This post was originally published here on ModernSurvivalOnline on July 31ST, 2012. It can be seen in its original format HERE.
How to successfully talk to your friends and family about “prepping”
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND
No man is an island. We’ve heard that saying over and over through the years. No statement has ever been truer for the modern day “prepper.” Gone are the days of the lone survivalist. Today’s “survivalists” are much more family and friend oriented than the typical survivalists in the past. We don’t hole up in our cabin in the woods only making rare necessary trips to town. We live and thrive in our communities We enjoy the company of others and generally have strong bonds of friendship and family.
It is because of these strong bonds that we desire to share our convictions of the virtues of being prepared. We all remember the horrifying pictures after Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of people herded into dangerous and unsanitary “shelters”, scores more stranded without food and water in their homes waiting on the mysterious “them” to come to the rescue. We remember the countless signs with pleas for food and help held up from rooftops for the media helicopters to see. How about the throngs of people who tried to flee before and after the storm? They were snarled in traffic jams that stretched on for miles and miles. They were stuck in their cars without food, water and medication; some of them for days. We watched all of the people who were helpless to provide for themselves or their families with no provisions, no plan and no clue. We watched and we worried for our friends and families who we knew would be in the same proverbial boat should a disaster befall them. We can become frustrated at what we perceive as their lackadaisical attitude toward life and the things going on around them. We see them more worried about what sports team will win any given game than how they would feed their children in an emergency. We watch them go into debt to buy the next best item of technology, that they have painstakingly research, obsessed and crooned over, but they never give a second thought to having something as simple as a 72 hour kit for their family should they have to evacuate their home at a moment’s notice. We watch them worry more about what is going on in the lives of their favorite TV characters than the world around them. We watch and most of us want to scream for the frustration of it! Our great love for our friends and family leads us to want to throttle some good sense into them before they too find themselves in a situation for which they are totally unprepared. The desire to pick up a large block of wood and smack them over the head with it can become overwhelming, even to the kindest among us!
Large block of wood aside, our desire to help our loved ones and our frustration at their laze faire attitude can lead us to be overbearing in our attempts to convey our concerns. This condition can lead to several road blocks. Our friends may dismiss us as being part of the lunatic fringe, and our families may worry that our obsession with worse case scenarios has become unhealthy and is in need of professional help. Either way, you can still guarantee that you will hear the all too familiar refrain, “well, if something serious happens, we’ll just come to you. After all, you will be prepared and can take care of us!” This is enough to send any prepper into instant worry mode. Can you afford to feed these people from your supplies? If not, do you have the fortitude to turn them away? Do they realize the position that their “I won’t worry because you’ve got it covered” attitude is putting you in? Likely not. It’s doubtful that they have ever considered that they might be putting you in a position of turning them away or letting one of your own children starve. One might assume in the best of light that they are unaware of the amount of food and supplies it takes per person to survive during short term and long term emergencies. They have no idea the planning and work you have put in to assure that your core family has been covered. During a short term emergency, we likely can help out multiple additional friends and family, but during a long term emergency, this would stretch even the most generous of supplies. So, in reality, you have to choose between three options. Option 1 is to stretch your finances and plans to include these friends and family members. Option 2 is to work on building up your backbone and dulling your conscience and preparing to turn them away. If this is your option, it’s best to be upfront right away. When they make the inevitable comment, let them know that you have limited supplies and would have to turn them away. Believe me, it is much better to let them know now, rather than at the time they are in need and seeking your help. You may or may not be able to follow through with your ultimatum, and it will be a difficult scene for all those involved. Your third, and most viable option, is to convince your friends and family that they too need to prepare themselves and their families.
Thus far, I have only discussed friends and family beyond your core or immediate family. However, many preppers find themselves in what I call a worst case scenario. These preppers have spouses or significant others who at best, are disinterested in their “hobby,” and at worst are actively skeptical, critical and obstructive of their efforts. As you can imagine, it is extremely difficult to find yourself in such a situation. Prepping, like any other hobby or endeavor costs both money and time. When you are in a committed relationship, both of these things are community property. When you have to be accountable to someone else for your time and money and you are not in tandem with your goals, this can be a constant source of arguments and tension. The average prepper does the things they do out of love. You can imagine the frustration of wanting to protect your family and having the closest person to you, dismiss or lampoon your efforts.
It is my hope that the following paragraphs will give you useful information for convincing, both your immediate family or core group, as well as your extended family and friends. While not all of these options or arguments will work for all situations, I have attempted to offer different angles and suggestions with which to conquer the different personalities and roadblocks for the people in your life. I will attempt to cover two areas, general advice and specific strategies. I hope that you will be able to take one or more of my suggestions and adapt them as needed to assist you in the optimal outcome for “Option 3.”
The first advice I have is three fold; ditch the dates, hide the tinfoil hats and take a deep breath!
Ditch the dates. The year 2000, aka Y2K came and went uneventfully despite all of the doom and gloom predictions otherwise. Lots of people loaded up on food and supplies, warned their friends and hunkered down only to feel and look foolish to themselves and all of their friends on January 1, 2000. Now, I am a big fan of being prepared and self-sufficient, whatever the reason. However, I believe we need to take a broader view of preparedness. Preparedness is just a good rule of thumb. You may be completely convinced that the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) is right around the corner. You may be sure that a particular astronomical event is absolutely imminent. You may be betting on an impending alien invasion. Who knows, you may be right! But chances are, that your friends and family will start to glaze over or begin looking up the number for the nearest psychiatric hospital the minute you mention it. These types of grandiose predictions tend to shut down any rational discussion of preparedness with your friends and family. People remember the panic over the Millennium Bug and they probably knew someone who stocked up on lots of toilet paper and peanut butter only to sell it off after the date had passed. Never mind that there were scores of people that simply prepared for the worst and hoped for the best and kept their mountain of toilet paper and peanut butter in case something else happened. There are lots of “events” that spur individuals on to take an active role in protecting their families from uncertainty. I am all for these types of nudges. However, when we become so wrapped up in a certain outcome that we cannot perceive any other outcome happening, we are not doing ourselves or our loved ones any favors. What happens when a particular event, like Y2K comes and goes with no particular fanfare? Putting aside the people that kept plugging along, you had lots of people that just felt silly and sold off all of their supplies (at great bargain basement prices I might add). What would happen to those people if trouble really hit them? What if they lost their job? What if they had a snow storm or hurricane in their area that disrupted power and truck deliveries for several weeks? Their good sense preparations were no more. They had no more back-up plan, no extra groceries, and no clean drinking water. All of the emotions and planning were tied up into a specific date/event and when it had passed, their interest in being prepared passed as well. How about all of their friends, who thought they were crazy when they were proudly shown the beautiful toilet paper stash? Now they sleep well at night, smugly knowing that they were right and all is well in the world. Now, because of a single-minded obsession with a specific event or date, two groups of people are now totally unprepared for what life may throw at them.
Hide your tin-foil hat. Don’t get me wrong, I can wear a tin-foil hat with the best of them. I too have specific events that I deem likely and that I gear a large part of my preparations toward. However, I never allow myself to become so myopic in my vision that I don’t allow for all other possibilities. Again, my motto, like many preppers’ is to “hope for the best and plan for the worst.” When you are talking to your friends and family that are not in the same frame of mind as you are, you should generally keep your tin-foil hat in the closet. Prepared is prepared is prepared. Is the goal to get them to become more self-sufficient, or is it more important to you to convince them that X, Y or Z is imminent?
We’ve all run across that person who started spouting off something and your brain immediately put them into the “crazy as a loon” category and you stopped REALLY paying attention to what they were saying. While being self-sufficient is a very rational way of existing, it takes effort and commitment. People are generally programmed to take the path of least resistance. We are generally lazy creatures. If you aren’t stuck in the “crazy” category right away, then your intended audience has to actually listen to what you have to say. Don’t make it easy for them to categorized and conveniently dismiss you. Besides, after you have convinced them of the necessity of being prepared for adverse situations, and they’ve jumped in with both feet, chances are they will find their own tinfoil hat without ever having to borrow yours!
Tone it down. When you feel passionate about something, it can be difficult not to overwhelm someone you are trying to “convert.” You have found something that gives you great peace of mind and you enjoy immensely. You think everyone should do it. You go into overdrive campaigning for your point of view. At every opportunity you are practically shouting it out to anyone who you think might listen. What better way to convince someone than to go through the litany of worst case scenarios out there. You are certain that if you can just scare them enough they will see the virtues of taking preventative steps; after all, there’s some pretty scary stuff out there lurking around the corner. If they properly understood the danger that could be in store for their families, surely that would start to take steps to protect their family, right? Wrong. Nothing can shut a person down faster than information overload. What makes you think that someone that previously had a hard time imagining buying a few extra groceries to keep in the house in case of a snow storm would suddenly embrace the need to have a year’s worth of food storage, an Electro Magnetic Pulse hardened truck and a faraday cage. What makes you think that someone who just told you that they don’t even have a first aid kit in the house would suddenly see that what they really need is a fully stocked trauma kit complete with Quikclot and a tourniquet for a gunshot wound? And do you really believe that the person that spends all of their free time watching the sport of the season is going to suddenly abandon their hobby to spend all of their time at the range? Come on, let’s get real. While there are some people who will suddenly light up and jump into the water, chances are you’ve already converted them anyway. Everyone else learns like you likely did – one step at a time.
Precept upon precept is the best way to teach any concept. First you have to find a foot hold; something that your target audience cares about enough to give you an edge. Remember, that what makes you prep may not be what motivates your target audience to prep. It doesn’t really matter. If we are all more prepared to take care of ourselves and our families, then we are ALL better off. The following paragraphs will give you some areas that could be good jumping off points. They key is to wait for those opportunities, recognize them for what they are, and then pounce (softly, or course)!
It’s the economy stupid! We all remember this famous line from the presidential race in the 1990s. I have found the economy to be the single most common motivator among new preppers. The economy is in the tanker and not likely to get better any time soon. Joblessness is at an all-time high, groceries are getting more expensive, and the definition of luxury item is getting broader and broader. These are facts. One might speculate (watch out, here comes the hat) we are headed toward a much greater depression than the Great Depression. Some think that there is no way out of our current financial predicament without a MAJOR reset of our political and economic situation. Make no mistake; this country is full of people with different values than those that were around in the Great Depression. You can imagine that it might get ugly, fast. It is not much of a stretch to imagine a complete breakdown of society in many areas. Now, that being said, I would not turn to my neighbor and start screaming about the collapse of the U.S. Dollar, the subsequent rioting in the streets, followed by Marshal Law and an eventual collapse of the U.S. Government. I would also not follow up with insisting that they need a weapon, weapons training, riot gear, etc. Instead, I might suggest that having a few weeks or months of food put back for lean times might be a good idea. Depending on their financial status, you might suggest as much as six months to a year. You might discuss what it might mean to lose one’s job in a time where it is so difficult to find other employment. You might tell them how it is such a weight off of you mind to know that even if you lost your job, your family would still be able to eat and that this would free up money for other bills during such lean times. You might tell an anecdotal story about how you or someone you know had to rely on their food storage to get them through a tight spot. Again, you should stress how much better you feel not having the burden of worrying about how you would feed your family if you hit financial hard times. Let’s not forget that with rising food prices, having food storage is actually a great hedge against inflation.
What type of natural disasters are prominent in your general area? Hurricanes? Tornados? Earthquakes? Snowstorms? Flooding? Hurricane Katrina is possibly the best advertisement for the need for being prepared for natural disasters. I can’t tell you how many preppers I have talked to that “got into the game” so to speak after watching the debacle with New Orleans unfold on the television. Some of them lived through it and can personally attest to the need to be prepared for your family. Perhaps you could start a conversation about the best way to be prepared for these natural disasters. You could discuss a 72 hour kit (which is a much more benign name than a bug-out bag). How about a get-home bag? Do you remember the black-out of New York several years ago? There were thousands of people stranded in New York City with no money (ATM machines wouldn’t work); no food and water, and they had to abandon their cars and walk home. How many of them actually had functional shoes with which to do that? Heck, even the government recommends that all families have a 72 hour emergency kit. You don’t have to tell them that they need an all-inclusive Bug-Out Bag that has a trauma kit, axe, weaponry, and cooking gear. Just talk about the common sense of having a kit for each family member. Tell them to think about how much easier it would be to have a kit packed and ready should they need to seek shelter elsewhere for a few days. Think of the hectic running around at the last minute that they could prevent from if only they took a few steps to be prepared. Snow storms, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters can knock out power for days, not only to the areas directly affected, but to the surrounding areas as well. Grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants are all unable to function without power. You might discuss the need to stock a few extra groceries. If your intended audience has lived through a great snow storm and had to survive on crackers and packs of ketchup, even better…..you are half way there! However, one does have to wonder about the intelligence level of someone who has lived through such a thing and doesn’t take any steps to prepare should it happen again. Here in South Carolina, Hurricane Hugo knocked out our power for several weeks in some areas. However, if you went around knocking on doors and checking, I would be willing to bet that at least 95% of the population only has a few days of food put by. You do not have to look that far back into U.S. History to find examples of extended periods of want. An interesting point of discussion might be to bring up would be that during the 1950s, most households had at least 3 months of food stored in their houses. Today, I would be willing to bet that less than 20% of households had more than a weeks’ worth of food in their homes. It really is astounding the mental shift that this county has undergone. During the 1950s, the majority of adults had lived through the Great Depression and remembered what it was like to go without. Time certainly dulls the senses. Our grocery habits are really the worst kind of extravagance…..one we really can’t afford.
Lead by example. One would hope that you have moved beyond just storing beans, bandages and bullets. One supposes that you have realized the need to learn how to use all of the above items in addition to learning all sorts of other useful skills. If you have started to learn many of these bygone skills, it is likely that you have realized just how fun and interesting the whole process has become. You’ve probably moved from a fear based drive behind your activities to being driven by the empowerment you feel when you conquer something new. You are learning new skills, putting them to use and loving every minute of it. I know I am! Instead of just talking to your friends and family, invite them to join you in a class or have them join you in a good old fashion canning bee. Going to the range? Nothing relieves stress like plinking off a few bullets (save the rigid training for another time, just have fun). Are you going to attend your local beekeepers’ association meeting? Have them tag along and throw in dinner in the bargain. Invite them into a vegetable garden co-op. Share some fresh eggs, yummy jelly or homemade sauerkraut. You get the idea! Once they see how interesting, educational and fun all of these activities can be, they may ask to be included on your next outing or endeavor. Before you know it, they will be as hooked as you are!
Faith can be a powerful motivator. At times, however, it can work to the opposite effect. I would like to touch briefly on a road block you may have, or will encountered. If you haven’t yet encountered it, chances are that you eventually will. Faith is an intensely personal thing. It can also be the hardest roadblock to overcome when you are trying to convince someone that they should prepare to be able to take care of their family. There is a school of thought among some Christians that preparing for the worst somehow flies in the face of your faith in God. While each person has to make their own decisions and religion can be a very personal matter, I would like to make a few points that may help you get through to someone if they subscribe to the “take no thought for the morrow” way of being. There is an old joke about a man who was stuck in his home during a flood. The water rose and the old man had to climb up to the second floor of his home. A couple in a canoe came by and offered the man a ride to safety. “No thanks,” the man replied, “I have always been a faithful servant of the Lord. He will save me.” The couple left and the water continued to rise. The old man had to climb up onto the roof of his house to keep out of the water. While on the roof of his house, the man knelt down and prayed to God to save him. While in the midst of his prayer, a family in a speed boat pulled up to the roof and plead with the man to get inside the boat. The old man refused. Once again proclaiming that he need not be concerned, that the Lord would save him. The water rose and rose until the man was left perched upon the top of his chimney. Still his faith did not waiver! He sang songs of praise to his maker and awaited his miracle. Soon a National Guard helicopter came by and dropped a ladder to him to climb up to safety. Confident in his faith, the old man refused this rescue as well, shortly thereafter drowning. As the old man approached the judgment seat, he was thoroughly confused. “Lord, he cried, I was a good church going man all of my life! I paid a faithful tithe and did many charitable works. Why didn’t you save your humble servant?” The Lord, in dismay, replied, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more did you want?” I am a firm believer that the Lord provides. However, sometimes, the way he provides is to make a way for us to be able to save ourselves and our families. You might try reciting the story of Joseph from the Old Testament. You may remind them, that because Joseph directed the Pharaoh’s men to store food, the entire nation of Egypt was saved from a severe famine. However, because Joseph’s people did not store food, the entire nation of Israel was enslaved. Remember, those that have food will always dictate to those that need to eat in times of want. You may also want to remember and quote two scriptures. 1 Timothy 5:8 (KJV) states “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Also, Isaiah 32:9-14 (KJV) is great scripture which is too long to quote here, but speaks directly to women. Above all else, when you come up against this roadblock, tread carefully. This can be a very touchy area and sometimes, in touchy matters, the more you push, the more stubborn people become. Like most matters, its best to plant the seeds and allow them room to grow.
Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP). I almost hesitate to bring up this last area of discussion because this is where you might start tipping over the edge and losing your audience. Here is where knowing your audience comes in extremely handy. If, after evaluating your intended audience, you have determined that they could possibly process this information without a complete shut down, then I would suggest broaching the following subject calmly and with caution. Pay attention-if you see the eyes start glazing over or their eyes darting about looking for an escape, then abort the mission immediately. If you keep plowing through, you risk that “crazy” category and all possibility of future discussions.
If you are reading this article, I am sure you are aware of the possibility of an Electro Magnetic Pulse event. However, most Americans have never heard of it and many of those that have consider it to be mere science fiction. After all, this is America. Things like that don’t happen here. Never mind that a similarly natural occurring event (Coronal Mass Ejection or solar flare), often called the Carrington Event happened in this country in 1859 shutting down all of the telegraph systems worldwide. Never mind that in 1962, during the so named “Starfish Prime” testing by the U.S. Government created an EMP event. Never mind that there is a congressional report outlining the likelihood of such an event and the horrifying finding that if such an event should occur now, with our dependence upon technology in this county, that over 90% of the population would be dead within a year. Most people either can’t or won’t process this information It’s too big. However, if you decide that your friend can process this information without throwing up their hands and giving up because it’s too much to prepare, for then I would make the following suggestions. If your friend is a reader, I would suggest buying them a copy of “One Second After” by William Forstchen. This is a perfect book for a newbie. It is written from a very main stream type guy so it’s quite palatable to the average Joe. The book is extremely readable, with a great flow. It is what I would consider “an easy read.” Send people to “reputable” websites to look at for information. Do NOT send them to Alex Jones, YouTube, Wikipedia or other such sites. Instead, send them to NASA’s website or to the actual Congressional report outlining this threat. Do not, I repeat, do not send them to websites or books that could not be used as part of a research paper. Find original scientific work, not flamboyant hype. There is plenty of material out there. Do a little research of your own before you broach the subject. Be very factual and leave the hype at home.
There are many levels of preppers. Everyone had to start somewhere. With some rare exceptions, we all started from one idea and grew into the prepper we currently are. Then we seem to forget the journey that brought us here and expect everyone else to just arrive at the place we are overnight. Just as you cannot create an adult overnight, a prepper must be born, nurtured and raised into full “adulthood.” Your goal is to create that spark of interest and then allow it to grow by nurturing it through a natural progression. Once you see the spark take off, it is your job to nurture it along, not douse it with your over exuberance! Watch the language you use. There are many of words or phrases in the prepping community that carry no meaning to others. Start out with words and phrases that they would recognize. What in the world is a Bug-Out bag? Now a 72 hour kit, that makes since to the average Joe. Use the phrase self-sufficient rather than survivalist or prepping. Who doesn’t want to be self-sufficient? There is such power in that word! TEOTWAWKI, TSHTF and “When the Balloon Goes Up” just sound like nonsense to most others. Instead, talk about being able to provide for your family no matter what happens, or talk about prepping for Worst Case Scenarios, that’s something we can all understand. As a general rule, I agree with the old saying that you can gather more bees with honey than vinegar. A soft sell often works better than a hard sell. Being self-sufficient can be fun and addictive, and if you can properly convey that, then you’ve won half the battle. Most of all, learn about your intended audience and how to speak to their concerns, learn patience, and learn when to bite your tongue. Most people do not start out prepping for Worst Case Scenarios. Remember what your end goal is and go about it methodically – the same way you prep. In the end, there are some people that will never be convinced no matter what you do or say. It is also just as important to be able to recognize this situation when you’ve reached it so that you can move on and direct your energies elsewhere. Besides, you can always leave the door open and backing off may produce better results down the road.
The Carrington Event
Starfish prime event
Congressional EMP report