'Preppers' stockpile food, arms, tools to ensure survival at a doomsday's notice
Tim Ralston gets along well with his neighbors, greeting each with a nod and a smile when he sees them along his quiet northern Scottsdale street. Good people, all.
But when society collapses, Ralston won't be around if anyone needs to borrow a cup of sugar.
Or anything else.
Oh, Ralston is fully stocked for the end of times. Tucked inside his "bug-out vehicle" -- what a survivalist would call the trailer parked in his garage that's ready to go within minutes -- is almost a year's worth of food, from canned beef and turkey to powdered milk and hundreds of dehydrated meals.
There are firearms too, including handguns and a laser-sighted rifle. Because if there is one thing Ralston is sure about, people are going to get very angry very quickly when a solar storm knocks out the power grid. Or the economy collapses. Or zombies attack (though fictional, Ralston still has the perfect tool for reintroducing the undead to death).
Ralston, 49, is a prepper -- or, more accurately, a "doomsday" prepper, one of a growing number of people for whom a pantry filled with canned food and bottled water is just the beginning. Fearing the end of days, be it from a massive earthquake to the eruption of a super volcano, they build bunkers, learn survival skills and, in some cases, assemble small arsenals for self-defense.
"I am not going to be the father who, when something happens, has to hear his kids say, 'Dad, I'm hungry.'" Ralston says. "My family comes first. I am going to do everything I can to keep them safe."
The trend toward extreme prepping -- just like possible end-of-the-world scenarios -- is easy to find when you look for it.
Hundreds of blogs and web-rings are devoted to surviving the ultimate catastrophe. Dozens of online stores cater to those looking for water-purification kits, dehydrated meals and bags of seeds that will allow them to start a small farm. And pop culture is right behind: Preppers are also the new darling of reality-television niche programming.
Let's be clear on this: The Zombie Squad, a nationwide group dedicated to survival in the wake of an undead invasion, does not really believe in zombies. Regrettable, but not to the point of negatively affecting membership. Which is booming, according to posts on its website (zombiehunters.org).
Part of its popularity has to do with the undead's wildly popular shuffle through pop culture, says member Joseph Wilson of Tucson, who joined the Arizona chapter of the Zombie Squad shortly after it started in 2009.
But behind it all is the Zombie Squad's official mission, which is not dedicated solely to the eradication of brain eaters.
According to the group's mission statement, members strive to educate others on the "importance of personal preparedness and self-reliance, to increase its readiness to respond to a number of disasters such as Earthquakes, Floods or Zombie Outbreaks."
The idea for the group rose from a 2003 discussion among friends in St. Louis who were debating the survivability of a zombie onslaught, like the one they had just seen in the horror film "28 Days Later." (The movie's answer: "Yes, but it gets ugly.")
Now with 42 chapters across the United States (as well as one each in Canada and western Europe), the Zombie Squad preaches the gospel of preparedness at various events and fundraisers. Most of its members, however, are merely prepared for hurricanes and earthquakes and such, disasters that might require them to sustain themselves for just weeks, not the months or years of their doomsday counterparts.
Wilson, for instance, has a bug-out bag ready to go in case of emergency. Within minutes, he and his wife can be on the road with enough food, equipment and camping gear for weeks at a time.
Continued: 'Preppers' stockpile food, arms, tools to ensure survival at a doomsday's notice
Black Blade: Another good (long) article on prepping (see link above).