UK ‘preppers’ always ready for Armageddon were dismissed as paranoid – then Covid struck
Deadly pandemics, fuel shortages and the breakdown of vital supply chains were once the subject of disaster movies.
But, as we get used to buying rolls of toilet paper and gasoline in panic after Covid and Brexit, some savvy Britons were ready years before.
Preppers – those who “prepare” for natural disasters and other emergencies by learning survival skills and stocking up on food and equipment – have long been viewed as paranoid extremists.
For the most part, it conjures up images of isolated, heavily armed groups such as Fortitude Ranch, deep in the woods of West Virginia, USA, ready to retreat to their bunkers and push back anyone who approaches. .
But the movement – in a much smaller form – has also grown quietly in the UK.
What do you think of “preppers”? Give your opinion in the comments section
Survival psychologist Dr Sarita Robinson, 46, began to prepare after moving from Lancashire to the San Andreas Fault earthquake zone in California in the early 2000s to work on her doctorate.
She says, “I was writing about earthquake survivors and preppers. What became clear was that those who prepared were better able to survive.
“I realized I lived in a pretty dangerous area and maybe I should have an earthquake survival kit.”
AFP via Getty Images)
The habit stuck with her. Now a teacher at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, she always keeps a ‘carry-on bag’ in her car, along with such things as waterproof clothing and first aid equipment.
Her preparation served her well when Covid hit. Dr Robinson says, “I was talking to my boss as we were dropping out of college.
“He said to me: ‘Sarita, we used to laugh at you before – but we don’t laugh anymore …'”
When the panic buying started, Dr Robinson didn’t need to buy food for three months, instead building on the stores she already had.
She adds: “For a generation, we have had the absolute guarantee that basic services will continue despite everything. There’s this slow, dawning realization that things can go wrong very quickly.
“People would say, ‘So you were buying everything,’ and I would say, ‘No, I bought it a year ago when there was no problem!’ “
Prepper Justin Jones saw the Panic Buy as an opportunity to restart the survival business he closed in 2018.
Justin, 50, says: “What started me was the toilet paper brawls at Tesco. Then they started the food rationing, where you could only have three packs of pasta per customer. “
When he started selling survival gear like crossbows and water filters at his UK prep store 18 months ago, orders poured in – and have grown tenfold since. One of his bestsellers is a six month food kit priced at £ 740.95.
AFP via Getty Images)
He says: “Years ago people laughed at preppers in the UK. Now they say, “Actually, let’s go a little bit just in case,” you know? “
Lincoln Miles, 28, has seen a similar increase in his Preppers Shop UK based in Newquay, Cornwall.
It has grown from one member to 12 to help meet the demand for military-grade gas masks and prepackaged “bug out bags” containing knives, bowls and hammocks.
AFP via Getty Images)
Miles says, “If someone had a year of food, you’d be like, ‘What a nutcase. It has always been the perception that the preparers were on the outskirts of normalcy. It has definitely changed. I think people realize that everyone has a little bit of
prepper in them.
Michael ‘Roach’ Sanderson, 64, believes the idea behind the prep has been misunderstood. In 17 years in the military and 20 as a paramedic, he saw how disasters can happen to anyone at any time.
He says, “People talk about Armageddon and the end of the world and pass off the Preppers as a religious cult. It’s not like that.
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“These are ordinary people who have an eye and an ear for what is going on.”
Michael’s YouTube channel called “armoredcockroach” covers skills like making a splint for a broken bone or cooking a hot meal without gas or electricity.
He also shows off his range of equipment – including his “escape vehicle” – a Land Rover that contains everything it would need to survive in the wild.
When the pandemic first struck, Michael, his wife and two children were living on a three-month supply of dehydrated foods.
He said, “We closed the door to the world because we had everything we needed. That’s it.”
Dr Michael Mills, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Kent, has been studying preparation for the past decade.
He says: “There has always been a small subculture in the UK, but it started to gain popularity around the time of Brexit.
“While in the United States it is predominantly on the right, British preparation is more rooted in liberal or centrist politics.”
Dr Mills cites a Facebook group with 9,500 members, but says most people are “uncomfortable” with the idea of preppers.
He adds: “We think a bit like them, but we want to keep them at a distance. Otherwise, it means facing issues that we’d rather not admit are as serious as they might seem.
5 essential items to keep in your stock
– Tips from Sharyn McInally-Johnston of Prepper’s Paradise Survival Shop
1. First aid kit: A good stock of your usual medications, as well as essentials such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin, antihistamines and dehydration powders, is a good start.
2. Torch: During a storm or disaster, power outages are common and even familiar spaces can become dangerous.
3. Water: It is essential to have a water carrier that can hold enough water for your household to drink, cook, wash and clean.
4. Long-lasting food: Options include regular, dehydrated, or freeze-dried canned and pantry foods.
5. Off-grid charger or power bank: Power banks, solar charges, and car chargers are great for running your smartphone.