‘Preppers’ have endured years of mockery. Coronavirus fears have given them a booming self-survival business

Have your ‘Bug-Out-Bag’ (BOB) ready when the ‘s *** hits the fan’ (SHTF), or will you ‘meddle’ for ‘the end of the world as we know it’ ( TEOTWAWKI)?

This jargon is well understood in niche communities whose members spend their lives preparing for the upcoming Armageddon – natural disasters, pandemics, or financial meltdowns.

And the ideas that power that culture are increasingly mainstream as coronavirus panic keeps people around the world stocking up rations, sourcing gas masks, and self-isolating at home.

Now “civilians” turn to experts in droves for help preparing for the worst.

Nander Knobben, who runs an online prepper shop from the Netherlands, told CNN that he was helping people “become less dependent on external things like government”.

Knobben has “flown in orders” since the coronavirus outbreak began. He sold almost as many masks, rations, radios, and water filters in February as he did in six months last year, and people he hasn’t spoken to in years have written to him to request supplies.

At home, the 29-year-old has rations for two or three months, around 84 liters of water, blankets, candles, live chickens, spare oil for his car, a first aid kit and a BOB (or a portable survival kit). packed with a flashlight and freeze-dried food.

“If you prep it now and have food around the house for a month and it’s not the coronavirus, you might need it for a different scenario in a few years, so taking some precautions is never a bad idea,” said he said. “I don’t want to be dependent on anyone, I want to take care of myself.

“You keep it in your house and then just go on living.”

Knobben does not believe in a “post-apocalyptic movie scenario” and avoids the more extreme doomsday preppers and their online forums.

“I was there the first year I started the webshop and I kind of got into it too, I checked it every day. I said, “Oh yes, that can happen, that can happen, we have to prepare for it too.”

“It didn’t make me happier to be there every day and do that every day and I still support the need to prepare and why people need to prepare. I think it’s really important, but I don’t think it’s – I would advise against going online every day and seeing all the conspiracies. It’s a big rabbit hole and once you go down I don’t think your life will be any better for it. ‘

Lincoln Miles, who runs a UK subsidiary of Preppers, emailed CNN that things had been “overly manic” after the virus broke out in December. Sales are 20 times higher than usual and he has hired additional staff who work seven days a week into the night to keep up with demand.

“The bestsellers are of course gas masks, suits and accessories,” said Miles, whose business also sells crossbows, axes and knives.

He sells 600-700 military masks, nearly 1,000 filters, and hundreds of protective suits a day, and sold 6,000 20-day ration packs in five hours last week.

Its suppliers are “so overwhelmed that they are almost out of stock,” added Miles.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Marketing Management found that preparation is on the rise as the doomsday clock – a symbol of our risk of wiping out human civilization – approaches just before midnight.

The researchers concluded that “preparation is not a marginal subculture, but an increasingly mainstream phenomenon based not on delusional certainty but rather on a precautionary response to people’s general fear of permanent crisis”.

Co-author Sarah Browne, assistant professor of marketing and strategy at Trinity College Dublin, told CNN that preppers felt they were being portrayed as “silly” or “paranoid” and wanted to show that they were “logical and practical,” while non- Preppers are naive and ill-prepared. ‘

She said preppers see crises like the coronavirus not as a “temporary breakdown of the otherwise functioning system” but as evidence of a “big problem”.

Browne said that most preppers first adopted the lifestyle due to a traumatic event like financial collapse or job loss. “It will be interesting to see if viral anxiety at this level could cause some people to change their consumption and lose confidence in the market system,” she said.

Edward O’Toole, a British author, has been preparing since living off-grid with his parents as a child and now living in a northeastern Slovak village where it’s a way of life.

The residents grow and store their own food for the winter when there are frequent power outages or water shortages.

“You don’t want to have to rely on someone to provide your food, water or electricity,” he said. “There’s a very logical side to things, not a doomsday scenario where we have to stock up on guns.”

O’Toole collects wood for fuel, fills up with canned food and water purification tablets, and has an EDC (“Every Day Carry”) bag with a multitool, a flashlight and a first aid kit.

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread around the world, O’Toole anticipates this will make the prep more popular. “It’s a wake-up call to people not to be so laissez-fair,” he said.

“People have moved a little away from reality compared to the 1950s (and) 1960s … I think this will teach people to have something in reserve just in case.”

He said preparation is not about storing expensive survival products that cannot be used, but about acting as a community. “Western society has become very isolated, especially now that we have an internet based generation … you don’t have to go out to meet your neighbor.

The author says that there is a much stronger community spirit among people who are able to take care of their own things first and then take care of others. “If there was a high tide, someone could go out in a canoe and bring grandfather food down the street,” he added.

“When the community is stronger and the members are more independent, you can help others, you don’t have to be a burden.”