If you had one week to prepare for a major disaster, what would you do? Would you buy food, water and batteries? Or would you make a plan to get out of Dodge? On October 22, 2012, a tropical depression formed in the Caribbean Sea, quickly gaining strength, it formed into a hurricane in just six hours. As the hurricane made landfall in Kingston, Jamaica, meteorologists, weather experts and the National Hurricane Center monitored the storm closely. They knew the Eastern Coast of the United States had a 90% chance of being hit by Hurricane Sandy. Experts from John Hopkins University forecast 10 million people would be without power. It did not take long for the government to take action.
On October 26, 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard recommended people evacuate, the USDA encouraged people to secure food and National Guard deployed 61,000 members along the Eastern Seaboard. On October 28, 2012, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for the Eastern states before Hurricane Sandy hit.
Leading up to the storm, New Jersey advised citizens to evacuate and closed schools. New York City cancelled flights, closed the subway and stock exchange and evacuated people. Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey and New York on October 29, 2012, resulting in extreme damage and flooding—including 10 billion gallons of raw sewage flowing into the city. Over 50 people in New York died directly due to Hurricane Sandy.
The city did what it could; shelters opened before the hurricane hit. Three days after, the city handed out fresh food and water to people. People stood in lines 20 blocks long waiting to receive gasoline from the government.
An East Coast friend of mine told me she stocked up with food, wine, candles, and batteries for three days before she could purchase gas to bug out. She says, “Gas was damn near impossible to come by.” Delivery of gas was organized according to license plate numbers and the day of the week.
“We volunteered since we weren’t able to go to work. We packed lunches for people who were land and water locked. It was incredibly sad.”
Another friend who lives in New York City—a Texas transplant—told me “growing up in Texas, we were used to planning for tornadoes, storms and loss of power. I tried to rent a car to go to Maryland, but they wanted an absurd amount of money. So, I knew I’d be riding it out. It was funny seeing what other people were buying at the store before the storm, frozen items and things that needed refrigeration. I stocked up on canned soup, tuna and non-perishables just in case. We filled all our empty growlers and bathtubs with water.” People had a week to prepare. Was stocking up on fresh water, food, alternative cooking methods, flashlights and batteries crazy? Not at all. I think we can all agree on calling it smart.
There is quite a bit of contention in the world of prepping and survival on whether or not one considers themselves a prepper or a survivalist. Some even argue that the other is crazy; peppers are eagerly awaiting a non-existent zombie apocalypse or lazy. While the other argues that survivalists won’t have enough resources to live. Case in point—the following two comments on a past Cheaper Than Dirt! blog post: “Those of us who practice being prepared for emergencies prefer to be called preppers, not survivalists.” And this one: “Prepper is a high-vis media and advertising buzzword, portrayed by popular reality shows. You got sucked in. The author is correct in saying survivalist. The fact is, most so-called Preppers are just impulsive consumers who desperately needed a new group to belong to.” Wow! Let’s look at the media. Popular TV shows separate themselves into two different categories: shows depicting preppers and shows depicting survivalists. Survivor-based shows follow someone going it alone without tools and sometimes without clothes, living off the land. While prepper shows follow families or groups stocking up on survival gear and making plans for a worldwide major disaster.
Google can’t seem to decide. When I look up definitions of each, they are almost interchangeable. The word prepping is used in the definition of survivalist.
The word survivalist got a bad rap in the media. When used to describe Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Media powerhouses such as CNN and the Washington Post described McVeigh as a survivalist. The word quickly conjured ideas of someone reclusive, anti-government and certainly crazy. No wonder anyone was reluctance to label himself or herself a survivalist. However, the term prepper may be seen in the same light. The now infamous story of David Sarti may make some squirm when called a prepper.
Webster’s Dictionary defines preparing as, “To make ready beforehand for some purpose, use or activity” and survival as, “The state or fact of continuing to live or exist especially in spite of difficult conditions.” So, isn’t a prepper then also a survivalist and vice versa? Both of those definitions seem reasonable to me. Personally, I don’t think you can really have one without the other. Stocking up on enough fresh water to drink and clean makes sense. Having food to sustain you and your family also makes sense. Having the skills and knowledge to acquire more fresh water and food when your supplies run out also makes sense. Regardless of what you label it, being ready incorporates preparedness and survival skills. Can’t we ditch the labels, stop arguing about it and just realize that one without the other is useless and that both together are smart?
Do you consider yourself a prepper or a survivalist? Which term do you prefer and why? Tell us in the comment section.