-reliant and don’t want to depend on the government or other institutions should the worst happen. Still others feel a strong urge to be in the position to help their community should an emergency strike. Furthermore, many aspects of prepping are fun and rewarding. People often enjoy the time spent outdoors, learning new skills that can help in all areas of life, and knowing they are less likely to be a victim in the future.
First Things First: Stop the Stigma Around Prepping
It’s important to discuss this topic if we are going to take a deep dive into emergency preparedness. Unfortunately, many people have an outdated and misinformed notion of who “preppers” are. Too often being prepared is associated with some form of fringe politics or paranoia. Some stereotypes are rooted in certain aspects of the truth, because when prepping first became a topic of discussion, it was mainly positioned by deeply political individuals in rural parts of the country. These people tended to be particularly distrustful of government and many of their prepping strategies were rooted in those beliefs. Media did a great job of portraying any preppers as part of this group.
However, in our modern age, those stereotypes no longer represent preppers as a whole. Prepping is much more mainstream than in previous years. The fact is that emergencies happen, and people are becoming more aware of that unfortunate fact. The COVID-19 pandemic also helped some people to see the value in emergency preparedness. After all, witnessing reduced access to medical care, empty store shelves, and soaring gas prices proved to many that we simply don’t have control over a lot of the things we take for granted. Simply put, we should all prepare for the worst because we can’t control what will happen. Furthermore, even when we can predict outcomes, humans are notoriously bad at preparing for them. In a more morbid example, we all know we will die someday, but how many people have their will up to date? Most people will need to stop working someday, yet most Americans are not prepared for retirement. Sometimes we don’t want to admit to ourselves that bad things can - and will - happen. Ignorance can be bliss - until the worst happens.
Recent History is a Small Snapshot
Humans have existed for over 250,000 years. However, life has only been truly comfortable for the last 150 years or so. Many experts say that the majority of humans being able to meet all of their core needs is a phenomenon that’s less than 100 years old. That means in the grand scheme of things, the past several decades have been pretty unusual.
Furthermore, humanity has a tendency to evolve and then decline. Consider the ways in which we went from Greek and Roman democracy and enlightenment to the medieval Dark Ages. If you know much about history you’ve probably heard about the fall of the Roman or the Myan empires, where things were going wonderfully - until they weren’t. We also tend to have an ignorance of history, which gives us a false sense of security. The humans living today have mainly seen things improve during their lifetimes. Very few things have gotten progressively worse. When you’ve only seen progress, it’s hard to believe that things could go backwards or that you’ll ever need to face real tragedy. In other words, many of us have gotten too comfortable, and savvy individuals are starting to see that.
Sudden Disasters or a Slow Decline?
In old prepper stereotypes, people were shown to have shelters built for an eventual world war or other such event. However, with what COVID-19 and current climate patterns are showing us, our quality of life can deteriorate in other ways. And that’s to say nothing of sudden events like an earthquake or hurricane. Many people are great at preparing for sudden events, but less concerned with how to manage gradual scenarios that lead to a slower decline. Many experts believe that for a random person, the chances of a sudden disaster like a flood and those of meaningful decline in the systems around them (such as disruptions in food and water) are about the same. In many cases, the real problems will be the result of a combination of sudden and gradual events. For example, people who live near sea level should consider the gradual erosion of the coast, and what would happen if they face sudden disaster and displacement.
We can look at recent events to put together some educated guesses for what we might face in the near future. Here are some examples of “slow decline” issues that can induce or compound more sudden issues.
- Generally worse weather - The latest reporting shows that natural disasters are occurring three times more than they were even 50 years ago. People also notice more heat or cold, less rain, more flooding, etc.
- Access to clean water - Globally, nearly one million people die each year from lack of access to sanitized water. That’s something we don’t think about often in America, but events in Flint, MI and other areas show us how dependent we are on our current systems.
- Industrialization of food supply - There have been a lot of advancements in the production of local and organic food. However, our supply chain is also fragile. If a local food supply is tainted, food flies off the shelves during an emergency, or crop yields drop suddenly, it would present a major disruption to society.
- Post-work economy - This term describes a phase that many experts believe we are already in. The truth is that it’s getting harder for an average person to work a balanced amount and provide a middle-class family life. While wages and cost of living were formerly dependable, we are now seeing huge cracks in the machine that may lead to high levels of chronic unemployment or underemployment.
Your Own Emergency vs. Widespread Disasters
An emergency can happen quickly or slowly - but it can happen anywhere. Disasters can happen on a global scale, or just for you at a moment in time. Even if you’re prepared for one occurrence, you may not be prepared for the other.
That’s scary because humans today have not honed the skills necessary to survive in an emergency. Chances are your grandparents knew how to start a fire, cook their own food, clean a fish, or mend torn clothing. They likely knew how to tie a “survival knot” and several other skills which seem irrelevant in today’s landscape. A study published by Cabela’s found that 53% of American adults don’t have even just three days of non-perishable food and water available, and over 80% don’t know how to obtain food and water in the wilderness.
There are everyday situations that smart people are prepared for. Things like:
- Car issues - Breaking down in a rural area, getting a flat tire, getting stuck in the snow, etc.
- Medical problems - Everything from a sudden stroke to broken bones or minor burns.
- Domestic violence
- Attacks like muggings, assault, carjacking, etc.
- Home invasions
- Residential issues like a fire, pipes freezing, a wild animal in the yard, etc.
- Power going out for a prolonged period of time
- Getting stuck in an elevator
- Getting lost hiking or facing other problems during outdoor activities (such as a snake bite)
Taking car accidents as an example, the data shows that in 2015 38,300 people were killed in car accidents and another 4,400,000 were injured or disabled. Using population data that means that more than 1% of the population is likely to be seriously affected by an auto accident. Taking things even further, many people would like to be in a position to assist others if they witness an accident. Are you prepared for such an event? Prepper enthusiasts have a first aid kit, as well as a “get home bag” in the trunk, with supplies that are helpful should something go wrong during times you’re not at home.
Other Realistic Reasons to Be Prepared for Emergencies
If you’ve read this far, hopefully your mindset has shifted a bit and you can understand the general reason that logical, thoughtful people want to be prepared for whatever comes in the future. If you need more convincing, take a look at some of these general areas where emergency preparedness will prove essential:
- Climate Change - There are a number of climate-related phenomena happening throughout the world, such as a drastic increase in natural disasters, record temperatures, and rising sea levels. We are also facing serious concerns due to wildfires and coastal erosion. In our lifetimes we are likely to see unmitigated disasters due to all of these factors - plus the ripple effects that will follow.
- Technology Risks - If you’ve seen movies like Terminator, you have likely scoffed at artificial intelligence risks as science fiction. But the truth is that self-aware machines have never existed before. We are dealing with technology that is infinitely more connected and more capable than humans are. Elon Musk and Professor Stephen Hawking have both warned of the dangers of AI. What will these advancements mean for us as individuals, for our economy, for the fabric of our societies?
- A Drastically Changing Economy - In alignment with the technology issues, the overall economy is changing rapidly and trends show that will continue. We are facing challenges that have never been present in history before. Increased mechanization can eventually cause mass unemployment - and the societal unrest that tends to go with it. For example, some official reports shared that up to 40% of American jobs will be gone (and not replaced) by 2030. Think of the burden that would place on infrastructure and other systems.
- Disease (and the panic that goes with it) - Contagious medical disasters cause two types of problems: the illness itself, and the chaos ensues. Epidemics have the ability to cause social breakdowns very quickly. People (often disproportionately) panic, wreak havoc on the supply chain, close borders, isolate themselves, etc. In extreme cases, you can expect violence to break out as people gather supplies. Most people - including emergency or medical personnel - would stay home. The consequences of COVID-19 over the past two years are truly minor in comparison to what a more deadly illness would cause. Many people have started prepping purely as a result of seeing that it takes very little for a powerful downward spiral to begin.
- Warfare, Including Biological - Active war-time changes everything. War destroys communities in many ways and breaks down the social and economic fabric of nations. There can be long-term physical and emotional harm to both children and adults, and a reduction in material and human capital. Furthermore, modern cultures need to worry about other advanced forms of warfare, including biological, chemical, nuclear, and more. According to experts, there are multiple conflicts worldwide which are expected to escalate in the coming year.
The bottom line: You can’t depend on the system to save you. As people get more comfortable with that fact, they begin preparing for a variety of emergencies. We encourage you to spend a little time researching potential scenarios and how to protect yourself and your loved ones should they occur. For more tactical tips on emergency preparedness and long-term food storage using Mylar Bags, make sure to follow our blog.