Small Wars Journal

The Real Doomsday Preppers

Sun, 08/25/2013 - 7:11am

The Real Doomsday Preppers

John C. Hale

“On the 10th of August 2013, terrorists detonated an improvised nuclear bomb in the United States.” This is not an episode of Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic; this is one of the National Planning Scenarios, developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It is also the opening message for a large exercise conducted in Indiana called Vibrant Response.  This exercise is conducted annually by local, state and federal responders to respond to Chemical, Biological or Nuclear events. The exercise focuses on the first 96 hours after an incident. US Army NORTH (ARNORTH) supports this exercise and provides support to federal, state and local responders. It also plans how to assist the population of the affected area following any natural disaster or incident, that states require additional resources.

ARNORTH is under the command of Northern Command. It is the land force that responds to disaster, when local, or state capabilities are exceeded. ARNORTH provided logistics, and general purpose forces that meet requirements the State or local government cannot meet. In Hurricane Sandy, ARNORTH resourced and provided command and control of the many units that pumped water out of the tunnels and other below sea level areas affected. This support also included inspecting food stocks, distributing fuel and providing medical treatment for those in need. The purpose of the command is to mitigate any human suffering in the event of natural disaster, and never be late to need to the American population. ARNORTH does this through coordinating with all Federal and State partners before an incident happens. This allows the command to anticipate the need, and respond rapidly. Both ARNORTH and States have come a long way since Hurricane Katrina, especially in our coordination before disaster strikes. Despite our state and federal coordination, many Americans are also planning and preparing for these same incidents.

Preparing for a disaster, whether it is a hurricane, flood, power blackout, or nuclear event is not just a job for FEMA. Communities and governments at all levels develop plans for how to respond and cope with these events. These plans become the basis for restoring normalcy for the people in the affected areas. What many people may dismiss as “Preppers,” are our own elected governments and institutions. FEMA was blasted a few years ago for posting a Zombie Preparation Guide on their web site. The guide was a tongue in cheek attempt to garner publicity from the public to do some level of preparation for a natural disaster. The “Zombie guide” was the identical guide for Hurricane preparedness. Every Year, the month of September is National Emergency Preparedness Month.

FEMA’s attempt to get the average citizen to prepare for unexpected events is a common sense approach. Studies conducted by FEMA, show the average urban household has 3 days of food and essential items. Should there be a natural disaster interrupting or affecting a large urban population (Hurricane Katrina), citizens will quickly run out of food and water. By every household having an emergency preparedness kit, it reduces the burden on FEMA and State governments in those first critical days. It also should also give households peace of mind that they will not be without essential items in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

Household emergency kits and checklists come from many sources. FEMA and all States have these emergency planning guides. The guides are far from the TV Show Doomsday Preppers, but share many of the same common items:

  • Non-perishable food
  • Water (one gallon per person per day)
  • Cash (remember that ATMs may be unavailable)
  • First-aid kit
  • Prescription medications and copies of prescriptions
  • Special medical items, such as eyeglasses and hearing aids
  • Toilet paper and other personal hygiene products
  • Photo identification
  • Copies of important documents and records, information to process insurance claims. Maintain in a waterproof container
  • Battery-operated radio, flashlight, batteries, NOAA weather radio
  • Road maps
  • List of phone numbers of family and friends
  • Blankets, pillows, sleeping bags
  • Pet supplies
  • If there is a baby, include formula, diapers, bottles, powdered milk, medications, baby wipes, and diaper rash ointment

Preparing for an unexpected event, be it a hurricane or a nuclear bomb is a personal choice, but our State and Federal governments see it as a personal responsibility. Preparing or “Prepping” does not need to include bunkers, firearms and “Bug-out” vehicles, but should take a common sense approach for households to provide for themselves in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. In this sense, our government encourages every citizen to be a “Doomsday Prepper.”

Relevant Web Pages:

FEMA Exercises Website:

Vibrant Response Website:

Texas Emergency Website:

Day After Disaster History Channel, 2009:



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