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Build your own Underground Bunker

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Okay, so you might not be able to do all this by yourself, but this might get you started on your way to having your very own, very quiet and thick skinned underground bunker.

Why would you want one?

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it. Most people don’t do the whole underground thing, unless they’re mad dictators or something of the sort. The problem with this is that none of us are reallyready, if you catch our drift. If something were to happen, where you would need an underground, reinforced hideout, you’re out of luck now, aren’t you? Yes you are.

 

Whether you build this thing as a standard panic room or a separate shelter, it would be a good addition to your home, it’ll raise the property value (considerably) if you ever want to move away, and if the day should come when “they” decide to drop the big one on your local town, you’ll be up and about along with the cockroaches in no time, while everyone else are so much dust in the wind. Nice, huh? Yes it is.

What to do first.

According to BunkerBuilders.com, you have to find a suitable place for your bunker. They’ve got a nice checklist which we will take the liberty of reproducing here.

Things to consider when deciding where to build your underground shelter:

  • As deep underground as possible to protect from radiation, flying projectiles and debris.
  • Outside of areas known to be flood prone, including areas within the 100 year flood plain.
  • The bunker should be placed so that the evacuees have a short route to the entrance.
  • Away from any potential debris field and its emergency exits and air inlets can be extended on several sides of the building into zones that are free from debris and fire.
  • The bunker should have as much of its external walls against the ground as possible for protection from heat and for support provided by the surrounding soil.
  • Away from potential fuel concentrations, flammable materials, vehicles and hazardous materials.
  • Away from large objects and multi-story buildings, light poles, antennas, satellite dishes or roof mounted mechanical equipment.
  • The bunker should be made easily concealed.

Most sane people who decide to build themselves a bunker or a hardened part of their house to use as a panic room won’t fall in this trap, but we’re going to warn you anyway; If the people you’re looking to buy a shelter from (yes, some come pre-fab) has 2012 “Planet X” propaganda on their website, you should probably look elsewhere. “Stealth Installation” (yes, there are companies advertising this) isn’t really a viable option either, since a genuinely safe underground bunker will be noticed during construction. Also, you’ll probably need permits to build them, unless you live on a remote farm or on a huge property in the middle of a forest somewhere.

Ready-Made, perhaps?

We’ll mention one other alternative before we go on, however. There are a lot of read-made, nuclear-proof homes out there. It’s true! They’re on the market, too – readily available for purchase by anyone (who has the money). Granted, they can be expensive, but if you

have 400,000 – 4,6 million dollars just burning holes in your pockets, then this could be just what you’re looking for. What about a beautiful home built on top of an Atlas F missile silo with all the trimmings? 2000 lbs blast doors, several stories of hardened housing down into the earth, all the comforts of a top-notch residence on every level.

This probably isn’t for everyone, however, even if you’ve got the money and the financial planning for it. Most of these sites are pretty dreary – location-wise, at least. You pretty much have to choose between living in the middle of some desert or other (there’s one smack in the middle of Texas, for example) or deep in some woods where you actually need that private airstrip (like in the picture, there).

So we’ll go on to how you should go about building your own – slightly-smaller-than-a-missile-silo underground bunker. Should be fun.

Get your Permits, mister.

Make sure you’ve got the permits you need to dig and build in the place you found while following the list up above there. If you can’t meet all of the requirements, that’ll probably be okay, but you do need to come close, however. Also, you need to make sure that you’re not going to dig through your neighborhood’s watersupply, cables, drainage tunnels and all of those nasty things that seem to do nothing but cause trouble once they see daylight.

Once you know you’re allowed to dig, and you won’t cut off the nation’s internet access by severing a fiber cable down there, you’re good to go. Now you either get yourself a machine, or you hire someone to dig your hole for you. If you’re not in construction and you haven’t dug a hole like this before, hiring someone to do it for you is probably a great idea.

If you want to try doing this yourself, eHow has a nice write-up of a (very) basic shelter, which is probably possible to pull off on your own. It does require a lot of concrete work, which can be trying unless you have a lot of experience, but not impossible at all.

If you want something more than a basic shelter with four concrete walls and a bucket to do your business in, however, you should leave the construction itself to a professional contractor.

What you should do yourself is designing the place, making sure that you get it exactly the way you want it.

Bunker Design

One of the most fascinating bunker designs out there is the Vivos approach. This company is building bunkers all over the US, and will also build one for you, based on their own designs, but customizable to no end, apparently. Even if you don’t buy a bunker off them, it’s a good idea to check out their specs here (be patient with that pdf – their site is as slow as cold molasses).

As futuristic as anything out there, these bunkers will apparently be able to save you from anything – tsunamis, anarchy, radiation, blasts, heat, fallout – they’ll apparently save humanity when 2012 runs out too… yes, we said something about that up above, we know, but still. These bunkers are seriously neat.

The military has been building bunkers for a long time, and they’re probably the best people out there when it comes to making secure, timeless and useful bunkers, functional to the bone and efficient on top of that. You would do well to read one of their survival guides, for example, before you start prioritizing your bunker design. Basing your design on the army’s specifications is a very good idea, but you might want to add some more comfort to your hole – after all, you don’t know how long you’ll be in there, and if you plan on using this space as an addition to your normal living quarters, then you might want more than four concrete walls and a wooden bunk bed.

Sitting down and drawing up your bunker is a good idea – remember that you don’t necessarily need to reinforce every single wall in there, as long as the structure is sound and strong. Plan for drywalls inside the shelter, so you can hide air filtering, wiring and pipes, just as you would in a regular home.

Some things to consider when designing your new underground shelter:

– Light.There’s not going to be any windows, so plan for more light sourcesthan you would in a regular house. Make sure that you have emergency lighting on separate curcuits – you never know when that might come in handy.

– Air. Filtration systems aren’t cheap, but the most common flaw in private bunkers is a lack of adequate ventilation. Spring for the bigger one, if in doubt.

– Water. Again, filtration systems aren’t cheap, but they’re necessary if you’re going to use an outside source as a water supply down in your bunker. The alternative is to get a water tank, but depending on the size, that won’t keep you for long. Plan to have more resources than you think you’ll strictly need.

– Food. Stock up with emergency stuff, and get the fresh meats and fruits down there when there might be a need for them. Storage of food is what drains the most energy, so plan for this. Use ground cold/heat to store your food, and go for high-quality dried foods (such as MREs) and canned goods. That will get you a long way.

Linked from: http://snallabolaget.com/?page_id=1343

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How to Survive a Hurricane

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After Hurricane Katrina took over 1,800 lives and left a trail of devastation, you’d think that people would have learned their lesson. But, when Hurricanes Ike, Irene, Eresto, and Sandy struck (amongst the many other hurricanes and tropical storms which have hit the United States in the past decade), the local residents and governments were overwhelmingly unprepared. Take a lesson from history and learn how to survive a hurricane – before it is too late!

Truth: You Aren’t As Prepared As You Think

Many people of coastal towns think that they have done a good job of preparing for a hurricane. But, in reality, they often haven’t done more than stock up some non-perishable foods.

Unless you plan on making a floatation device out of your boxes of Cheerios, this isn’t going to save your life!

Disaster planning requires a multifaceted approach. If you want to really be ready to survive a hurricane, then you need to ask yourself questions like:

  • How will my family and I evacuate? Where will we go?
  • What will we eat and drink during and after the hurricane?
  • How will we go to the bathroom? (the plumbing won’t be working during a flood!)
  • How will we treat injuries?
  • How will we stay clean?
  • How will we pay for cleanup and restoration after the hurricane?

If you can’t answer all of these questions, then you aren’t prepared to survive a hurricane!

Truth: You Don’t Know What to Expect

When hurricane winds of 75+ miles per hour hit, you can expect broken tree branches, downed power lines, and large tidal waves. But, with any disaster, there is a lot that we can’t predict.

For example, 6 unarmed people were shot by the police at Danziger Bridge in New Orleans as they looked for food and supplies. The police said they were protecting the community from looters. But, in the chaos, the police were strained and opened fire on civilians – the very people they were supposed to protect.  This is just one example of how disasters can spiral out of control and create other disasters.

Truth: You Are More Vulnerable than You Think

If you live on the coast, then you are probably aware of the risk of hurricanes and have taken some effort to prepare. But it is actually the people who live inland who suffer the most casualties from hurricanes. Yes, that’s right: 60% of hurricane deaths occur inland and away from the ocean!

The deaths occur because of flash flooding, mudslides, and tornadoes which are caused by the heavy rainfall and winds. So don’t think you are safe just because you are away from the coast.

Truth: Most Hurricane Deaths Occur Are Avoidable

Even though hurricane winds are above 74 mph, it isn’t the wind which kills most people. It isn’t even drowning which kills most people.

The majority of deaths from hurricanes occur because people did something careless.

Or they did something downright stupid. Like taking a “walk” to the coast to see how big the waves are.

For example, during Hurricane Sandy, 8% of deaths were due to carbon monoxide poisoning. This occurred when people used generators in their homes, but without proper venting or a carbon monoxide detector. Use of propane heaters and lamps can also cause carbon monoxide.

Some common “careless” causes of death in the aftermath of hurricanes include:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Electrocution from touching downed power lines
  • Drowning in car because attempted to drive through flood water
  • Falling off roofs during cleanup

How to Survive a Hurricane: What You Should Do

FEMA has a decent guide on what to do to survive a hurricane. However, here is the more in-depth guide on how to survive a hurricane so you can be ready. Click the links to learn more about the steps.

Preparation Steps before the Hurricane

  1. Stockpile emergency food and water
  2. Stockpile emergency supplies
  3. Gather evacuation documents
  4. Make an evacuation bag
  5. Learn how to turn off the gas, electricity and water safely (and teach everyone on the family)
  6. Create an emergency communication plan with your family
  7. Create an evacuation plan (plan where you will go and map out routes)
  8. Get a generator and learn how to use it safely
  9. Get flood insurance if you can afford it
  10. Install a flood water pump
  11. Put equipment higher up in your house (such as moving breakers from the basement to the first floor)
  12. Reinforce your doors and latches
  13. Install wooden storm shutters on windows
  14. Install sturdier shingles on roofs
  15. Buy an reliable inflatable raft and life jackets

Steps When a Hurricane Watch is in Place

  1. Bring in all outdoor furniture
  2. Check your survival supplies. Fill up more water if you need to.
  3. Listen to the news of the hurricane.

Steps When Hurricane Warning is in Place

  1. Evacuate! Do NOT wait until it is too late. And do not wait until an evacuation order has been issued. By then, the traffic will be very bad.
  2. Board up windows and doors with plywood. Tape will not protect windows.
  3. If you cannot evacuate, then get into a safe room in the house.
  4. Turn off the electricity and gas at the mains.
  5. Do not look out windows or go outside
  6. Do not drive. If you must drive, do not drive through water. Just 6 inches of water can carry away a vehicle.
  7. Do not use candles or unprotected flames during the hurricane

Steps After the Hurricane Has Passed

  1. Do not exit until authorities say the threat is over. The sudden calm might just be the eye of the storm.
  2. Stay out of rooms which could be hit by falling branches
  3. Do not drink water without sanitizing it first. Sanitation facilities don’t work during power outages. Listen to hear if “boil alerts” are in place.
  4. Use text messages only to contact loved ones. Do not tie up the phone lines as these are needed for emergency calls.
  5. Do not walk through flood water in your home. Many drowning deaths occur from slip-and-fall accidents.
  6. Do not walk through flood water outdoors. It is often contaminated with sewage, or may be electrified from downed power lines.
  7. Do not perform any repairs unless you are 100% you can do it safely.

Linked from: http://www.primalsurvivor.net/how-to-survive-a-hurricane/

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How to survive in the wilderness and mountain-military techniques

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Necessary elements of life

One of the most important things to survive is water.

The human body contains 70% water, and the loss of 15% of this amount causes death. Without water you can not survive more than 4-5 days, the body loses fluid due to heat, stress, colds and fatigue, fluid to be topped up. Even in cold places you need at least 2 liters of water a day to be effective. Almost anywhere in the globe there is water in one form or another (snow, ice, dew, etc.)

Do not substitute water with the following liquids:

Alcohol – dehydrate the body even more

Urine – contain substances hazardous to organisms

Blood – is salty and is considered food, but require additional liquid to be digestible, can transmit diseases

Seawater – accelerates dehydration, can cause death

There are many ways to acquire water (meaning the cases when there is a river, stream, lake or other natural source of water) depending on the city where you are in the wilderness act one way in jungle otherwise, etc. I will describe several methods of gaining water in forest areas or where there are trees.

Sweat method

You need a plastic bag that you dress a twig with leaves (make sure the tree is not poisonous otherwise water is not drinkable), the bag must be tightly tied with a rope or you around the branch, after several hours leaves sweat and water accumulates in bag.In  hot summer day you can gather up to 300-400 from a bag. You must to use your bags to accumulate the required amount of water

Dew gathering: early morning or late evening tie a piece of cloth clean on foot, walking or on a stick and walk through iarba. Cloth will gather water (dew) from grass, periodically drain into a bowl, certainly is the slowest way, but safe.

Food = ENERGY

30 days is the maximum period that can withstand a man without food.

In an extreme situation you will need every drop of energy, food being the only source. Natural resources can save in any case only have to know how to use them. I have several recommendations in this case, some more important than others but the main rule is:

Do not eat if you do not have WATER

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Human digestive organism needs water, if water is a problem eating you will become dehydrated and harder, which can cause death. Few are places on earth where you have to go more than 30 days without going to civilization .Calculate the distance and time to the place where you arrive, the food divided as follows: 1/3 2/3 in the first half and in the second half of the road.

Make a regular habit to eat every day  (lunch at noon ex.o), chew food well as the organisms they support it.

In the wild can eat what nature gives mushrooms, nuts, fruits, herbs and roots of edible plants, small animals or large (if you manage to catch them), fish, lizards, snakes, snails and will advise if you have insects. If you have not experienced hunter I will advise you not to try to catch animals, you spend useless energy.

Careful with mushrooms and fruits, if you are not sure do not eat, the result can be fatal.

Shelter

The shelter must protect you from rain, sun, wind, help to survive; -in some parts of the world you need to shelter more than food or water.

For example prolonged exposure to cold can cause fatigue or weakness and a weak person has no desire to survive.

The most common mistake in the construction of the shelter is that you do too much body heat and fails to heat it;

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Shelter should be large enough to protect you but also the need to be small enough to preserve your body heat, especially in cold climates.Different types of shelter after the place where you are for example, the arctic or desert, jungle or forest, every time you build something else.Different also the seasons, winter snow or summer heat are so many types of shelter types cite season.

The importance of fire. Types of fire. Methods and tools for fire ignition

Modern man does not like fire. Fire historically has become more of a tool than salvation.In dawn of human civilization killer fire was the most important thing in human life, loss of fire was a tragedy for the tribe and punishable with death who had to take care of the fire, and fail.

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The principle of ignition-fire is to start with small twigs and slender, gradually passing on higher. began ignite paper, dry bark, moss or fir branches on a short time they give a strong flame to ignite the branches of 3-5 mm thickness and then the thickest. The secret is to put the wood gradually from the smallest to the thickest. Paper or branches are lit from the bottom up, not vice versa, because fire spreads from the top down hard.

Fire with fire is used for drying clothes, heating and preparing food; the flame for light and food preparation and the smoke is used for signaling. Division is relative, you can turn any fire in fire smoke if you throw him green grass and branches, if a fire with embers increase the distance between him turn wood fire flame converts into large, etc.

Weapons

The knife is king arms without knife is no survival with a help of a good knife can do everything or almost everything, can build shelter, can make weapons, you can defend yourself or you can hunt without it you’re dead in the wild, so if you have not – the important thing to know how to do one of the materials that are found around you.

Glass, tins, hard stone, bone, pieces of metal – are all possible materials to your future personal knife. Personal I would not go anywhere without one in my pocket …

I could not tell you the exact name of it ideal knife, but there are a few requirements; a knife to be:

RESISTANT

BIG

SHARP

If you go into the mountains for a long time you need two knives. One to be great, the type layout, replacing the ax and one smaller for peeling potatoes, etc.

Each of survival as on the website or its praise his wares or merchandise company that has a contract to report. American and options in Bowie until you can tangle easily mock. A high price does not always look good quality. There are several criteria in choosing a knife: blade length, knife or blade stable miner, double tais or not, it is made of metal (steel, titanium, nonferrous metals, etc.)

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The knife that you take with you in the wild is the most priceless object that you possess. Regardless of the nature of the trip that you always need to have a knife on you. It can be used in different situations, not only in extreme situations.

Sun tracking, star tracking and compass tracking

The simplest way of finding the direction is sit back to 12 day in the sun, the north is exactly the direction that shows your shadow.

There are a few rules that must be remembered:

Winter sun rises southeast

SOUTHWEST sets in

Summer sun rises northeast

sets northwest

Spring sun rises at EST

sets in the west

Of course these rules are valid if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere.

If you have good sense of observation, then you know that: more snow melts in the south, all in the southern part of the tree is more pitch. Ants make their anthill in the south of trees or house. Birch bark is darker in the north and more open to the south. Tree trunks, stones, rocks in the north are covered with moss.

Survival in mountainous terrain

Survival in the mountains involves techniques and procedures characteristic.

Mount, as we know and the people, has its unwritten laws, which if not respect them, pay, and the price in such a situation can be even life.

Preparing to survive in the mountains must focus on that mountain environment is extremely unpredictable.Weather has special features: in a single day, the mountains may fall several types of precipitation (rain, drizzle, sleet, snow); temperatures are much lower and rainfall more abundant than in other areas; the higher the altitude, the colder temperatures. Therefore, when such actions envisaged in the village, the soldiers must have their protective equipment against the cold and rain, even if they are planned to take place in summer. An extremely important piece in the mountain environment is sleeping bag. A good sleeping bag will give the military the necessary comfort for rest and strength to take it to an end the next day. If there is a sleeping bag, it can be improvised from dry leaves, pine needles, Parachute material. survival are necessary: a waterproof jacket, a knife, matches kept in a bag not to wet a quality compass, a map, a flashlight, rations for emergencies and signaling means (mirror, smoke grenades etc. ).

Nature term is another important factor that influences the chances of survival of the military in the village. Large level differences, rugged terrain covered with dense vegetation, specific mountain environment, hinder much movement. Moving the mountain environment requires permanent existence of the risk of injury. Sprains, fractures, sprains could and limbs are the most common. Also, observation and orientation are more hampered. This could cause delays in movement military and fallacies. Lack of landmarks for orientation can cause frustration and irritation, and these negative feelings contributed to the worsening military situation. Therefore,  to survive in the mountain, the military must observe a few rules:

– “Equip yourself properly” in the mountains !: survival requires appropriate equipment;

– “Do not go in the dark” means !: If you do not have night vision do not move in the dark because it will increase the risk of injury;

– “You do not build shelter the valleys‘ !: As I mentioned, the weather in the mountain environment can change very quickly and after rainfall forming torrents may surprise you;

– “Moving up the line share ‘!: Try to stay on the same altitude to ease your moving.Any survival situation involving the purchase of food and water. Characteristic mountain environment temperate and tropical areas offer plenty of opportunities for procuring food and water. However, the military must be cautious when choosing a certain plant or animal to feed. Most nuisances disappear once boiling or cooking with their fire. However, there are no toxins that disappears with cooking (see mushrooms) and they can endanger the life and health of the military. A plant consumed by animals is not necessarily an indication that it would be edible and humans. To be sure food is edible, it should be cooked very well. Before you consume, the military must taste the food and wait a few minutes to see if any side effects, then you can proceed to power. Water is preferable to be boiled before being consumed.

Linked from: http://www.blacklistedprepper.com/survive-wilderness-mountain-military-techniques/

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When Shit Hits the Fan literally, Will you be prepared and ready to Go?

What to do to plan, prepare, and protect during an Extreme and Mild Survival Scenario!

When you’re hiking while on a camping trip and happen to get turned around in the woods or waking up to the aftermath of a terrible storm that hit, you’ll be dealing with the lack of resources in those specific scenarios. As a result, you will need to remain calm and be smart about what your surroundings are and think what could be of use to you? In order to have these survival smarts, you need to take sometime to plan, prepare, and then protect if needed.

The first step is going to be the planning part and learning what you need to have in order for this step to work. Next, you will need to prepare for it if something disastrous such as a terrible outbreak which causes humans to turn to zombies or something as simple as a tornado stripping your town to nothing. The last step is having the equipment to protect yourself, which can be something as simple as a kitchen knife or you could have the mother load of weaponry that’s secretly kept in your basement that even your best friends don’t know about.

The gear, supplies, tools, weapons, food, water, and even the physical energy should be conserved.

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Let’s take this to the top of  the scale of survival situations, of 1 being mild and 10 being extreme. As they always say go big or go home, we are going to go big! So, with 10 being the highest on the scale we are going to say that a Zombie Apocalypse just broke out and your neighbors are turning as we speak. You still have time to react but not much because they are starting to break the glass of your windows to your house. You and your family immediately run down to your basement where you can regroup and make a plan. You then grab everything you can think of that’s in your SHTFandGo pack! Your dad yells at your brother to go grab the sleeping bags upstairs which are in the front closet but you stop him and say “Here, take this.” Your brother looks down and sees the Zombie Apocalypse Machete 101. Now while he does that, you’re running around with your mom and sister shoving bags full of supplies, tools, weapons, and anything that can fit. You don’t need to make too much food in the rucksacks, as they are already prepared in the Food Storage containers containing black beans, rice, noodles, and all other vacuum sealed food items. As for the water you just need to remember to grab the H2O 2.0 or H2O 3.0, depending on how much water you want to have on hand. We also stocked up on the H2O 1.0 just in case we get separated from one another at times we have a way to consume water. Your brother gets back and has the sleeping bags and rest of the gear your dad asked him to get and seems to have survived the neighbors! Our family also stocked up on some gasoline for the vehicles and we separate into vehicles and head out of town to someplace south. Just remember to not get bit!

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I know that was a very extreme scenario but you never know when Shit will hit the Fan!

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A little less milder one would be if a disastrous storm such as a tornado or hurricane wiped out your town. Here you would do the same, plan how you are going to prepare for a disastrous storm, prepare for it, and if you need to protect yourself for whatever reason you will be able to do so. First you’re going to have a plan once you hear the sirens going off, which means to head down to your basement with your family. There you can discuss what will happen if there is damage beyond repair. Then you will gather the things you need to prepare yourself, for instance you will get your rucksacks and fill them with anything and everything such as supplies, tools, weapons (if you feel like you need them), and whatever you think you will need. The food storage should already be prepared as you would have  Food Storage buckets full of black beans, rice, and noodles which are already vacuum sealed and ready to go. Of course you can have any other food stored in those buckets as well. You then will grab the H2O 2.0 or H2O 3.0 water storage depending on how much water you will want once you find a source of water. You will also have each rucksack packed with a couple H2O 1.0 just in case you and your family some how get separated during the chaos. If for whatever reason you need to have weapons on you during this kind of disaster just be careful.

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Just remember to always plan, prepare, and protect.

 

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These Suburban Preppers Are Ready for Anything

They’re rich, armed, and ready for the end of days—and they just might live in the McMansion down your street

BY ROD O’CONNOR

ILLUSTRATION: ARTHUR MOUNT

By all appearances, Bob Valenti is your average upwardly mobile suburbanite. The 40-something father of two has a couple of advanced degrees and a high-paying job at a high-flying technology company. He has an aggressive retirement plan and plenty socked away in college funds for his kids. As of last year, he also has a plan for surviving the end of the world as we know it.

A few years ago, Valenti (who asked that his real name not be used, for reasons that will be clear soon enough) and his wife traded their Chicago townhouse for a gorgeous $800,000 residence in west suburban Downers Grove. The idyllic 12-room house features handsome walnut cabinetry, a sprawling yard, and a basement that holds the beginnings of what will ultimately be a year’s stockpile of food and emergency supplies. Valenti recently ordered a box of 50 lighters and is squirreling away batteries, which he believes could someday be highly valuable for bartering. He has 25 pounds of meat in his freezer and another 50 at an undisclosed location out of town that he refers to as “Plan B.” Should he and his family need Plan B, he has a couple of 30-pound packets of “survival seeds” there for jump-starting their own farm.

Valenti, who otherwise seems like a perfectly reasonable man, is preparing for society’s collapse, which he believes could come any day now in the form of a global pandemic or the implosion of our highly leveraged financial system. “All of a sudden, you have hyperinflation, and you’ll need a wagon of cash for a loaf of bread,” he says as we chat in his immaculate kitchen while a cleaning woman vacuums in the next room. “Society could crumble in three days. That’s all it would take. Then it’s going to get primal.”

You can bet Ted Nugent’s crossbow that, for most people, the term “survivalists”—or the more polite “preppers”—conjures images of tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists holed up in Montana hoarding canned pinto beans and assault weapons. National Geographic Channel’s hugely popular Doomsday Preppers, which spotlights fanatics who build bulletproof shelters out of train cars to wait out Armageddon or dress their families in matching HAZMAT suits, reinforces the extreme stereotypes. So do the “doom boom” opportunists who peddle nuke-proof multimillion-dollar luxury condos in abandoned missile silos, complete with spas, rock-climbing walls, hydroponic farms, and HDTV windows programmable to the preapocalyptic view of your choice.

Valenti is just one example of how the prepper movement has climbed out of the bunker and established itself, quietly, along affluent streets in Chicago, its suburbs, and beyond. Combined Universal Martial Applications Survival School chief instructor Waysun Johnny Tsai, with his penchant for knives and a license plate holder that reads “Zombie Police,” looks the hardcore survivalist part but says that his students don’t. Over the past few years, participants in his classes at the Chicago school have included doctors, lawyers, and upper-management types who live in upscale city neighborhoods and hoity-toity surrounding towns. Tsai tells me that he trains individuals for “the possibility, not the probability” of hardcore disasters and civil unrest. They come to him to learn how to build makeshift traps for catching their own food and light fires with a metallic rod and Vaseline-soaked cotton ball after the shit hits the fan—or SHTF, in prepper-speak.

With every new epidemic or terrorist attack in the headlines, a new batch of preppers is born, says David Scott, whose Northbrook company, LifeSecure, sells everything from crush-resistant earthquake survival kits to fireproof masks designed for fleeing a bombed-out building. “We think of it like sediment,” he says of the movement that he, of course, has a stake in stoking. “Another headline comes and another layer forms.”

Scott started his business in 2005, a few months before Hurricane Katrina, and believes the storm’s aftermath was a wake-up call for thousands of Americans. “It taught people you could go hungry, thirsty, and even die in the U.S. before the government could save you,” he says. “I talk with people on the phone, and they’ll say, ‘I don’t think I’m going to die from Ebola, but it made me think.’ There are a lot of prudent people out there who you wouldn’t identify as preppers who understand the need to be prepared.”

How Prepared Are You for the Apocalypse?

It was last fall’s Ebola outbreak, in fact, that made Valenti suddenly feel he was ill-equipped to protect his family if a pandemic disease were to spiral out of control. “I remember exactly where I was. I was crossing one of the bridges in the Loop, and I thought, Why am I not more prepared for this?” he recalls. “I fear the government isn’t very prepared. I don’t have any confidence that Chicago can handle it; Chicago just figured out how to handle major snowstorms.”

Valenti decided to call one of his hunting buddies, a longtime friend in Wisconsin whose reading list had recently shifted from postapocalyptic fiction to books that addressed “more plausible scenarios,” as Valenti puts it. “He was having exactly the same thoughts. And he had already done research. He’s like, ‘I’m thinking about starting to buy some food.’ ”

Within days, Valenti kicked off his own efforts, which he sees as no different from those in other walks of his life. As a professional, he likes to be overprepared. “I am paid to anticipate the questions my clients are going to ask,” he says. He’s telecommuting today, so his usual khakis have been replaced with comfy sweats and a Blackhawks cap he wears backward. He walks me down to the basement and cracks open two large plastic storage trunks. Inside one is a six-gallon bucket containing 330 servings of just-add-water meals with a 20-year shelf life (the same Chef’s Banquet All-Purpose Readiness Kits that sell for $121 on Amazon), a water purifier you can drop in your tub—which can store 100 gallons of drinking water—and a military-grade first-aid kit complete with sutures, splints, and a hand-crank emergency radio. The other trunk holds three 15-­gallon containers of gas.

“Come back in a year [and my stockpile] will be double the size,” he says. “Ultimately, it comes down to one fundamental concept. I have the disposable income. I’d rather be in a situation where I have something and I don’t need it than need something and I don’t have it.”

Valenti’s largest-scale effort, Plan B, is an outwardly innocuous summer house that’s been in his wife’s family for years. It’s this property that he and a handful of like-minded friends and family members have designated as their safe haven if they need to (a) wait out a short-term threat or (b) start from scratch (hence the survival seeds). Valenti won’t tell me where this house is, except that it is a few hours’ drive away, is near the woods, has a virtually limitless water source, and is “easily defendable.” Onsite is a small arsenal of “multiple rifles, guns, and pistols,” along with 3,000 rounds of ammunition.

No one other than those in on Plan B knows about his new hobby. Not coworkers, not friends, not extended family. And especially not the guy next door. “This is about survival. I only want to talk about it with the people I’ll be surviving with,” he says matter-of-factly. “Mostly, I don’t want my neighbors to know about it. Because I don’t want them knocking on my door when the shit hits the fan.”

food

A portion of the Trapp family’s supply of dry goods and canned food PHOTO: RYAN LOWRY

Preppers are, not surprisingly, a paranoid bunch. Locating people willing to speak with me about their habits was more challenging than finding vegans at a gun range. After emailing a dozen members of Northern Illinois Preppers, a Meetup online community whose membership has grown from about 110 to more than 150 in the past six months, I received two responses. One was from someone who told me to take a hike (“I have no interest in being involved in your article. I also do NOT give you permission to quote me,” he wrote, which was perplexing, considering that no interview had been conducted). The other was delivered via a peer-to-peer encrypted email service.

“I took the liberty of setting up a secure email for you,” read the note, whose sender requested I call him Tommy. Then, in the encrypted message, Tommy chewed me out for asking about his prepping efforts:

Due to OPSEC (operational security) and PERSEC (personal security) you’ll never see my stored materials. Though I personally take no offense at your question due to the nature of this interview the question itself is exceptionally rude in prepping circles. By way of analogy it’s the equivalent of my coming over to your home for the first time and, in front of your wife or girlfriend, telling you I think she’s hot and I’d like to see her without clothes. It’s simply not done. Any prepper who would be willing to show you their stocks, anonymously or otherwise, has violated so many rules they may as well just put their stocks on the curb for all to see and take.

A few weeks later, I went to a Lombard gun range on shooting league night and met a wealthy couple from Barrington who, I was told by a reliable source, had recently begun taking shooting lessons as part of their preparedness plans. Both gave me their phone numbers. After repeated calls, I finally caught the man on his cell. He told me they were both too busy to participate in this story and hurriedly bid me adieu.

Then I casually mentioned this assignment in an email exchange with a former colleague, an advertising executive who lives on the North Side. I was surprised to discover a closet prepper in my midst.

“I’m sure you want people a lot more hardcore than me,” wrote my friend, whom we’ll call Pete Campbell, “but I’m a bit of a prepper. I probably have some materials and views that could get me seriously put on a watch list. Plus, I don’t want people knowing I got the goods when they get desperate. My greatest asset is my unobtrusiveness. No one would suspect me of harboring such ideas.”

We agree to meet at a bar near his place. When I arrive, he’s already there, sitting in a booth and sipping a craft beer. After some small talk, he tells me that if things “go from pudding to poop,” as one prepper so eloquently posted on a chat board, his primary concern is getting out of the city, which would have the highest concentration of desperate, unprepared types. Since he’s a condo dweller with little space, his “bug-in” plan is limited: two cases of military-issued MREs (meals ready to eat) that could last him a month and three firearms (an AR-15 rifle, a .38 revolver, and a .45 semiautomatic pistol).

I ask Campbell if he fears the kind of lawlessness seen in post-Katrina New Orleans or the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. “I don’t think that’s too far-fetched that something like that could happen in Chicago,” he says. “And if that happens and I’m holed up in my house and somebody tries to break in, I want to be able to protect myself. You can call 911, but what if they can’t get there in time?”

For the trek out of the city (on foot, if necessary), he has a carefully constructed bug-out bag, which some preppers refer to as a 72-hour kit or an INCH (“I’m never coming home”) bag. (Preppers really relish their acronyms.) “If something goes down, I grab this bag and a couple other things and get out the door,” he says. “Once the roads become impassable, I throw this on my back. My plan is to make it 72 hours and figure it out from there.”

He places the compact 25-pound pack on the table and starts talking me through its contents: water packets, protein bars, survival rations, a tent, light sticks, a first-aid kit, and one of those foil thermal blankets that are draped over finishers at the end of marathons. Everything is individually packed in plastic bags, in case he has to wade through a river or endure a rainstorm.

“Check this out,” he says, excitedly holding up a paracord bracelet that looks like one of those Livestrong wristbands but unwinds to provide 10 feet of rope. “You could use it to secure things, or as a trap or a snare.”

At the end of show-and-tell, he fishes out a small utility knife, flips open its corkscrew, and smiles. “No matter what happens, I’ll always be able to open up a bottle of wine.”

For Campbell, who is in his 40s and dresses in the youthful ad-industry uniform of untucked shirts and hip sneakers, the interest in prepping began two decades ago, when his parents, both military contractors with top-secret clearance, would occasionally call him with vague warnings. “They’d say, ‘I can’t tell you anything, but shit may be going down,’ ” he recalls. “To this day, my mom still won’t tell me what she meant.”

He doesn’t consider himself an extremist. “As soon as the power goes out, I don’t pull out the supplies. I like to think I have a firm enough grasp on reality that I am comfortable with my level [of prepping]. For me, it’s a hobby I hope I never have to use. A lot of people have figurines on glass shelves that they display. I’m collecting peace of mind.”

The whole notion of prepping is a mental exercise, argues Richard Mitchell, a sociologist from Oregon State University, who wrote the 2001 book Dancing at Armageddon. “There aren’t any practicing survivalists because the world hasn’t come to an end yet.”

Mitchell points out that preppers emphasize certain threats and ignore others to “craft a scenario where their preparations can be seen as both necessary and sufficient.” Their most popular threat, by far, is an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, which, whether caused by a nuclear detonation, terrorist strike, or solar flare, involves waves of intense magnetic energy frying our electronics, ushering us and our Kindles and computerized coffeemakers back to the Dark Ages. In response to our cushy existence full of meaningless choices—Should I get the space-gray iPhone or the silver-and-white one?—preppers choose to imagine situations that put their choices to the ultimate test.

“Modern life has traded complexity for efficiency and abundance,” Mitchell says. “Most are satisfied with the exchange. But a lot of us are damn near useless. [Preppers] want a place between a rock and a hard spot to test their talents and gauge their gumption. This hands-on grappling, at least hypothetically, gives them purpose.”

This need seems to be particularly heightened among the wealthy—those with the most to lose. Edward Limoges, who has worked as a bodyguard on behalf of the Glenview company NIS Consulting Group, which provides security for high-net-worth individuals, explains that among the superrich, preparedness often extends as far as their disposable income allows. He shares stories of families in gated communities in Barrington and Long Grove who own pickup-truck-size generators, satellite hookups for emergency phone and data communication, and high-end freeze-dried entrées such as pasta primavera stored in their climate-controlled wine cellars.

Preppers with big bank accounts want to maintain at least a semblance of their comfortable pre-Armageddon existence. In the case of Valenti from Downers Grove, that also means preparing for the possibility that, for a while, the nation might operate under a totally new economy in which the dollar is useless.

During my visit, Valenti shows me his basement workshop, just around the corner from the kids’ playroom. On the wall is a large poster that diagrams proper assembly of an AR-15, a lightweight semiautomatic rifle (the civilian version of the M-16) popular among preppers. Here in this small, unfinished room, he’s taught himself to recycle spent bullet casings into fresh ammo. When he’s at the gun range, he collects used casings—like picking up errant golf balls at the driving range—and refills them with primer, powder, and the actual bullet. The function of his substantial ammo stash, safely kept at Plan B, is more capitalistic than ballistic. “Ammo is a great barter tool,” he says. “It’s the ultimate commodity item.” He also has a network of contacts who can help him acquire coins and precious metals, he tells me, in case he needs to stock up quickly on cash alternatives as the economy goes south.

Much of Valenti’s approach to prepping has been shaped by books such as 2014’s Prepper’s Blueprint, a step-by-step manual by Tess Pennington that promises “freedom through self-reliance.” A few times a week, Valenti consults the legal pad on which he’s scribbled lists of supplies in five primary categories: food, energy, defense, shelter, and hygiene.

He says the last category is tragically underappreciated among preppers. “It’s one thing to have food. But if you don’t have tampons, your wife is going to be pissed off. And let’s say it’s difficult for me to take a bath because water is scarce. I’ve got baby wipes.”

Mark Trapp, a corporate attorney, and his wife, Karina, invite me to sit on the couch in their sunny living room in Glenview. A large portrait of Abe Lincoln lords over the proceedings. The bookshelves lining the walls are filled with tomes on Reagan and Churchill, as well as a few zombie books. The Trapps’ spacious brick colonial overlooks the Grove nature preserve.

Their oldest child, 17-year-old Eleni, plops down next to me, along with her friend Blake. Unlike Valenti and Campbell, whose significant others are largely uninvolved with prepping, the Trapps view preparedness as a family affair.

The clan of seven convenes every Monday night to pray and to discuss whatever is on anyone’s mind. One evening last fall, Eleni brought up the topic of emergency planning, which she had recently learned about at school. Soon the conversation progressed from blizzards to the quintessential prepper novel One Second After (detailing the aftermath of an electromagnetic pulse attack; Newt Gingrich, America’s favorite conspiracy theorist, wrote the foreword), which she had recently read. Eleni, who has braces and hipster glasses, asked her parents how prepared they were for a serious disaster such as an EMP.

“Putting the kids to bed that night, I thought, What if something bad happened?” Karina recalls. “What do we say to our kids: Sorry, we didn’t prepare?”

The concept of prepping wasn’t new to the Trapps. They’re practicing Mormons, members of a religion that stresses self-reliance. “If you look at history, Mormons were chased out of a lot of places, so they had to take care of themselves,” says Mark. “It’s not just a theological thing. I think God does want you to rely on yourself, but the church does it as a practical matter.”

food-1 The Trapp family’s bug-out bags PHOTO: RYAN LOWRY

All members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to have an emergency plan that includes at least a three-month supply of food and, ideally, up to a year’s worth of “long-term storage.” And while not every practicing Mormon follows this rule, it is actually a full-blown commandment.

The Trapps have made up ground quickly since last fall. “We may not be far up in the Mormon totem pole,” Mark says with a laugh about the size of the family’s survival stash. “But we’re pretty far up there compared with most people just by virtue of the little that we’ve done.”

After the family meeting, Karina started stockpiling first-aid supplies, which are now stored away with toiletries, protein bars, and other gear in individualized bug-out bags in a front closet. The backpacks of Eleni and her other teenage sisters (Reagan, 16, and Bella, 13) include items like favorite sweatshirts and girlie shampoos. Five-year-old Libby, who peeks around the corner during my visit before giggling and running away, has her own bag. Six-month-old Kiffin, the youngest child and only son, keeps his stash of Cheerios, Binkys, and bottles with Mommy’s gear.

Next Karina ordered wheat flour, oats, beans, and spaghetti from the Mormon Church, which sells the items in bulk to members and nonmembers alike both online and at home storage centers throughout the country. During trips to big-box stores, she loaded up on extra cans of corn, beans, soup, and fruit.

We walk down to the basement, where shelves across the back wall are filled with food. Boxes of Cap’n Crunch and Cheez-Its are stacked 10-high near the crawlspace, which the family might clear out for additional storage. Twenty-four cases of water sit under a table. All told, the Trapps are closing in on enough food and supplies to last about three months.

Most of the items have a 20-year shelf life, but the idea is to rotate the food, not stash it mindlessly. “You don’t buy a huge bulk amount and then, when the world doesn’t end in the next 20 years, you throw it out and buy it again,” Mark explains. “You cycle through it. You buy what you’re going to use anyway.”

food-2 Two of the Trapp girls with their rifles PHOTO: RYAN LOWRY

While food storage is a recent effort, Mark bought a .22 revolver in 2012, something he shares with me about an hour into my visit. Fresh-faced Reagan walks in, and Mark tells me he got her and Eleni their own rifles for Christmas not long after. She smiles and says that most of her friends didn’t believe her when she told them about her 22-gauge present under the tree.

Mark took both girls to the range so they could learn about gun safety as a family. “I didn’t want the girls to have the mindset that guns are the absolute worst things in the history of the world,” Mark says. “Because they’re not. If you know how to use one, it could save your life.”

We discuss whether, as many preppers believe, society is more dangerous now than in the recent past, as reports of school shootings, terror attacks, and global pandemics have become routine. “I don’t know if we’re the only ones feeling it, but there’s this sense that times are different now,” he says. “It’s sort of like the middle is not holding. Things are fraying, and I think more and more people are coming to the conclusion that if something is gonna get done, you may have to do it yourself.”

That includes protecting his family if a disaster triggers mayhem in the streets. “Those who are ready to deal with it are going to do much better than those who aren’t,” he says. “The social contract is potentially written on very thin paper when stuff goes down.”

I find myself wondering whether the rise of the modern prepper represents a grand illusion or a societal step forward through self-reliance. Who’s living the fantasy—them or me? I think back on something Bob Valenti told me when I visited him: “I don’t consider myself to be radical. I consider myself to be rational and practical.”

As he walked me out, he put in an earpiece and dialed into a conference call. We shook hands, and I jokingly asked him if I could be on the list to head to Plan B if the world as we know it ends.

He looked me in the eye, cracked a smile, and said, “I hope it never comes to that.”

But just in case, I have my real estate agent searching for houses in Downers Grove within a few blocks of Valenti’s. I’d love a big yard, but I’d kill for a bunker in the basement.

This article appears in the May 2015 issue of Chicago magazine. Subscribe to Chicago magazine.