‘Preppers’ on guard for every catastrophe
OTTAWA — Preppers, survivalists, homesteaders. They go by different names but people with heightened emergency preparedness are often dismissed as paranoid doomsdayers or ridiculed as in the recently released This Is The End apocalyptic comedy.
“Anything can happen here,” says Breanna Gray, the 23-year-old founder of a small prepper networking group in Ottawa.
Natural disasters, pandemics, terrorists attacks: Gray posts stories about these from around the world to the group’s Facebook page. She thinks they could happen here and doesn’t want to get caught off guard.
“You wouldn’t hesitate to buy house insurance or life insurance to protect your family, and it’s kind of (like) doing the same thing,” Gray says of prepping.
She can’t recall when she first started preparing; she was always the one to have a first aid kit handy and a purse filled with remedies for whatever life might throw at her that day.
Now, she can survive for a few days with what she carries in her purse. Her apartment cupboards are filled with a couple months’ worth of food and water, which she adds to bit by bit with every paycheque. She also has a bug-out bag: a prepper necessity containing 72 hours of food, water, clothing, medication, shelter building and other survival supplies. With an evacuation plan and remote Northern Ontario location as her escape destination, Gray is ready to skedaddle at a moment’s notice. She’s also in the process of acquiring her firearm licence.
For Gray, it’s not only a matter of being prepared to protect her and her husband’s lives — he’s more or less signed on to the prepper thing, too — but also to relieve pressure on emergency services.
“The more people are able to be resilient, the less they’re going to put a burden on the people responding to the emergency, and they can get on to situations with people at risk,” says Allison Stuart of Emergency Management Ontario.
The organization’s warnings — and their associated emergency preparedness suggestions — are well aligned with Gray’s. Its website lists seven natural, nuclear and disease-related disasters among its potential hazards (and yes, extreme heat is included). It recommends developing a plan in case of emergency, having a 72-hour survival kit ready and staying informed of developments.
Allen Charron has never doubted the importance of being prepared.
“I prep everyday. It’s a lifestyle,” he says. Unlike Gray, Charron is most concerned about societal collapse as a result of a financial or governmental breakdown.
The 49-year-old Barrie resident runs Bug-Out Canada, a company that offers wilderness survival and self-defence courses. It’s part of a much larger Ontario preppers network, including an online food and supplies store.
The former special forces officer and bush pilot says survivalism is a “lost skill” and many people underestimate how difficult it can be.
Outside his business, Charron’s prepping makes Gray look like she’s packing for a picnic. He’s part of a 19-member prepper group that goes on “bug-out” retreats, communicates daily and shares several underground stockpiles with seven years worth of supplies. These include important barter items like 20 pounds of tobacco, pre-packaged with wrapping papers and lighters. Charron estimates he’s spent about $30,000 on prepping.
People looking to join the group need to undergo an extensive interviewing process and commit to a buy-in package of supplies. They also have to be unanimously accepted by the group.
Preppers are generally private people, willing to divulge few details about their stockpiles or emergency plans. Despite this, many are open about swapping ideas — the Ontario Preppers Survival Network held a two-day meet-up in Huntsville in July — and say they will help anybody who comes knocking on their door when disaster strikes. For Charron, that includes his family, who he says considers him an “alarmist.”
He adds that people would be surprised to find out how many professionals are “closet preppers.”
Black Blade: It appears that some of our northern neighbors are getting on board with the prepping movement.