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Interview with a Prepper: Island in Alaska


This interviewee wished to remain anonymous.

How long have you been prepping?

A little over 2 years

Was there a specific event or reason that lead you to realize that you should begin prepping?

I live on an island in Alaska. We are reliant on barges making the weekly trips with containers that restock the 3 major grocery stores we have here. We are also reliant on the airplanes to bring us mail and other supplies like medicine. Now, do not get the wrong idea! We are just like any other small town with the services that pretty much anywhere else has. The thing is, you cannot drive off the island. Even the airport is on another island and you have to take a little ferry across the bay to get there.

That being said, there is only a 10 day stock of supplies on the island at any given time (roughly). Being in a rural and isolated setting, we tend to view the ‘lower 48’ like a TV show (in that we are rather removed from it) and lately, that show has been getting really scary. I have been paying more attention to what is going on over the last few years and while I have always had back stock (buy when on sale in bulk!) to get through the thin times, I decided it just was not enough. If those barges stopped coming for 2 weeks, this town and whole area would be in a bad way.

What really amped up my plans was a situation at our local Wal-Mart. Our Wal-Mart is not what most people are used to. They do not have a fully-fledged grocery section; in fact our Wal-Mart could likely fit in the parking lot of your average size store in the lower 48. A container did not make the barge that had their restock of toilet paper. According to a friend, the shelves were about 40% full on freight day. When it was realized that the TP didn’t make it, the employees started buying it. Then they told their friends. The next day they were completely out; down to the cheapest brand and up to the most expensive brand. Soon, the other stores’ shelves were pretty bare! It took 3 weeks for Wal-Mart to get back to its regular stock levels. My friend also told me that sales on baby wipes went through the roof that week.

This is just toilet paper!! Yeah sure it is nice to have but you can use a washcloth if you need to. What about the big stuff like food, medicine, etc? It was this event that really pushed me into being more prepared and self-sufficient. The above situation is mild compared to a complete shutdown of supplies for even 2 weeks.

Are you located in an Urban or country setting? Are you planning on bugging out or bugging in?

I live in a rural setting. Some would say country I guess. There are roughly 14k people on the island with smaller communities on other islands.

We plan to bug in but also have backup plans to bug out to another island. Always, ALWAYS have a backup plan. We are avid campers so if we had to ‘rough it’ it wouldn’t be too rough. The area we live in has an abundance of fish and foliage that can supplement our stores. We also have a couple of supply caches on this island and will have 2 more set in place off island as well. It rains a LOT here so fresh water is not really an issue unless of course there is something nuclear or poison in which case we have backups.

How did prepping change your lifestyle?

Prepping has changed my lifestyle in many ways. First of all, I actually eat healthier. Not because I am a health freak but because raw goods are cheaper overall and they can be canned, dehydrated, etc. In essence, prepping has turned me into my great grandmother. Back then, it wasn’t called prepping, it was called living self-sufficiently; household garden, preserving your food, etc. I am gradually working into this lifestyle. We have our stocks that would get us through a year with supplements from the forest but it is now my goal to open my pantry and see clear jars with food I grew inside them—all bright and colorful.

I also bought my first gun. I shoot more often now and we are looking into reloading to save money and also be more self-sufficient. Growing up in Alaska, guns are no ‘big deal,’ in fact they are part of normal life. Going hiking in back country? Bring a gun in case of bears because bear spray is pretty useless. Fishing halibut? When you pull up a 125 pound fish that could tear your 26 ft cabin cruiser to bits flapping around in the back, you bring a gun. Hunting is part of how we live here. You learn as a child to respect guns and most are taught how to use them properly at a young age.

The recent gun legislation that is being forced through Congress affirmed my decision to purchase a firearm. 6 months ago when I bought it I had the thought of, “Well, I better exercise my right to bear arms now before they take it away from me!” Sadly, it seems that is a real possibility though Alaska is fighting back! A new state law is just about passed that makes it a felony for any government official who tries to confiscate law abiding citizens’ weapons in the state. Furthermore, there was a recent article where the state legislature voted and passed on sending a letter to all “major gun and firearm accessory manufacturer in America telling them that Alaska is open for business, encouraging them to relocate here in light of the Lower 48s proliferation of new restrictive gun laws.” (http://www.housemajority.org/2013/04/10/legislature-to-gun-makers-come-on-up-were-open/)

But I digress.

So in the last 2 years I now garden, compost, both jar and dehydrate food (which is surprisingly easy), vacuum seal foods and other items more, work on my aim with several different firearms, and am working harder than ever to get completely out of debt and buy some property. So many people say they would do what I am if they owned their own property. I call shenanigans! I am learning all of these skills and lessons NOW so that when I do have my own property, I can dive in and not have to learn the basics. I will already know how to make cheese, successfully garden and harvest, jar, dehydrate and store food, etc. Renting an apartment is absolutely no excuse.

Do you have a bunker or underground shelter?

We do not have a bunker or underground shelter. There are so many caves around these islands that it is not practical. Also, there is not much top soil here—it is mostly hard bedrock and it rains so much that anything underground would simply fill up with water, starting with the stairs going down.

In a SHTF situation do you plan on working with a group or independently?

This is a question I have struggled with many times. I would have to say a group. Humans are community minded mammals. We have a better chance to succeed and maybe even thrive as a group than we do alone. That being said, how many there would be in the group is another matter. It would greatly depend on what the “Shit” was that hit that fan. Overall though, a group of trusted people will increase success rates. There are a few close people who know we are well prepared (well, at least better than most!) but not every-one knows every-thing. Only my partner and I know the full extent to which we have gone.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you made that beginner preppers should avoid?

Hands down, the biggest mistake is going out and buying a ton of stuff that you will never likely use, even in a SHTF situation. Don’t be a sheep, research and make a plan before you buy anything.

Are you married? If so please have your spouse answer this next question
What was your reaction when your spouse stated that they wanted to start prepping? Do you support his/her decision? How do you participate?

I agreed with her desire to be more self sufficient. There is so much chaos out there that eventually something has to give. So it is good to be prepared. We are not over-the-top Doomsday Prepper types you see on TV. We are just your average Americans who are making sure they have the best chance of being able to take care of themselves if TSHTF.

Do you have children? How do they feel about your preps? Do they participate? If so how? If they were hesitant at first how did you get them to come on-board?

No children. Just dogs and they have been prepped for as well.

Do you tell your friends and family that you are a ‘prepper’? How do they usually react?

I used to tell people about my preps and the responses were usually “like on TV?” I got sick of answering such stupid questions and honestly, if the SHTF, I do not want them running to me thinking I have a warehouse of goods to feed their kids.

So now I simply say that I am getting back to my roots by growing and preserving my own food and making sure that we have enough to get through the thin times for a couple of weeks.

What if nothing happens? Would you consider all your prepping a waste of time and money?

I would absolutely NOT consider it a waste of time and money. We are reasonable and logical about the whole process. What we are doing is learning the skills needed to make it and thrive. It is part of our everyday in that something is either planted, harvested, read about, or tested that furthers our goals. What good is reading about making a shelter or how to use a compass if you don’t actually TRY IT. Chances are you won’t have that handy book in the aftermath and will need to rely on memory. If you only read about it, you WILL forget details and that can cost you.

What advice would you give a newbie prepper?

I am a college student working on two degrees and as such, research just about everything. This is what kept me from buying a bunch of junk I don’t really need. What people need to realize is there are “Doomsday Preppers” you see on TV, and there is a HUGE market emerging to cater to the sheep who just want to buy something off the shelf and then consider themselves “prepped.” Then there are the more reasonable, down to earth prepper groups. They understand 75% of prepping isn’t what items you have so much as what you KNOW. Your skills. Do you know how to grow your own food? It isn’t just throwing some seeds in the ground and watering now and then. It is a skill, and it could be argued it is an art. How about making a shelter that will last longer than 3 nights? Do you know how to notch poles together? Can you dress game? What foods grow naturally in your area?

The best advice I could give people is to READ. Take notes, formulate a plan. Ask yourself some questions and really look at how you live. Start asking yourself what if? It can be overwhelming at first and it is important for you to pace yourself. Start small. Consider your lifestyle and what you eat in a week (or family). Consider the most basic of SHTF situations—power is out for a week. Can you handle it? Once you have that scenario figured out, move on to other ones. Be reasonable, be logical. Are you in an area prone to earthquakes or floods? Tackle those scenarios next. Do NOT let yourself get freaked out about the myriad potential catastrophes. If you have a little panic moment, hey guess what—you’re human and we have imaginations. To get over it, focus on the smaller tasks that will build on the larger whole. Little by little you will get there.

There is so much information out there to be read and filtering out the rubbish can be difficult. If you know someone who preps, or lives a more self-sufficient lifestyle go talk to them! They are a wealth of information—real answers for the everyday Joe. The answers are there, you just need to ask the question!

What is one item that you believe most other preppers overlook?

It is important that we as preppers do not overlook or fail to consider that WTSHTF, society may not ever go back to the way it was. Worst case scenario is a global event that essentially leaves people to fend for themselves as the majority of government (and/or population) is at such a level as we are thrust into the dark ages again. Getting through the initial catastrophe is important, certainly. At some point however, live must move forward and simply surviving is not enough. It is not such a jump to add a few things or plans for THRIVING as well.

Is there anything else you want to share with everyone?
Prepping is planning for the future. Do not let it overtake you and keep you from living in the NOW.

I want to thank this interviewee, who wishes to remain anonymous for telling their story and providing some excellent advice!

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