Surviving a Disastrous Day at a Florida Prep Convention – Orlando Sentinel

ELKTON, Fla. – Someday, when your commute or run to the supermarket is interrupted by societal collapse, there will be some considerations to take into account.

Jeff Smith seemed to know them all. Pacing under the vast metal roof of an outdoor rodeo pavilion on the wooded St. John’s County Fairgrounds, Smith held the gaze of his sparse morning audience with a promise – only in the event disaster, his tips could bring them home. Some two dozen people watched from the stands at the 64-year-old Navy veteran in his “Everyday Prepper” polo shirt. They scribbled many notes.

“Everyone is preparing to hide at home,” Smith told them. But when there’s an event, he says, chances are you’re somewhere else.

“Coming Home,” as the first seminar of the day was titled, might require negotiation. “In case you find yourself in a neighborhood where armed residents have erected a barricade,” Smith said. He recommends honing those skills at garage sales.

Smith suggested storing a folding bike in the car — “You can walk three miles an hour, bike nine or 10” — and memorize where the local train tracks can guide you. “The bad guys won’t watch the train tracks,” he said. Rethink your homecoming bag, he advised, and consider getting rid of the heavy fire starter. “The fire will just betray you.” Carrying a weapon was obvious. And there was an absolute:

“Take an anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen, on the first day. Otherwise, on the second day of an event, you’re going to be in too much pain.

A damp breeze blew through attendees at the second annual Florida Homeownership and Readiness Summit, mostly gray-haired men whose patriotic T-shirts clung to their bellies. Some had spouses or children with them. They raised their hands to ask about radio dies, shoulder holsters and moleskin, to protect their feet from blisters.

Were it the survivors who would one day rebuild civilization?

With classes such as “How to Start an Edible Food Forest”, “Old Tools for the Future” and “Machete for Self-Defense”, the two-day convention was held 20 miles away in the rural interior of the State, and a touristy world apart Saint Augustine was for the empowered, prepared, and paranoid – or, depending on your perspective, the enlightened.

The gathering of less than 100 people was smaller and less diverse than you might expect based on recent reports of widespread preparedness amid the pandemic and its telltale toilet paper shortages.

The Home Depot now sells stackable 60-dish buckets of dehydrated (“just add water”) survival foods. The Kardashians have been posting about their favorite “bug out bags.” Disaster preparedness has crept into everyday households, fueled by concerns about climate change, wildfires and floods. Worth $75.5 billion in 2017, the industry is expected to reach $423 billion in 2025.

The founder of preparedness site The Prepared told NPR-distributed 1A last year that preparedness is no longer limited to white conservatives and conspirators. He described pre-school “where we’ll have a hippie wearing a Portland Gen Z LGBTQ pride shirt practicing a skill next to a Fox News watcher wearing an NRA hat.”

When sessions broke for lunch, event founder April Iser served hot dogs from the window of a snack bar. Attendees, spread out on nearby picnic tables, discussed a type of death trap they had seen demonstrated by a bushcrafter named Gator at another prep event.

The mood on day one of the Iser summit may not have been one of youth or diversity, but the 36-year-old mother of four thought the prep community was growing. Attendance increased by 20% compared to last year.

Growing up Mormon, Iser said, “We were taught to prepare your pantry, to have savings in your account, and to be a community, so if someone is hurting, you come together.” Although she no longer practices, she saw her event as building a community of helpers.

“Most (preppers) are regular people who have faced one crisis or another and just want to be more prepared. These are parents who want to make sure our children are safe,” she said. “We don’t want to be a burden on society. Later that day, she would teach “Self-Defense Keys, Kubotans, and Keychains,” another way to prepare for whatever lay ahead: a hurricane, job loss, the death of a support worker. of family.

“There’s a huge misconception,” she said, “that we’re all preparing for the end of the world or zombie day.”

Time and time again, preppers have said it doesn’t take much to get started. Buy a few extra cans and store them somewhere, they said. Then start again. Start by having enough to survive 72 hours at home. Then film for two weeks.

We weren’t talking about million dollar bunkers. The parking lot was filled with modest sedans and older pickup trucks.

Attendees wearing comfortable shoes moved along a dirt road lined with nine tables of vendors in the blazing afternoon sun, browsing the offerings.

Tourniquets, packets of fast-clotting combat gauze and chest seals – items developed for battlefield medics – crowded the tables at Jake Drumm’s booth. The bearded paramedic and “wilderness medicine” supporter from Tennessee said the term “prepper” conjures up bunkers and backyard hoarders.

“The worst thing that ever happened to preppers was the Discovery Channel’s Doomsday Preppers,” he said. Some prefer the term “homesteader”.

Madison Poole, the owner of Bombproof Bushcraft, which sold hatchets ($54 for a leather-wrapped “Viking axe”), said she was deeply concerned about a global famine caused by the war in Ukraine and a historic shortage of fertilizer that has farmers around the world facing declining yields.

“The media don’t talk about fertilizer,” Poole said. “They won’t tell you.”

She said the preparation seems odd to some, but the modern state of relying on grocery stores and drive-thru is the real aberration. She believed the pandemic had shaken people’s trust in government, and the bare shelves offered a glimpse of the razor’s edge on which our overall comfort rests.

“Who do you think will help you when there is famine?” Poole said. “FEMA? »

The most commonly talked about disaster, however, was an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, that could render inoperable every electronic device within range – cars, phones, refrigerators, the entire North American power grid. It could happen via a nuclear weapon exploding high in the atmosphere, the preppers warned, or naturally via a “coronal mass ejection,” essentially a solar flare (a real thing).

Either way, say goodbye to society as you know it, said Bobby Linn of Umatilla, a 70-year-old former lineman who got into prep after reading that a PEM melt the power lines. Under a retractable awning, he wore a camouflage hat as he led a late afternoon class on the post-EMP world.

“If you don’t have chickens,” Linn said, “you better find chickens real quick.”

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