Content Notes: Posts about prepping on this blog include discussion of possible emergencies, including both natural disasters and human created ones. I strive to write gently on these things and not use unnecessarily frightening imagery or descriptions.
There is a strong association in our culture between prepping, or the process of preparing for emergencies, and right wing ideologies. There are many reasons for this, including distrust of the government, a tendency towards individualism, and toxic masculinity. However, there are good reasons for progressives to take preparation seriously and a surprisingly large number of us are doing so. Kitty Stryker has written about her prepping and websites like The Prepared are gearing their information towards a broader audience than just right wing extremists.
Another serious barrier to prepping among the general population is the idea that one has to spend a huge amount of time and money to do it. I see prepping as harm reduction (okay, admittedly I see many things as harm reduction) and really any amount of preparing for an emergency is worth doing. It may not be feasible for most people to build and fully stock a bomb shelter, but it is almost always worthwhile to make sure you have plans for how to deal with the most likely emergencies in your area.
A large part of my philosophy of prepping is that it is better to do something than nothing. If the idea of preparing for an apocalypse is too overwhelming for you (it certainly is for me) that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense to prepare for a power outage. If having two weeks of food and water in your home is outside of your financial or space capabilities, see if having three days worth might work for you. In general, any move you make towards being more prepared, no matter how small or how slow, is better than no progress at all.
In the past few years, as I’ve been connected with people all over the country and the world through social media, I have seen many friends go through weather or other emergencies. Watching the news is all it takes to see people experiencing hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, ice storms, power outages, and other emergencies. I choose to prepare not for end of the world scenarios (also sometimes called “Shit Hits The Fan” or SHTF situations), but instead for these much more common and likely emergencies.
I also focus on the emergencies most likely to happen in my geographic location. A ton of prepping advice out there is focused on bushcraft and outdoor survival and I love learning about that stuff since it’s what got me interested in the first place. However, I live and work in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the country. The odds of me ending up unexpectedly hiking long distances through the woods is pretty low. On the other hand, there’s a very good chance that I will need to hunker down through a major blizzard once every few years, and a reasonable chance I’ll need to walk home across the city in a situation that shuts down public transportation, such as the big power outage that impacted the northeastern US and Canada in 2003. Those are the kinds of situations I want to be well prepared for before I start worrying about unlikely things like alien invasions or nuclear war.
Of course, your area will have different risks than mine. My friends who live in earthquake or hurricane prone areas will have different prepping needs than me. A key to good prepping is to think about what the most likely risks are and to prepare for those first. If you’re in an earthquake zone prepare for earthquakes. If your town floods fairly often prepare for floods. This may seem obvious, but it’s shocking how many people prepare for nuclear winter when a forest fire is much more likely to threaten them.
It’s also good to note that knowledge and skills are at least as important as having stuff. A huge complicated medical kit isn’t useful without knowledge of first aid and knowing the layout of my city and how to get home on foot would be essential in a no-transportation situation. Learning skills and gaining knowledge is time consuming, but often much less expensive than buying things in the age of YouTube tutorials. Plus, many skills are useful in every day life or small-scale emergencies as well as big ones. First aid training can prepare you to be helpful in emergencies of any size, from a broken arm at the park through to a massive terrorist attack.
One of the biggest differences between my progressive philosophy of prepping and most of what I see in the right-wing advice is a desire to share with community. I believe that the more people who are prepared for emergencies the safer we all are. If my neighbors do half as much preparing as me because I encouraged them to store some batteries, food, and water, we’re far better off than if they did nothing because I avoided discussing it with them. I have considered the risks and benefits, both to me and those around me, of being secretive. I’ve decided that being open about my decision to prepare is worth the risk because I care about my community (both locally and globally) and I want those around me and those I care about at a distance to consider what they can do as well. I do not believe, as many right wing preppers do, that this will lead to people around me choosing not to prepare and instead just killing me for my things at the first sign of danger. Instead I think that openness will lead to more people thinking about what they can do and leading us towards safer, more prepared communities.