Your Responsibility as a Prepper to the Prepper Name
So you're a "Prepper" eh?
We've all dealt with the negative stigma. The moment it comes out that you store food and water or other supplies, you notice the smirk and darting eyes searching for the smirks on the faces of others within ear shot.
You're off to the races. "Oh, you're like those people on that Doomsday Preppers show?"
If you're like any of our clients, you're perfectly sane. You are not clutching your bourbon and carbine, rocking in the fetal position in your bunker. You're simply reacting, justifiably, to the writing on the wall.
Katrina, Sandy, winter power outages, civil unrest. Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes. Yes, there are other things we are concerned with such as an EMP or computer hacking attack that could cripple vital infrastructure and lead to massive disruptions in daily life. 911. These things happen, do they not?
Do not take the bait. Do not become angry, uncomfortable, or bitter about what you do.
YOU are the window into Emergency Preparedness for the person in front of you.
It is your responsibility to the rest of us to put a good face on "Prepping". YOU will determine for that person how they view not only you, but (to the point of this article) how they view ALL OF US.
The community, myself included, is petitioning you to make a good impression.
Do not get excited. Do not get angry. Do not get defensive. Do not be bitter if you can't "convert" the person right there on the spot. You need to plant the seed of propriety and logic that preparedness truly IS.
A client brought this problem to my attention and relayed a story about his days as a "biker". The crux of the story is the same as the crux of this article. Bikers already have a bit of a stigma around them. The bad dudes. Trouble makers who drive around making noise, causing trouble. He mentioned how he had it out with one of his friends over that friend's over-the-top behavior in public. How he was giving all bikers in the group a bad name. A bad image. Our client understood then, as we must understand now, that WE, individually, can effect how ALL of us are viewed.
Here are my recommendations, from my own experience, on how to handle First Contact:
1. Remain calm. Don't feel like you've been "outed". It can be uncomfortable, I understand. You get put on the spot. The conversation around you can stop, waiting for you to say your response to the "accusation" of being a prepper.
I find that a good first response is something like, "Well, did your power go out during that big wind storm back in 2008?" Feel free to substitute whatever major local event happened in your area in recent memory. Odds are the person in front of you was indeed effected, OR they know someone who was.
The follow up to this, whether they answer "Yes" or "No" is to relate to that feeling of powerlessness. The helplessness that comes with having no creature comforts during a power outage, or more serious issue, is palpable and not easily forgotten. It's the reason that many of our clients are interested in Emergency Preparedness. "It feels great to know that if our power goes out, we just look at is as "practice" for something more serious...we stay pretty comfortable. It's a good feeling to know I can take care of my family."
When I speak of preparedness in these terms, people react very positively, often saying something like, "When you put it like that it makes sense." We already know it makes sense, but to a new-comer you have to break it down into it's most easily understandable terms. Jumping straight to EMP as a reason for prepping is a losing battle.
2. Don't try to be a bad ass. Making statements like, "You're going to be crying for food and I'm going to be laughing while I eat my 3 course dinner" is not going to win any minds. Demeaning others is never going to win you any friends and it's going to make you look like a jerk. It's going to make US look like jerks. Remember, YOU are the window into Emergency Preparedness. That person will always have a negative view of people like us, thanks to you.
I remember a kid I saw on Doomsday Preppers who was saying just that. Clearly he heard it from his parents. He was probably saying such things at school to kids who knew his parents were preppers. It's a defensive mechanism meant to make yourself feel better than the unprepared. People feel it's necessary to do this to elevate themselves because they feel attacked when people question them about their reasons for preparing.
Feel confident in the reasons you are preparing. Think out the specific reasons why you do what you do. Then be ready to calmly convey those reasons. We just want to take care of ourselves and our family members. Why would anyone be ashamed of such a thing? It's a noble goal. Be proud of it. Convey that pride and confidence rather than recoil in anger and embarrassment and the person in front of you will see your logic.
3. Don't get upset if you don't get approval. Again, stay calm. You've got to plant the seed of logic. It may take a nasty power outage for that person to "get it" but when they do, they may end up coming to you for advice. They may be too proud to admit you were right. They may not come to you, but you may still have helped them.
4. Don't push a preparedness lifestyle unless asked about it. There's something to be said for letting people come to YOU for advice. I gave up years ago attempting to pro-actively convert people to preparing for the worst. It's a thankless task and you're often viewed as a wet blanket. A Debby Downer. A kill joy. At a party, no one wants to hear about how physicist and defense department officials ALL agree that a grid-down scenario equals an 80% kill rate after just three short months. Wow, what a way to get the dinner conversation off to a good start.
No matter how much we have researched, no matter how much we know to be true, you will not convince someone at a passing meeting to come to your side of the table. It takes years to become aware of how vulnerable society is and then decide to do something about it personally. A 20 minute conversation is not going to do anything but get you laughed at and ostracized if you are at a venue where people are just trying to have a good time.
On the other hand, if someone asks YOU about what you think, well then they asked for it. Keep your answers as short, general, and as logical as you can, relating something on a personal level. Be careful to not go on a soapbox speech and dominate the conversation. Relay an article or story that is easy to remember and "Google-able". Tell them not to believe YOU, but to look it up for themselves. Instead of forcing their head in the trough, just lead them there.
5. Lastly, just don't act crazy or irresponsible. One client, who I almost asked to leave the store, relayed the anecdote of how he has been trying to convince his neighbor to start preparing (that poor neighbor). His neighbor was not open to the idea, despite this man's best efforts over a number of years. (See rule 4.) So the client's response in our store was that he was going to "shoot the man for his firewood because he's an idiot". Whether he was serious or not is not relevant -- I don't want to hear that talk.
Preparedness-minded people are some of the nicest, most down to earth, practical and smart people I know. We do, however, have a dark, introverted, bitter element among us. We all probably know a person or two like this who agrees with us on most points, but they have this negative dark take on things. They've probably let the bitterness that can come from feeling isolated or alone (as a prepper) get to them and they consequently lash out at others who are not like them. These are the people we all need to encourage the most. Encourage them to turn away from "The Dark Side", if you will, and embrace the positive nature of being prepared. Prepared to help oneself, as well as one's fellow man -- no matter how uninformed, stubborn, or downright impractical our fellow man may be. -- Yes, that was a slight joke and a bit of a rib at those who don't get it just yet.
In conclusion, when presented with the right evidence (which is plentiful if you look for it) most people will see the benefit and logic behind having a little bit of capability to deal with life's curve balls. We have insurance for our cars, for our homes and lives. We don't want to use that insurance, but we have it. Preparation for Emergency is no different -- it's an insurance policy for tough times.
Hopefully we never have to use it. God willing, we will never have to use it.
Stay positive my friends. Enjoy life. Make a GOOD name for preppers everywhere.
Below is a video that might help convey the reasons we do what we do.