JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - “If you’re good with me being anonymous, I’m great with being anonymous,” John said. “If you just want some insight into the prepping world and all that, I’ve been dealing with it for a while.”
Prepping, defined as “the practice of making active preparations for a possible catastrophic disaster or emergency, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies,” is perhaps one of the most stigmatized hobbies out there.
Seen through the lens of shows such as Doomsday Preppers, those who prep are often viewed as bizarre extremists who have bunkers filled with canned vegetables in the backyard.
And this stigma has taken most preppers underground, keeping their hobby to themselves and sharing it with only a close circle of friends. But with the triad of a global pandemic, social unrest and the tension of an upcoming election, many have found themselves wondering if prepping isn’t so crazy after all.
“I think this whole— I think that a majority of people have had their eyes open to the whole prepping world from the pandemic,” said John, who would remain anonymous. “People running to the stores just raking stuff off the shelves and you go and you’re like, ‘Well I can’t get anything.’ Things were just crazy.”
He compares the pandemic to a wave. It’s slowly approaching the beach, so most people had time to prepare. “It wasn’t all of a sudden everything is shut down and screaming. It came on us.”
But what if it had been a direct attack on the country? What if you hadn’t seen the wave coming? Would you have been prepared? Preppers, John says, who were generally thought of as “crazy, tinfoil hat wearing” loons maybe aren’t viewed that way anymore. “It’s always been a stigma up to very recently.”
But John isn’t anonymous because he cares about what you think of him. He’s anonymous because, in the chance of a cataclysmic event, he doesn’t want you leeching off of him.
“Prepping is kind of like fight club,” he says, “you don’t talk about it… You don’t want anybody to know what you’ve got because people are like ‘I don’t need to prep, I’ll just go over and take his crap.’”
So let’s say you don’t want to “take his crap” and want to become a prepper yourself. Where does one even start? John says you first need to decide what kind of prepper you want to be.
First you have your doomsday preppers, the highest level of prepping. He describes this as “totally end of the world. Everything is coming to an end.”
Then you have your power-grid prepper. These are those who “prep for the grid going down or an EMP strike.” In the case of an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack, many electronic devices, including cell phones, laptops and vehicles, would be rendered useless. And while the threat may sound implausible, just last year President Trump signed an executive order to study the risks of such an event.
Then towards the bottom of the prepper pyramid are what could be called the “grandma preppers,” meaning you have one to two months of supplies on hand in case of an emergency.
Once you decide what kind of prepper who want to be, you need to decide if you’re bugging in or bugging out, sheltering in place until the danger passes or leaving home in search of safety. In the case of disaster, John says “your cities are not where you would want to be… You wouldn’t want to live in downtown Jackson.” Instead, he suggests escaping to “very rural communities,” preferably somewhere you could farm.
Now that you know what kind of prepper you wish to be and where you want to wait out whatever catastrophe has arisen, John says prepping on a budget is pretty easy.
John advocates for stocking up on dry goods first: “Entire civilizations live off of rice along with a few other things.”
Then spices: “You can make anything taste good, right?”
Next, canned vegetables. And a tip - according to John, don’t worry about the use by date: “I’ve fed my family seven-year-old green beans many times and they ain’t even know it.”
But if you’re buying canned meats, John warns, be more aware of the use by date, because, “botulism.”
And as much as John champions the act of being prepared, he also advises against being too prepared. “Prepping can make you paranoid too… You think, ‘Well I’m gonna get two months on hand’ and later you think ‘Well, God, is two months enough? Maybe I gotta need three. Well, what about this?’ … Depending on how you look at it, you can ‘what if’ something absolutely to death.”
Even so, he has pressed his family on the importance of prepping and reasons they will take his advice given the fact that "the current pandemic scared a lot of people.”
And COVID-19 has scared a lot of people. Just ask Jayne Cobb, creator of the Facebook page Real Mississippi Preppers. According to Cobb, membership has “boomed” since COVID.
At the beginning of the year, he says the group had around 500 members. It’s now approaching 1,500. And while he does admit that the coronavirus played a part in enlarging the size of the group, he also points to the election.
“It’s this election, man. It’s freakin' crazy. I’m sure COVID plays a part, but, I mean, a lot of this is going hand and hand. [The members are] relating it all.”
Cobb says people are genuinely concerned about the outcome. Not about who wins, per se, but about what happens next. “People— you’re gonna have me sounding like a nut. There’s talks of civil war. Neither side is going to accept the results of this election. You know all this stuff.”
And while he says a majority of the members on his Facebook page are conservative, he’s also seen a “big increase in more liberals.” He thinks this shows that both sides of the political aisle are worried.
“Look at the news,” Cobb says. “I mean, gun sales are up crazy right now… There’s a lot of people who you would think would be anti-gun just because of their political side and they’re buying up the black, scary rifles and all that stuff too.”
Surprisingly though, even with the recent spike in members, Cobb says there’s not much activity on the Facebook page. “It’s kinda like people are just watching.”
One of those people “just watching” is Kimberly Marquar. She says she’s been prepping since 2016 which began little by little, “buying one or two items at every grocery store trip.” Now she’s moved up to buying bulk items on prepper websites, which, yes, do exist.
Because she’s a member of The Church of Latter-Day Saints, whose members are taught the principles of self-reliance, she says she has been raised in the teaching of always being prepared and to have food stored away. “So with being taught that my whole life and seeing the recent events... it definitely makes you want to be prepared.”
On why she joined the Real Mississippi Preppers group, she says it was strategy. “I was looking for preppers in my area because it’s always good to have a prepping buddy when SHTF! [s*** hits the fan.]”
Marquer presumes the sudden interest in prepping is due to recent events, a year where people are “finally waking up.” And if she had any advice to new preppers, among stocking up on ammo and buying medical supplies, she echoes John, saying, “don’t overwhelm yourself! You will get there... Make a list and mark things off one by one. Last but not least, find a prepping buddy in your area!”
And speaking of John, he says he wouldn’t consider himself “a crazed prepper.” He’s not constantly looking for deals on ammo and isn’t buying food left and right. He doesn’t even own a bunker. “I seriously don’t!”
He does, however, have a stocked pantry, food in the freezer, solar panels and a propane tank that holds 500 gallons of gasoline. He also owns what he calls a “separate location.” The only details he shared about this location is that it is “one of the best spots you could hope to go to" and that he could show up there “butt naked” and start over.
Surprisingly though, John says the probability of him ever actually having to use his supplies in a “full blown Armageddon-type synerio” are slim to none. "But do I feel better having some stuff? And if it does happen, yeah. I’m alright.”