I’m a prepper and, at one point, I never understood the answer to this question myself.
My line of thinking: if there are preppers out there like me who are preparing for doomsday, they must be extremely misguided. It’s unlikely that the end of the world as we know it (abbreviated TEOTWAWKI from this point on) will ever come. Why on earth would they spend so much time and effort thinking and planning for doomsday if it’s unlikely to ever come?
Well there’s something I was missing from my understanding of these people, and after years of having been in the industry, talking to people who are often perceived as irrational by even friends and family, I can finally explain why a rational person would bother to be a doomsday prepper.
First: Why Rational People are Preppers in the First Place
Prepping is not irrational. It just isn’t.
If you’re prepping at all, it’s because you want a number of really rational things out of your attempts at being more prepared. All those reasons basically boil down to this:
Preppers prep in order to be more self-sufficient.
That sounds completely reasonable, but could it really be that straightforward?
Usually, in emergency situations or when something bad happens, people will normally depend on either friends, family, or the government.
- Fired from your job? Had really bad health problems and couldn’t continue? Chances are if you’re not covered by insurance or severance for a while, you’re going to ask for some help from friends or family, or even end up on a government program like welfare depending on how bad the situation is and how long the job hunt lasts.
- Notice someone is drowning in a pool? Think someone is trying to break into your home? A candle fell over while you were napping and started a house fire? Call the 911 for the ambulance, police, or fire department.
- Had really unfortunate luck and been in the way of a pretty serious natural disaster? While your possessions and even your home may have disappeared, luckily you still have friends, family, and some government assistance to ease the pain. Though it’s not even remotely near the same as not having gone through the emergency, it will help you get by.
Great, so now that we know what “regular people” do in really bad situations, what’s so different about preppers?
Preppers want to be able to depend on themselves more and friends, family, and the government less.
- What if your friends and family are in no capacity to be able to help you – Say because they’re also going through hard times?
- What if the government is late getting to you – say the ambulance arrives too late, but there was something you could’ve done to prevent the drowning accident if you’d just known more about first aid; the police takes a long time to get to you because of traffic, and the thieves have already broken into your house, or the fire spread quickly, and so most of your home is on fire by the time the fire fighters get to you, even though had you had a fire blanket, it likely wouldn’t have spread in the first place?
- What if the government support you get just isn’t enough – say there are too many other people who got hit by a natural disaster and so they’re completely overwhelmed?
In most situations, preppers will act the same as any other person, and will take the help available. They will often do things like accept help from family, friends, governments, emergency services, and natural disaster relief if it’s there. But what makes them different is that they do their best to not rely on these sources if it’s at all in their power. They try to take emergency situations into their own hands in order to make sure they’ll be okay even if no help is actually available.
So what do preppers want from their prepping efforts?
To be more self-sufficient and less dependent on others (friends, family, & government).
In case these sources of help are unavailable or arrive too late.
Do preppers seem completely irrational now? I doubt it.
Yeah it might seem silly to stockpile food that will last them for months or even years in their house – I mean isn’t that what hoarders do? – but if that prepper loses his or her job, his or her family will not starve. Even if no welfare is available. Even if no friends and family can help. They are fine.
If that prepper is in a terrible accident and is no longer able to work – their family will be okay, even without the money coming in. Again, they will not starve.
If that prepper witnesses a medical emergency take place, yes he or she will call 911 for help, but in the meantime, chances are that prepper is going to know what’s best to do to make sure the person who is hurt is in the best condition possible for when the paramedics arrive. If the person injured is a friend or family member, that prepper may just have saved his or her life.
If a natural disaster takes place in the prepper’s town, and there’s just not enough help to go around – guess what, not only is the prepper fine, but he/she can pass up that help so that someone else can benefit. Because the prepper has his/her own supplies, they don’t need the water and food being given out by the natural disaster relief, and so someone else can be helped.
Still think prepping is stupid or useless? Again, I doubt it.
Okay so I’ve explained why rational people bother to prep at all. You get it. Emergency situations happen and these people just want to be more self-sufficient if/when they do take place. They aren’t completely nuts; they’re actually doing something they think will help them in the future if there’s a bad circumstance.
So why the hell do people bother to prepare for situations like doomsday or the end of the world? That’s almost certainly not going to happen, so are these preppers just hyper-paranoid preppers or what?
Second: Why Rational People Bother to Prepare for Doomsday
Like I said, this part of the equation I really didn’t understand until after having spent quite a number of months researching and reading what doomsday preppers had to say for themselves.
I’ve absolutely always vouched for prepping for things that are likely to take place and not just unlikely circumstances cited by doomsday preppers, like solar flares, nuclear bombs, and WWIII taking place. I did not understand why they’d bother to prep for these kinds of circumstances – I mean couldn’t they see how unlikely they were?
The answer to that question is yes, anybody in their right mind can see how unlikely these circumstances are. Not impossible of course, we all can see how in some way, The Walking Dead is not completely out of the realm of possibility. But unlikely. Yes, very unlikely. So why bother to prep for that kind of a situation.
Here’s the tidbit I was missing from my assessment of this seemingly irrational behaviour:
People who prep for doomsday don’t necessarily do it because they think it is likely to come?
Okay so why do they do it?
Because if they prepare for the absolute worst disaster that could take place, they’re ready for all the easy stuff too.
Think about those super smart kids in school who used to go way ahead of where you were in math and study well past what’s necessary for the specific test you’re taking. Was there a point to doing this? Actually yes. Because if you can tackle the harder stuff, chances are the easy stuff will be a walk in the park.
What’s a small emergency situation to you if you’re prepared for doomsday? It’s nothing. If you’re ready, and I mean actually ready, for something like The Walking Dead – um you’re going to be fine if health problems come up and you can’t work another day in your life; you’re going to be fine if you lose your job; you’re going to be fine if you can medically take care of a person in a TEOTWAWKI situation for a long time, if you run into a small, completely common first aid situation now.
If you’re ready for doomsday, and I mean really ready, you’re already ready for the everyday stuff too.
Makes sense right? Complete sense.
Guess preppers aren’t so crazy after all.
about time someone else got it.
Elise Xavier says
Haha yay right? I feel so weird about not getting it sooner, honestly, but I’m glad I did eventually look into it enough to “come around.”
christopher swain says
Excellent article. Ten very good skills to learn for sure. I myself have a very good skill set when it comes to vehicle repair. All self taught. I’ve changed engines, transmissions, and done lots of small repairs. I’ve learned what I can from automotive repair books, the internet, and online forums. I have learned a lot just by doing. Saved a small fortune in the process. people in my neighborhood ask for my help and advice when it comes to auto repair. We are fortunate to live near some great people, we have teachers, nurses and artists close by. So with my skills and theirs,we can certainly help each other out. Knowledge is a priceless commodity..
Elise Xavier says
I think this belonged on another article (this one here: http://morethanjustsurviving.com/self-sufficient-finance/ ), but I’ll reply here!
That’s amazing that you can fix vehicles well enough that others ask you for help. I feel like I am so bad with cars and it’s terrible. Nice to have the kinds of people around who will be happy exchanging favours. Definitely agree with you on knowledge being a priceless commodity!
Preppers are the ones that know inevitably things happen. Hopefully, whatever “that” is will be a short and fully recoverable event.
We have all seen/read about events that have not been like this. People with a prepper mentality just want to be one or two steps ahead of a problem.
Most people don’t think like this – we can’t stop thinking about being prepared. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Elise Xavier says
Yeah. Definitely think there’s an element of worry in a prepper’s life that most people aren’t concerned with. Prepping brings us peace, but I guess that’s because we’re the kinds of people to be uneasy with the potential for things to go wrong in the first place.
That being said, the potential is always there to be wrong, and I’d rather not keep my head in the sand. So yes, while ignorance is bliss, that’s probably only true up ’til the point where everything crashes around you and you realize you probably could’ve done something in the past to have made the situation a lot easier on yourself.
Thanks for stopping by with this comment :).
Creo que hay que estar preparado en la vida desde que nacemos, saber mas idiomas, saber nadar, defensa personal, manejo de armas, hacer fuego con cualquier cosa, coserse una heria, esto seria basico y real.
Que ante un ataque nuclear, vamos a poder hacer poco es otra realidad
Si hay que pensar en el dia a dia, en si tengo un botiquin en el coche, en si es seguro pasar por esa calle o si el niño lleva casto cuando coje la bicicleta.
En el fondo, todos somos prepers, por eso tenemos hospitales, bomberos, bancos, el problema es relacionarlo con zombis, extraterrestres etc, ya bastantes monstruos hay entre los humanos, para que necesitemos mas
Elise Xavier says
(Had to use Google translate because I don’t speak Spanish – yet! On the to-do list though!!)
Agree with your philosophy, Jose. Really do. Wish more people saw things the way you do. :)
Too many people don’t consider the “little emergencies” that can happen. Most people think of “prepping” as being prepared for the end of the world. But what happens when the power goes out for several days or the local water is contaminated?
Being prepared for the unexpected should be something everyone should be concerned with. Great article!
Elise Xavier says
Couldn’t agree more.
Have life insurance? A retirement plan? Congratulations you’re a prepper!
It’s all a matter of degree. There are lots of bad scenarios that people could survive IF GIVEN TIME. Prepping for me is intended to give you time to recover, if possible, without counting on assistance from others (including the government) that might not be available.
Elise Xavier says
Yes exactly. Spot on.
People can create all kinds of doomsday scenarios. I don’t need a doomsday scenario to prep. I explain.
There are quite a number of people who shop last minute at the holidays, pack for a vacation at the last minute, and drive around on empty (most people, I know, I used to represent a refinery). Those people create minor shtf emergencies their entire lives..
I live in earthquake country and have had the power outages, the street light outages. I don’t need that as a rationale for buying a winter coat which I need for the usual winters. I don’t need an end of the world scenario to buy an extra can of cranberries so I don’t have to run to the store to buy a can of cranberries for a holiday meal. I also don’t need an end of the world scenario to understand that I don’t buy a case of toilet paper now, I will join the last minute holiday shoppers at Costco.
Elise Xavier says
Absolutely excellent way of putting it, BDC – agree completely of course.