Preppers do their best to be ready for the worst
Back in 1962, they were building fallout shelters during the Cuban missile crisis. In the latest incarnation of getting ready for disaster, preppers are stocking up with nine months' worth of food and other essentials in case of ... you name it, economic collapse, a huge earthquake, an electromagnetic pulse attack that takes out our electronics.
By Erik Lacitis
Seattle Times staff reporter
"Be prepared" is the motto of Robert Sarnes, and in this case he's talking about the meltdown of the U.S. government. His backpack contains food, water, ammo and enough other supplies to last for three days. The flag hangs at his family's Puyallup home.
Sarnes has enough supplies here to keep a family of four going for two weeks, should there be civil insurrection.
American Preppers Network: American Preppers Network - National Family Preparedness and Self-Reliance Organization
PUYALLUP — Do you have 12 cases of peas and beans, seven pounds of powdered milk, 50 pounds of flour, 50 pounds of rice, 20 pounds of frozen chicken breasts, a 4,000-watt generator and some 35 gallons of gas in containers to run a freezer?
That's just a sampling of what Robert Sarnes has stored in his family's home — in the pantry, in the garage that's stacked with metal and wood containers.
Sarnes is prepared for a disaster, and you're probably not.
Especially you Seattle city slickers, says Sarnes in wonderment at your naiveté.
"Seattle? Maybe 1 in 1,000 families could survive more than five days comfortably," he says.
By the way, in case the thought crosses your marauding mind about breaking into Sarnes' home, he also has "in excess of 17" pistols and rifles in a safe in his house.
Plus, right now as he's being interviewed, he's packing a compact .45 in a holster under his T-shirt.
Why pack heat around the house?
"I mean, in an emergency, I'm not gonna tell somebody, 'Wait a minute, I'm going to get my gun.' You want to be as prepared as you can be," says Sarnes.
Sarnes, 43, married, with two young daughters, is a prepper, part of an ever-growing group here in the Northwest and throughout the country who have decided that if they haven't stocked up that pantry shelf for a long emergency, nobody else will.
We've gone through periodic bouts of preparing for looming disaster. Aging baby boomers might recall news stories about people putting fallout shelters in their backyards during the Cold War and especially around the time of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
These days, the Internet instantly connects you with others who worry what disaster the future might bring.
Tom Martin, 34, a long-haul truck driver based out of Port Angeles, is the founder of the American Preppers Network, or APN, as it likes to call itself. The website started in 2009, and now, he says, more than 16,000 people nationwide regularly take part on the site's forums.
"Prepper" is a term that has become better known since the National Geographic Channel began airing a reality show last June called "Doomsday Preppers." The show describes itself as exploring "the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it."
The program has been a ratings bonanza, with a 60 percent male audience, with an average age of 44. Guys do like their tough reality shows.
Martin says his group includes about 200 registered members from Washington state, and women make up half of the membership.
A recent topic of discussion on the prepper website was, "What do you fear/are you prepping for?" The responses included "economic collapse and the subsequent civil unrest," an earthquake, and an "EMP attack," the latter not referring to Paul Allen's rock museum, but an electromagnetic pulse burst that supposedly could cause a mass power-system collapse.
Enough people have such worries that the prepper phenomenon has gone mainstream. Costco recently offered on sale for $3,199.99 a nine-month supply of emergency food to feed four people. The chain now has a "disaster-preparedness" section on its online catalog that sells everything from vegetable seeds for a one-acre garden ($42.99) to a powerful standby generator ($2,999.99).
The tipping point for Martin in becoming a prepper spokesman, he says, began a few years ago, when the bad economy cut his $90,000-a-year earnings down to about $40,000 a year. Then he saw his mom in Idaho going through tough times as her home went financially underwater.
Martin began blogging about preparing for tough times, and that led to forming the national preppers group.
He and other preppers are adamant about not being mistaken for survivalists, especially after the recent news stories about the North Bend man who police say shot himself in a hillside bunker after killing his wife and teen daughter.
Says Martin, "That guy sounded like a nut case, somebody who thinks everybody is out to get them."
On its website, Puget Sound Preppers says, "This group is NOT involved in: revolution, war, militia, political parties, religious activities, racism, or lobbying. This group is about skills and knowledge."
An upcoming meeting, for example, is on raising chickens.
Preppers, says Martin, are not much different from Mormons who make sure they have food, water and other supplies in case of an emergency.
He says preppers have no interest in toughing it out alone in the wilderness.
They'd rather have that stocked-up pantry, which, they say, means not having to shell out thousands of dollars at once for a nine-month supply. You watch for sales and stock up over time.
Guns and safety
At his Puyallup home, Sarnes answers the obvious question about keeping guns around with two children in the home.
His daughters, he says, have been well-trained in gun safety.
One of them is home from school because she's feeling buggy. She goes through the drill about gun safety, led by her dad:
"What do you do when you see a gun? You tell a grown-up or police officer. Don't touch it. If you do handle it, muzzle to the ground, finger off the trigger, treat it like it's loaded even if you know it's not, never point it at anybody."
In agreeing to talk to a reporter, Martin and Sarnes are a bit unusual for preppers, who can be secretive.
A Bothell-area woman who goes by "Nurse Ellie" emails back about herself: "I believe in being prepared and self reliant. I am now a First Class Marksman and have one year of food supply and 3 months of Bottled drinking water. A rain Barrel and live one block from a River (fresh water) and have a Swimming Pool (cleaned regularly) ... Safety first, so I will not give you anything further."
Martin says one reason for secrecy is that during a disaster, people who failed to prepare can "come knocking on the door." Better to keep it a secret how much you have stored up.
And there is the fear, he says, of being portrayed as "crazy nut-jobs on the fringe of society."
The Preppers Network website answers, "Preppers are no more crazy than those wacky people who have homeowners insurance. ... "
Continued: Preppers do their best to be ready for the worst | Local News | The Seattle Times
Black Blade: More of the article is found at the link above.