While close friends visiting my home might be allowed a look at my haphazard bug-out bag, I mostly kept quiet about prepping, aware of the embarrassment I was courting. It was, therefore, with a measure of relief that I found myself this month among brethren Preppers who intuitively understood my desire to have at hand a packed supply of power bars or a LifeStraw personal drinking tool. You do meet Preppers in New York who are preparing for extreme events like solar flares or an eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera, but most say their concerns are more immediate, more local: chief among them being terrorist attacks, natural disasters and economic collapse.
“The Earth isn’t going to crash into Planet X and the Mayan thing never happened” is how Mr. Charles put it when I introduced myself at the show-and-tell. “But I’ll tell you this,” he added. “People here definitely used their preps during Sandy.”
Not surprisingly, the storm attracted numerous recruits to his group and joined a list of totemic prepping moments that already included the much-hyped Y2K fiasco, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. I learned that New York Preppers prep for reasons as varied as their anxieties and experience. “It was a pragmatic response to certain things I know,” said Robert Segal, a wine salesman between jobs, who once worked as an electrical technician on a nuclear submarine. “As an engineer, I’m sort of a student of how things fall apart.”
I found this practicality attractive. I liked how Preppers were given to debate (bear spray or baseball bats? Water purification or water filtration?) and how they were versed in esoteric areas of knowledge (fish antibiotics, New York City knife laws). I was especially enamored of the jargon: “GOOD” (Get Out of Dodge) or “TEOTWAWKI” (The End of the World as We Know It). And yet, I must confess, there were moments that gave me pause.