MS. REBECCA SHEIR
So Konstanza Morning Star is all about creating your own future, right? Well, the people we'll meet next are all about preparing for it. They call themselves preppers. Their mission? To be fully prepared for all types of potential, large-scale disasters. The prepper movement is picking up speed across the U.S. And as Jonathan Wilson found out, we have a thriving community of preppers right here in our region.
MR. JONATHAN WILSON
Diehard fans of the National Geographic Channel will recognize that ominous introduction from the reality show "Doomsday Preppers."
MR. JONATHAN WILSON
As you might have guessed from all those snazzy sound effects, the show leans toward the sensational, focusing on people who, for instance, hoard surgical masks in preparation for a global pandemic or have mastered the art of making fertilizer out of their own fecal matter to sustain their food crops.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1
The future of the country's going to depend on people like us.
But the truth is that there are plenty of preppers who aren't quite so extreme or at least don't have the time to be. Many are holding down regular five-day-a-week jobs. David Christian, the man behind the recently founded Meetup group, Loudoun County Preppers, is a good example. He works in downtown D.C. as an office support manager at a big law firm. He takes the Metro to work like hundreds of thousands of other area residents. And he says prepping isn't all about the end of the world, it's just making sure your family is as safe as it can be.
MR. DAVID CHRISTIAN
I think sometimes it's made fun of and it's very much misunderstood because those shows are trying to pick out those individuals that are on the extreme and really magnify it.
Christian is powerfully built. He played football at Fairfax County's Robinson High School back in the 1980s. And he grew up hunting and fishing and simply knowing how to fend for himself. He and his brothers were all Eagle Scouts. But he says it was watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the news that really turned him into a prepper.
Seeing people utterly unprepared for the devastation that happened, as well as waiting on the government, be it federal, state, local, to help them, and I just kept thinking to myself, if you would have been better prepared you wouldn't be out there. You would be fine. You'd have your own water, food, heat and methods to cook, communication, fuel. If you were prepared, you wouldn't be in the situation you are in now.
I met Christian in his office where he had recently received a shipment of prepping supplies.
I get a lot of stuff here. You know, there's different…
He flips open a large cardboard box filled with five-pound canisters.
There. What's that? That's dried whole egg powder. You think, well, what am I going to do with that? Well, there's a lot of different things you can do with it. You can make egg drop soup. You can use that as powdered eggs for your mix to make, you know, pancakes. And you want dried goods because they're in Mylar vacuum-packed bags. Will, again, last 12, 15, 20 years if kept in proper condition.
No one wants to be stuck in the aftermath of a hurricane or a terrorist attack without the basics we need to live. But where FEMA recommends that Americans consider having an emergency food supply that would last two weeks, most of us only have enough to last a few days.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1
When the pandemic comes those who are prepared will survive. Those who do not prepare will die.
Everyone has varying levels of time and money to put into disaster preparation, but there's also something else going on. Catherine Tinsley teaches at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and has done extensive research on how people and organizations respond to disasters. She describes preppers as amped-up uncertainty reducers.
MS. CATHERINE TINSLEY
And they're willing to pay a price in order to reduce that uncertainty, which is a natural human tendency.
Tinsley's research with her colleague Robin Dillon-Merrill also delves into how people respond to near-misses. She says the data help explain why diehard preppers are likely to always be outnumbered by the rest of us. When we get lucky and potential disaster passes us by, most people get even more complacent.
For example, we weren't hit by super storm Sandy, right? We had all of this preparation, we had all these worries and stuff like that, but it was a near miss for us because it turned and went north. Even though we know rationally that that was a random draw from a distribution of events and that it was just luck, that it wasn't that outcome, it turns out that we discount that luck.
Tinsley says that means a bunch of near misses, such as super storm Sandy, could actually make residents less and less likely to take proper precautions to protect against future storms. So even if you're not a prepper, Tinsley says it's good to try and fight the slide toward complacency in the face of potential disaster. Because who knows, the next one could be the big one.
We're going to see rising sea levels, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis bouncing off coasts back and forth, entire countries might be underwater.
Then again, you could just hope we get lucky one more time. I'm Jonathan Wilson.
Time for a break, but when we get back we'll explore the changing future of D.C.'s smallest quadrant.
MS. CARA SHOCKLEY
The way to keep it going is to have development. Are we going to lose things? Yes. But without the retail coming in the neighborhood's going to die.
And we'll hear from local immigrants working to secure a brighter future for those they left behind.
K. ADVERTUS KARPEH
Liberia is my mother country and America is my father country, if I may put it that way. But the mother you are closely drawn to the affection of your mother, the love of your mother. So mother Liberia is what draws us to contribute to the development of our own homeland.
That and more in a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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