Posted on: May 16, 2020 at 6:18 pm

When the COVID-19 pandemic first touched down in North America, millions of people rushed to their local stores and began panic-buying supplies like canned food, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectants.

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As grocery store shelves were all but cleared out, it became apparent that most of us were wholly unprepared in case of an emergency. One group, however, often referred to as “doomsday preppers”, have been prepared for years. 

Gazebo guard towers on the West Virginia ranch, which were created to aid residents in defending their compound
Gazebo guard towers on the West Virginia ranch, which were created to aid residents in defending their compound . FORTITUDE RANCH

The Fortitude Camp

The Fortitude Camp in West Virginia features concrete bunkers, a gun store, solar panels, and a ditch where contaminated bodies can be incinerated. Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, it also has wells, radio equipment, greenhouses, and a farm with chickens, goats, and cows. It is protected by four armed lookout posts [1].

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Survivalists pay one thousand dollars every year to reserve one of its five hundred beds along with access to its food stores. When the camp’s five-person committee votes to declare a “catastrophic situation”, the facility will go into lockdown and all members will be asked to come to the camp, where they will only be permitted access via a secret password.

Steve Rene is the manager of the camp, and is a veteran of the 1992 Persian Gulf war. He claims that they have enough food stocked to last for 25 years- and enough toilet paper, too.

Shallow bunkers at Fortitude Ranch with 3 feet of earth overhead. FORTITUDE RANCH

They have also put measures in place to prevent attacks, most likely by other Americans, who might be trying to raid their supplies. The camp features four lookout points that are armed with high-caliber rifles to fend off invaders. Rene insists, however, that they have no ties with the military, but that these measures are just to ensure preparedness.

“It’s like a life insurance policy that actually protects your life, rather than a life insurance policy that pays to bury you,” he explained. “Desperate people do desperate things” [1].

The camp was founded by former military intelligence expert and Harvard University graduate, Drew Miller, who has since gone on to establish a second camp in Colorado and plans to build more across the United States.

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They’ve Thought of Pandemics, Too

While this may sound like they’re preparing for a Mad Max-style apocalypse, they have also created policies and made provisions in the event of a pandemic.

Drew Miller inside a well-stocked fortified bunker Miller is founder of Fortitude Ranch, an enterprise that is building compounds in West Virginia and Colorado so that members can ride out the end of days with underground housing, weapons and a long-term supply of food and sundries. FORTITUDE RANCH

If it is a pandemic (or epidemic) that has caused the committee to declare catastrophe, then each new arrival will be checked with a no-contact arrival before they are allowed in. West Virginia was the last state to declare any coronavirus cases, and currently has some of the lowest numbers, but Rene has been receiving an increasing number of inquiries from people across the country who are worried about what is to come [1].

Read: The Shelf Life of 32 Foods in Your Pantry

Trying Not to Say “I Told You So”

Rene and the members of the Fortitude Camp are not the only ones who have been prepared for such an emergency. Several other doomsday preppers around the world have been ready for lockdown long before COVID-19 entered into reality.

Curt La Haise has been stockpiling an eight-month supply of food in his basement for years and has enough fuel to power his generator for nearly an entire winter. His friends have often made fun of him for being paranoid, but since the COVID-19 pandemic began, they’ve been going to him for advice.

“Prepping doesn’t look so bad now,” says La Haise [1].

He, along with many others in the “prepper” community, are resisting the urge to say “I told you so”, and instead are hoping that this will finally make people take them seriously.

“We’re not laughing. We’re not saying, ‘I told you so,’ when people are out there fighting over toilet paper and hand sanitizers,” said Paul Buescher, of Northfield Center Township, Ohio [1].

Doomsday preppers depicted on television shows often appear to be a bit extreme to the rest of the world, but most preppers have made an effort to separate themselves from these characters. John Ramey, the founder of a Colorado-based prepper website called The Prepared, says that their focus is self-reliance and common sense.

“The vast majority of this is ‘beans and Band-Aids,’ not ‘bullets and bunkers,” he said [1].

Advice from Preppers

Many in the prepper community are now offering advice to others about how to be prepared for future pandemics, as well as what to do right now. Their first piece of advice? Maintain a healthy diet.

Log cabin style lodging at Fortitude Ranch. FORTITUDE RANCH

Malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies can weaken your immune system, and obesity and it’s related health issues can make you more susceptible to illness and disease. For this reason, eating a diet that contains a variety of vegetables and fruits, and minimal to no junk food. This can leave you better prepared to fight off temporary infections and illnesses.

“We don’t eat out and eat junk a lot because diet has a tremendous effect on your immune system,” says James Walton, who hosts a weekly show on the Prepper Broadcasting Network [2].

Jason Charles, head of the  New York City preppers network, recommends including spinach, turmeric, and almonds for their anti-inflammatory properties, vitamins, and healthy fats. Both Charles and Walton also insist that you get enough sleep since a lack of sleep can negatively affect your immune system [2].

Interior lodge at Fortitude Ranch. FORTITUDE RANCH

Read: What Do You Need to Buy During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Don’t Get Caught Up In Raiding

Charles and Walton advise that instead of emptying store shelves, you should stock up on necessary items gradually. Preppers often are misunderstood, and sometimes referred to as hoarders, but the reality is quite the opposite.

“People who prepare do it before the crisis so they don’t have to go out during the crisis. Preppers actually reduce the demands on the system during a crisis,” explained prepper David Armstrong [3].

Charles cautions against purchasing any canned items that you wouldn’t actually enjoy eating. For him, that means Chef Boyardee is in, and Spam is out [2].

Pay Attention to What’s Happening

When you hear of a pandemic starting, it is important to remain vigilant and pay attention to whether or not there has been an outbreak near you. It may not be an emergency in that moment, but it is something to monitor.

It is important to ensure that you are gathering information from as many reliable sources as possible, so be careful of what you read on social media, which can be rife with misinformation.

“Gather information from as many reliable sources as you can and from that information, build a sight picture of the event as it unfolds,” said Brad Harris, who has two YouTube channels including Full Spectrum Survival and Off Grid With Brad and Kelly.

Harris, along with other preppers, hopes that when this pandemic is over we’ll be able to look back at the wisdom that he and his comrades have, and take it more seriously.

“As we face an unprecedented threat, an outbreak unlike anything that has been faced by our world in the past 100 years, we have to rely on the lessons that our grandparents used to ensure that our families could survive during times of hardship,” said Harris. “From gathering food during times of plenty so that we would have food during times of scarcity to making sure that our local friends and family were well taken care of, we have forgotten these hard learned lessons that kept our grandparents strong through difficult times in life.” [3]

Keep Reading: How to Prep For a Quarantine

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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