Why prepping has been (mostly) underground until now
The “keep it secret” norm was fueled by a few circumstances. First, in the early days of prepping there was a pop-culture stigma about tinfoil-hat crazies living in the woods and giving AR-15s to their toddlers. TV shows and news reports would intentionally find the most “interesting” stories they could, because their true incentive was to sell a spectacle.
Closely related is that many in the early prepper community were motivated by (and very vocal about) some extreme political views. Fears like “Obama is going to take all my guns and enact Sharia law” motivated and guided their prepping. This caused the majority of preppers to keep quiet, either because they disagreed with those politics or just didn’t want to make prepping political.
Second, back when prepping was something few people were doing, there was a pretty good chance you were the only person in your social network who cared about this stuff. Sometimes we’re reluctant to share an unusual hobby for fear of looking weird.
Last but not least, the “operational security” (or OpSec) argument has also kept many preppers quiet.
OpSec isn’t a reason to keep your prepping a secret anymore
It’s a common story — you talk about your prepping with a friend and they say, half jokingly, “If anything goes wrong, I’m coming to your house!”
It’s human nature to protect what we have, especially when things get bad. After all, when emergencies happen, we see news reports of looters breaking into grocery stores, people stealing supplies from the weak, and a general dog-eat-dog mentality.
No matter how optimistic you may be about humans and their nature, when Shit Hits The Fan, societal norms and rule of law might not apply. No sane prepper would put a big sign on their house saying “I have emergency food,” for example.
Our rule of thumb: share your prepping with your inner circle of friends, family, and neighbors – but hide it from strangers and the public.
But many preppers don’t realize that people around them, like friends and neighbors, probably already know. People who prepare naturally give off a vibe of being thoughtful and “having their act together.”
Maybe they’ve seen the solar panels on your roof, the garden in your yard, the Facebook pictures of you camping, or the gun bag you take out to your car on range days. Or maybe they’ve sensed through casual conversation that you have that feeling that things in our world aren’t going well.
Even if they have no idea you’ve got a basement stocked full of supplies, it’s very likely they’d come knocking on your door in an emergency anyway. It’s the disaster equivalent of “can I borrow a cup of sugar?”
Interpersonal connections are extremely (even irrationally) important to the way our brains work. We think and act differently around the people we feel connected to. It even affects things like lawsuits in medical malpractice – studies show that whether someone will sue their doctor has almost nothing to do with the quality of their doctor, but is mostly about how poor their bedside manner was.
All of this leads to our rule of thumb: share your prepping with your inner circle of friends, family, and neighbors – but hide it from strangers and the public.
3 reasons why you should share your prepping:
1. You directly benefit from having more people around you who are ready for a crisis
If your neighbors have small children, would you turn them away if they came knocking, hungry and asking for food? What if it was a random family desperate for your help?
These are extremely difficult choices. While it’s valuable to think about what you’d do in that situation, you can take steps to avoid the problem by encouraging people around you to have their own supplies and plans.
When more people around you are prepared for a crisis:
- They are less likely to be dependent on you or create awkward situations where you have to turn them away … or worse.
- You’re less likely to stick out in a crowd.
- It creates backups and a wider availability of supplies, so if you need something there’s a greater chance someone has it and they would actually help you.
- It increases the number of places you can bug out to. Rather than just having your home and maybe a bug out location, now there are more safe places.
- You can pool resources to make more expensive purchases.
- You can share skills. It’s unrealistic that one person will be a great medic and a great electrician and a great combat leader and a great farmer, and so on.
- You have strength in numbers. Maybe you find yourself squatting in an urban building, worried about roving bandits. How can you protect yourself when you’re alone and sleeping?
- You’re with people you know and trust in a crisis, instead of random strangers. People tend to band together anyway, so choose the people ahead of time.
2. Building prepper communities makes everyone stronger – and happier
The right balance for most preppers is a mix of “love thy neighbor” and “put your family first.”
So, the argument is pretty simple. If you believe that most people are woefully ignorant of and unprepared for the real dangers we face, one of the best ways you can “teach a man to fish” is to encourage them and help them get prepared on their own.
It’s a free gift you can give others. We know firsthand that even if people are skeptical at first, they come to really appreciate your gift because it makes an eye-opening and impactful change in their lives.
Many preppers enjoy hanging out with other like-minded people, whether it’s just casually or doing something specific like a medical training course.
It’s a fact that when we work on meaningful hobbies with people we enjoy, our happiness, energy, and even job performance go way up.
Take it a step further and join or create a local prepper group. You can still be private and selective about it so the whole town doesn’t know. But with some basic care and attention, you can start reaching out to people who would make a great addition to your group (like someone with a special skill).
During the Great Depression, many of the communities that fared the best said that community spirit, where people helped each other, was one of the biggest reasons why they thrived.
Annie Campbell, curator of a museum exhibit on the Depression, said, “You could find support, you could barter, you could rely on your neighbors because they were in the same boat. That sense of community spirit is what got people through it.”
3. There’s much less stigma, and more people are doing it
Today is a totally different world than 2008. People of every flavor are preparing—left, right, rural, urban, young, old, black, white, LGBTQ, and so on.
There is also a wide range of well-researched, common sense reasons to prepare. It could be as simple as wanting to be ready for everyday things like car accidents, nasty but normal things like floods, or big societal collapse events like war and economic ruin.
Part of why we started The Prepared is that, through our own prepping and teaching others, we’ve seen it go mainstream in the last few years. We could tell the time was right.
We’ve lost count of the number of times a friend or neighbor has said in a shy whisper, “Hey, I’m interested in that stuff. Can you help me?”
You’d be surprised just how many people you know are already doing this or thinking about starting. It’s a lot easier to get started prepping with our emergency preparedness checklist.
Tips on how to start sharing
Through years of trial and error, we’ve learned how to bring up this topic with other people. Here are our main tips:
- Rather than jumping right into preaching, ask them what they’ve already done to be ready for emergencies. Hear their story.
- If you think they might still believe the outdated stereotype images of “preppers,” either avoid that word altogether or make a point that the reality TV stigma is no more accurate than thinking the Kardashians represent everyone in Los Angeles.
- Keep it sane. Maybe there’s something reasonable and specific to prepare for in your area, like an earthquake in California or hurricanes along the southeastern coast. If you make the situation real and logical, people will quickly drop their barriers.
- Help them think through a real scenario. “What would happen if a tornado came through and your kids are home alone while you’re at work?”
- Put it in context. They might believe that in order to get prepared they need to move to the country and milk their own cows. Help them understand that it can be as simple as getting a few weeks’ worth of supplies for their home along with some practicing and planning.
- Talk about why you enjoy prepping and what you’ve learned. For example, many adults today find it hard to get out of the house, hang out with friends, and do fun activities. Even if that’s the only reason you’ve enjoyed prepping, maybe they will too!
And of course, invite them to join The Prepared!