Preparing for Disaster

August 2, 2013 • Volume 23, Issue 28
Are “preppers” overstating the risk of catastrophe?
By Peter Katel


Floodwaters cover New Orleans, La. (AFP/Getty Images/Robert Sullivan)
Floodwaters cover New Orleans, La., on Sept. 6, 2005, eight days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region. A series of natural and human-caused disasters in recent years, along with growing concern about the fragility of the power grid, has prompted so-called “preppers” to prepare for future catastrophes. (AFP/Getty Images/Robert Sullivan)

People getting ready for cataclysmic disasters by stockpiling food, water and, in many cases, guns are easy to dismiss as alarmists. But a stream of natural and human-created disasters has made so-called “preppers” seem less eccentric and more sensible. Even the Red Cross and government agencies recommend assembling emergency supplies and planning for disaster. Some preppers go several steps beyond — building rural retreats, for example, where they would hole up if society fell apart. To the more alarmed segment of the movement, a collapse of modern civilization is not so much a possibility as a probability. Overall, though, even the “prepper” label signifies a more mainstream, less politicized approach than the “survivalism” of the late 20th century. Meanwhile, politicians and scientists share some preppers' fears about the vulnerability of the national power grid and other vital services.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Disasters and Preparedness
Sep. 04, 2020  Pandemic Preparedness
Jan. 12, 2018  Disaster Readiness
Sep. 22, 2017  Climate Change and National Security
Aug. 02, 2013  Preparing for Disaster
Jun. 25, 2010  Offshore Drilling
Feb. 03, 2006  Rebuilding New Orleans
Nov. 18, 2005  Disaster Preparedness Updated
Dec. 16, 1994  Earthquake Research
Oct. 15, 1993  Disaster Response
Jul. 15, 1988  Slow Progress in Earthquake Prediction
Apr. 12, 1985  Tornadoes
Jul. 16, 1976  Earthquake Forecasting
Mar. 19, 1969  Earthquakes: Causes and Consequences
Aug. 22, 1962  Government Stockpiling
Jan. 18, 1956  Disaster Insurance
Mar. 06, 1952  Mobilization for a Prolonged Emergency
Jul. 01, 1950  Stand-By Laws for War
Jan. 09, 1928  Economic Effects of the Mississippi Flood
May 19, 1927  Mississippi River Flood Relief and Control
Civil Service
Deficit, Federal Debt, and Balanced Budget
Electric Power
Medical Profession and Personnel
Unemployment and Employment Programs