WEST MICHIGAN, Mich- They call themselves ‘Preppers’ and they’re preparing for anything and everything. From natural disasters and harsh Michigan winters to the end of the world.
This mostly underground network of people living in West Michigan, who proudly identify themselves as ‘Preppers’ is growing. They’re committed, but not always willing to share their survival knowledge.
Numerous ‘Preppers’ Fox 17 reached out to turned down or backed out of interviews because they fear revealing information could put their preparing at risk.
One West Michigan family agreed to allow Fox 17 into their secret world.
Don, a 54-carpenter and father of six is a self-proclaimed ‘Prepper’.
“Some people just don’t want to hear it because everyone thinks everything is all good, I think it’s all good but I want to know if something does happen, we’re okay,” said Don, who did not want to be fully identified.
He did give Fox 17 exclusive access into his bunker known to his wife and children as ‘The Store’.
‘Prepping’ has been around for decades, but the term went mainstream after being the focus of the popular National Geographic Channel reality television show ‘Doomsday Preppers’.
Don admits he loves the show, although not all ‘Preppers’ do. He says it can be extreme. In reality, he says preparing is less drama, but plenty of dedication.
He says he prepares to protect his family.
“Those kids upstairs, that’s why,” he explains.
Inside his bunker, he’s stockpiled enough food for loved ones to live off of for at least a year. It includes what seems to be an endless supply of basics. Frozen water, bottled water, and rows of water liters.
On the shelves, there are organized rows of canned goods from tuna and fruit, to noodles, flour and sugar.
“So what I do is put this stuff in quarantined, this is five pounds of rice, so it is vacuum-sealed and nothing is getting in there so it is going to last forever and we try to keep it in coolers or totes,” he explains holding multiple vacuum-sealed rice packs.
The basement bunker also holds alcohol, toiletries, toilet paper, medicine, garden seeds, walkie talkies, gas masks, and plenty of guns and ammunition.
“There’s probably about 7 to 8,000 rounds, mostly I’ve got about 5,000 rounds for my .22.”
Don is organized and full of information. He buys everything on sale and has already invested thousands. So what is he preparing for?
“The most right now is probably that planetary alignment thing that’s coming up, I don’t know how it is going to effect us,” he says.
While Don prepares a lot for of the weather, he says he is worried about the big picture. He is concerned about a theory that the plants will align on December 21st 2012 and throw off the Earth’s balance. Something conspiracy theorists have been looking at for ages referencing the predictions of the ancient Mayan people.
Theories aside, recent disasters like Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast and Michigan’s winters are enough for him to stay committed to prepping.
“Yes, people think we are crazy, they do, but they are looking at life differently. I look at life I’d rather be proactive than reactive,”said Don.
He’s not the only one preparing.
There seems to be a growing number of ‘Preppers’ in West Michigan. Mostly secretly stockpiling and planning. Many connect on online message boards or in groups.
“A lot of people are concerned about the economy is a big one, jobs overseas, too much government power, it’s a whole slew of things,” explains business owner Bill Charon.
Whatever the reason, there are enough ‘Preppers’ out there that he decided to open a military surplus store in 2012 in Ionia that is appropriately titled ‘Preppers Paradise’.
There, you will find everything from MRE’s or Military Meals Ready to Eat to zombie practice shooting targets.
“People come in and enjoy everything and they keep asking for more things,” said Charon, who has a large ‘Prepper’ clientele.
There’s also the new ‘Prepper’. Fox 17 met one of them in Lansing. He is only 21, but already has a place picked out away from home to “bug out” in the face of emergency.
“It’s better to have the stuff and not need it, than need it and not have it,” he said, reminding everyone that ‘Preppers’ aren’t supposed to share their information.
“Basically don’t reveal anything about yourself because then anybody can find you if they know where you are and it only takes one person and one bullet to take out you and take your stuff.”
He and Don agreed to share their knowledge to educate others in hopes that they will also get prepared.
“I want everyone to be okay, get prepared not everyone has to have the store, but when they tuck their kids into bed at night they go we’re okay,” said Don.
The Red Cross and FEMA recommend every family should have at least enough food and water to survive on for two weeks. For tips and recommendations, click here.