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National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers : The Scariest Thing on TV

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I recently discovered National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers, and I have to say that it is scarier than any episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead. No, we don’t get blood thirsty zombies crawling across the screen, but there is a palpable sense that this kind of life altering event is exactly what these “preppers” are getting ready to face, or maybe even something more grim than imaginable.

I have seen only a few episodes, and they shook me up quite a bit. You get to see these regular people, some of whom you probably work with or know socially, who by night are preparing parts of their homes to be underground bunkers in case of disaster. The prepping involved is extensive and, in most cases, seems carefully thought out and executed. The problem is that NGC’s “experts” then evaluate the preppers, and the results are not always positive.

In all of these episodes I have seen these people are working their butts off to get things right. They stock potable water, tons of food, and all the other necessities. Many of them are armed to the teeth with all sorts of weapons. Despite all the prepping, there always seems to be a flaw in the plan that the experts reveal at the end. Many of the preppers then respond to these experts, and some seem to try to make up for deficiencies in their planning.

I guess the thing that scares me the most about this show is not all the difficulties of planning or even all the expense incurred, but rather that no matter how carefully these folks prepare, there is bound to be something to get in their way. One family planned to stick it out in the bunker over a period of time and then hightail it to a boat to escape to an island. The experts picked at the flaws in this plan that seemed obvious: they had to avoid obstacles on the road to the boat and then had to hope their boat was still there.

All the preparation in the world seems to only help people for a certain time. Whether it is six months or a year, supplies will run out. If there is some kind of “zombie apocalypse” to deal with, it seems that everyone will eventually be forced to do what the characters on The Walking Dead must do – find a way to survive off the land and what has not already been foraged. It would seem that this planning will bring everyone back to square one, so you wonder about what good it is to do it in the first place.

I remember in the great George A. Romero film Dawn of the Dead (1978) one character tells his girlfriend: “We have to survive; someone has to survive!” It is not like I don’t get that attitude, but my fear would be survival at all costs only to be overwhelmed by the post event realities. If only you and your family survive, what kind of life will that be? If you run out of food and water, do you start eating contaminated food and drinking spoiled water? What happens to the children when they grow up and you die?

All of these questions and more run through my head as I watch these episodes. I think the answers are ones that should make all of us feel uneasy. In the old days when the Soviet Union was in an arms race with us, kids were told to cover their heads under their desks in school in case of an nuclear attack. We all know how that scenario would have turned out in a real attack – there would have been a lot of kids found dead under their desks. In this case I think these people feel they need to do something to survive, but when the event is over and they come up out of their bunkers, they might be shaken by what’s left of the world, if there is any world left at all.

If you visit the Doomsday Preppers website, a free preppers’ app is available. I don’t know about you, but even this benign little cartoon scares the heck out of me. Who wants to look at their phone and get a daily reminder of how unprepared they are?

One thing is for certain: this is a show that can be addictive, but it also sets up the premise that it is better to be prepared than not, but in the end there may be not much of a difference for any of us, and that is why I find this show to be the scariest thing on TV.

Photo Credits: ncg.com

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Buzzard101

    The one aspect of survival that has been overlooked or ignored, is that of eating the most abundant food of all. Each other. If push came to shove the notion of eating people would make sense. Cannibalism, scary but so real..

  • Martin

    It does not make sense to prepare for the end of the world or Post apocalyptic living if the world as we know it is gone. However, it make sense to prepare for any interruption of civilized world – before it is restored. It may take months or a year and in that case the preppers are the winners

  • Doomsday Preppers

    Scared? Looks like you might be a prepper Victor. While there are a lot of flaws pointed out for dramatic effect, the vast majority of people would be lightyears ahead of the general populace by virtue of being able to hunker down and eat rations for a few days if the need to. But in order to truly be future proof, redundancy is the key.

  • Fear This Always!

    The author of this article scares me. These doomsday Preppers are minding their own business and are zero threat to anyone. Although a little strange, I don’t recall there being any laws in this or any other country making being odd an illegal act. Let’s imagine for a moment that a mega-disaster actually happens. These Preppers will be high-value targets once the food runs out, so regard them as investments towards your future. Be happy that they are doing all the work and spending their money for your benefit. This presumes that the totaltarian government doesn’t take them out first.

  • Igor

    We’re doomed! No, really folks: we are doomed!

    In the 1950s, after the Urey-Miller experiments showed that life can proceed from a few gases mixed together and shot through with lightning, Enrico Fermi looked at the remarkably dead known universe and said “where are all the people?”

    Well, where are they? It’s a trivial lab experiment to create the amino acids that are required for life as we know it, so how is it that the universe isn’t teaming with life? Everywhere we look is desolate.

    Yet it must be that among the billions of galaxies there are billions of suitable planets (even the need for solar systems is removed by the recent discovery of rogue planets not bound to a star) with self-contained nuclear core energy that could easily produce the requisite conditions.

    Life is cheap. So it must be that it is extensive in the universe. So it must be that life is also self-destructive. It must be that life develops just to the point where it can destroy itself.

    I suppose that is just about where we are now.

    BOOM!

    QED

  • Dr Dreadful

    There’s one problem with your hypothesis, Igor: we humans have arrived at the stage of our development where we’re capable of broadcasting signals into space for others to listen to, and doing so deliberately – and we’re still here.

    Even if other civilizations somewhere out there do tend to destroy themselves, surely in at least some cases they’d announce their presence first. I wouldn’t take the silence of the universe thus far as evidence for us being doomed at our own hand.

    So, then, where is everybody?

    We’re still not entirely sure how life began on this planet, and all Miller and Urey demonstrated was that life could indeed get started spontaneously, along with one possible way it might do that.

    Mark that: one possible way. However it happened, all life on planet Earth originates from that single chemical reaction, billions of years ago. From that primal chain of amino acids arose such ostensibly diverse things as bacteria, dinosaurs, sponges, grasses, giant sequoias and humans.

    But what if, somewhere else in the cosmos, it got started thanks to a completely different bit of chemistry? Why would it be expected to develop along similar lines to the way it developed here? If it didn’t, would we even recognize it as alive if we came across it – and would it recognize us?

    And that’s with the assumption that life must necessarily eventually produce intelligence. I don’t see that that follows. Nor, taking into consideration the immense age and size of the universe, does it follow that two intelligent lifeforms would exist coincidentally that they were in a position to communicate with one another – even via radio at great distances, never mind face to face.

    In conclusion, then, my feeling is that life is rare in the universe and intelligent life is even rarer: which accounts for the silence.

    Of course, if life of some kind, past or present, is found on Mars, Europa, Ganymede, Titan, Enceladus or elsewhere, and if (this is an important “if”) it is determined to have evolved completely independently of life on Earth, we’ll have to rethink. In that case, if the radio silence of the heavens continues, the question will be: Is this everybody, and if so, what’s everybody doing here?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Just because we discovered and use radio and other forms of broadcasting over the ether, that doesn’t mean that other intelligent, spacefaring life forms would do so or even see a need for such.

    It’s been shown in the past few years not only that many animals have more awareness than we ever gave the credit for, but even that insects can have personalities, and phytoplankton are aware enough of nearby threats to move away. The life that is around us is more aware than we know – maybe James Cameron really was on the right track with Avatar.

    That said, given that life and awareness are so persistent here, and given the many hundreds of planets that have been found thus far (even given the limits of our technology), I find it close to impossible that there isn’t other intelligent spacefaring life out there…

    …and while most will IMO be benign, some won’t be. Such is the nature of life.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Just because we discovered and use radio and other forms of broadcasting over the ether, that doesn’t mean that other intelligent, spacefaring life forms would do so or even see a need for such.

    If they’re at all interested in communicating over great distances, then yes, they would have to use radio – unless they discovered quantum entanglement before they discovered the electromagnetic spectrum, which would be pretty remarkable.

  • Jay

    The person who wrote the article said that they are scared of this show and the people on it? Really? I think it’s a comedy! You are a sissy!

  • Don

    I wish I had a bunker. Heck mine would be pimped out like a strip club. I’d have babes dancing on poles underground partying every weekend. The neighbors wouldn’t call the cops because of the music being too loud since I’d be underground. Lol Pretty Cool!

  • http://grigory.com Pigmy712

    Thre are extreme preppers and fools and I think I fall in the middle. Most of the responders here are fools – I am sorry. There is some basic prepping everyone should do. Try to do without water for two days. Cut your power off for 3 days and watch your food spoil. How will you flush your toilet (I dipped water from an indoor hot tub with a coffee can when our water was cut off do to a billing screwup) Reports from hurricane Sandy said people were defecating in the halls at hotels used for emergency shelters but did not explain why – Probabaly had no water to flush. They did have video of a substation blowing up and I suspect that is why – power companies don’t stock spare substations and with the entire US helping they could not get power back on for 8 weeks in one area. No power no water in a high rise building.

    My wife liked to catch rain water for her plants so as a lark I installed a small rainwater catchment system. We live on a hill side and I put three 200 gal tanks under our back deck and installed a pump to take it up hill to the front of the house. Without power I have to carry that water up 6 feet into the house via stairs. But we have emergency drinking water by shear chance. Every drop of water in Texas is pumped using electriciy to get it to our homes. Sewage is pumped too but of course no sewage if you can’t flush.

    I have a standard septic system good for ten years without maintenance for the two of us. Less time if more people use it. Some “green” systems requre an electric pump – BAD.

    People living in high rises are screwed if there is a long blackout. About 40 years ago I arrived at our hotel in St Louis at 11pm just as the power went out for a “rolling blackout” and had the choice of waiting 2 hours or carrying two cranky kids up 11 flights with candles to light the way. We chose to carry the kids. Could not do that today.

    The Morman Church encourages all families to store a years supply of food. This is pretty basic and not hard to do and we are aiming for that. Wish I had my grandmothers talent for gardening. I may get some chickens. Preppers? You bet.

  • me

    I love this show I know whos stuff I’m gonna take at the end of the world these people are stupid they think they have protection because they have a few guns with all my years of military training I could go in and take their home and supplies from them thanks Nat geo

  • Lissaannb

    The author stated the obvious, if a person’s prepping allows him to survive 6 months to a year, what do you think will happen to the non-preppers during that time? Ah, duh, die of hunger, illness, or murder, so at that point it would be safer to move beyond their homestead to renew supplies or to actively hunt and gather. If the preppers survived and the non-preppers didn’t, how many preppers do you think will there be around when the dust settles? Enough to re-populate? Probably.

  • Predator

    I like the idea of surviving on the most abundant food after a disaster..people.
    I also like that Nat Geo provides all these abundant targets with supplies for me to jack after an emergency…I will enslave them and listen to their women and children wailing before me..

  • D Haggerty

    I’m watching Doomsday preppers tonight 1/29/13 and this pathetic american imported a spanish girl from Barcellonia to give her an American life and now he’s trying to turn her into what he thinks is the American dream ( to be prepared for the end of the world)I believe it is the responsibility of the history channel to be responsible to this woman and make her realize that this is not the norm in America and that she should distance herself from this obviously paranoid person that imported her (because he could’nt find an American on his own to share his delutions.The girls name is Nasianna,(my spelling is probably wrong)and she needs to be separated from Brian who is obviously off the spectrum.

  • Chuck

    I am very disappointed in National Geographic’s production of Doomsday Preppers. IMHO they are attempting to make a mockery of people who prepare for natural or man-made disasters. It has been clear that people who don’t have any plan will end up like those in New Orleans or the recent victims of Hurricane Sandy.

    National Geographic should do a better job to show preppers as a learning opportunity. They should be showing techniques for self-sufficient power; how to create clean and drinkable water; how to grow your own food; steps to take in order to secure your home and family.

    People have lived off the land for thousands of years. We are privileged with advancements in technology to make the living very comfortable, yet we mustn’t become complacent and dependent on others for the things we need to live.

  • buttcrackofdoom

    just remember, your GRANDPARENTS were preppers…….and anyone that preceeded them…..it’s only been the last TWO generations that people have gotten hoodwinked into the just-in-time delivery system….what could POSSIBLY go wrong?