A husband and wife who have a cabin on 100 acres of secluded land in Park County have weaned their property from the electric grid, acquired a three-year food supply and taken other measures to become self-sufficient.
While there’s little threat of the earthquake and tsumani that rocked Japan last month in landlocked Colorado, other epic crises on the home front are possible: A flood or fire. A terrorist attack. A nuclear weapons launch. World War III. Or an apocalyptic-type scenario.
An increasing number of people say they are getting ready.
“More people are getting into the survivalist mode. I’ve been in business 30 years, and I’ve never sold so many assault rifles as now. The last year was the best we’ve ever had,” said Mel Bernstein, a Class III weapons dealer and owner of Dragon Man’s shooting range east of Colorado Springs.
Israeli gas masks, helmets and sand bags also have been selling well, he said.
“People are putting stuff away in case something big happens,” he said. “I think it’s superstition, but it’s been good for business.”
Interest in the survivalist movement has been heightened, many say, by global turmoil.
The ongoing strife in the Middle East, the lingering possibility that the Obama administration will enact stricter gun laws and the sustained economic downturn, coupled with political unrest in Libya and Japan’s nuclear catastrophe, have made people uneasy.
In addition, doomsday prophesies by Nostradamus and the Mayans pinpointing 2012 are distressing for some. There’s also a group of Christians who say they’ve determined that the end of the world will begin on May 21.
“People are afraid, and they want to be able to protect their families,” Bernstein said.
Y2K — the dawning of the third millennium — brought forth a fury of survivalist instincts, as many believed the nation’s network of electric connections and computer systems would crash.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, raised concern among even the complacent.
But this time in history feels more urgent, say those who identify themselves as “preppers” — people preparing to have all they need to sustain a catastrophe.
“There’s a distinct possibility that some other country could wipe out our electronics and computers, and the U.S. infrastructure is not ready — it would take six months to rebuild a transformer,” said Bob, a retired engineer who said he designed airplanes, power plants and aqueducts for the government.
He asked that his last name not be used because he shares a philosophy common among preppers: the desire for anonymity. Not everyone understands why they’re doing what they’re doing, Bob said, and there’s the possibility of others looting their stockpiles.
“Preppers will give someone a pound of rice and a bowl of soup, but we’ll defend ourselves against people who are going to take everything we have,” he said. “We’re doing this to make sure that we can live the way we’ve been living and we’re not going to be out there scrounging or stealing food from others.”
Bob, who owns the cabin in Park County, said he used to be, as he says, “at peace” with the American government, but now, he said he is distrustful.
“It’s like the government and law enforcement are bullies. They won’t take care of us.
The dollar will crash, and the average American only has enough groceries in their house for three to five days. When it all goes to heck, what’s going to happen?” he said.
While they say they’re not among those on the fringes, preppers are doing more than just having a few extra provisions on hand.
“I believe in preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” said a 69-year-old Black Forest resident who said she goes by the name Annie Oakley, a legendary 19th century American sharpshooter who performed in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. She declined to provide her real name because, she said, she too is fearful of being misunderstood and robbed.
“I was never a doomsday person. But with the way our society, our economy, our water problems, our dependency on oil are going, getting back to the basics makes a lot of sense,” she said.
She said she has spent about $16,000 so far on prepping. After watching futurists discuss the world’s overpopulation, declining financial situation, decreasing fossil fuels supply and other problems on a television program about three months ago, she said she got busy.
She bought a geodesic dome to grow vegetables, a solar generator to help get off the grid and a torpedo bucket to draw water from her well if the electric pump isn’t functioning. She also began storing nonperishable food.
Chickens, goats, composting, grain grinders and a full-blown solar or wind power system are next. She also plans to acquire weapons for protection.
“I’m looking at the worst-case scenario to defend my resources. The end goal is to have food and clean water, stay warm and be self-sufficient,” she said. Before retirement, she worked in the low-income housing division of a city in Southern California.
“A lot of people — and it’s just human nature — think ‘Oh, it’ll never happen.’ Or, ‘Someone will take care of us.’ Look what happened during (Hurricane) Katrina. You’re going to be on your own.”
But preppers want to band together. Bob has amassed 22 families who are interested in storing food and other essentials on his spacious mountain compound and congregate there in an emergency.
“We’re ready, and we’re looking for other like-minded people. So we’re connecting and networking with people who are into pooling their talents,” he said.
The woman who goes by the name Annie Oakley also is hooking up with fellow preppers via the Internet and in her neighborhood.
“It’s like a support group. You share ideas, and there’s strength in numbers,” she said.
“It’s hard to envision life without all the conveniences. But we can survive if we’re ready. It’s like the Boy Scouts say: Be prepared.”
Bernstein, too, has heard of small survivalist-type groups forming, including the Yoder families who are building a sand bunker and studied a simulated machine-gun bunker Bernstein has on display in a military museum on his property.
One man in the group visits Bernstein every week to buy 1,000 to 2,000 rounds of bullets, Bernstein said. The man declined to be interviewed.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office offers Citizen Emergency Response Training classes, which teach residents to be self-sufficient during the first 72 hours following any type of natural or man-made disaster. For more information, call the Emergency Services Division, 575-8400.
Local preppers connect here.