Doomsday Preppers Weeks 14 & 15: Oops, My Bad

It’s nearly impossible to review a show on the fly, so I’ve relied on DVRing each new episode of Doomsday Preppers, and reviewing it the next day. This worked great until last week, when for whatever reason episode 14, “A Fortress at Sea,” didn’t record. I chalked it up to there being a mid-season re-run (they happen), and didn’t know otherwise until a reader asked my why I didn’t review it. Oops.

So, this week we’re going to do the best we can and condense two episodes “A Fortress at Sea” and “Let Her Rip” into one post. Call it “Ripped at Sea,” which is what I’m going to wish I was after doing a twofer.

Ready? Here we go!

Kevin and Annissa Coy live in Washington atate and were impacted by the explosion of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Along with their children and grandchildren, they are preparing against the threat of another eruption from one of five active volcanoes within striking distance of their home, including the country-killer, Yellowstone.

They have multiple vehicles to bug-out in, including a truck towing a 5th-wheel RV, a converted Greyhound bus, a 27-foot sailboat on a trailer, and a rollback wrecker to tote a micro-house in case the worst happens. They’ve got livestock (chickens, pigs, rabbits, etc), a year’s supply of food for the entire family… and problems.

Prior to the show, their efforts, while generally well thought-out, had been hypothetical. When it came time to put the theory into practice, that hit several serious snags. The truck that they had to pull the livestock trailer was jacked up too high to connect to the trailer, so they were forced to leave most large livestock behind to die in the hypothetical ash cloud (sorry, Porky). The chickens and rabbits ended up shoved into the luggage compartments of the bus, and I frankly think they stand a decent chance of dying of carbon monoxide poisoning since those aren’t very well-ventilated.

The micro-house Kevin built for Annissa, sadly, wouldn’t load up on the flatbed. Presumably, they need a better skid system under it.

The show’s experts at Practical Preppers dinged the Coys pretty hard for not having adequate water filtration figured out (if someone knows of a volcanic ash-/sludge-rated water filter, please let me know) and for security preps. I was a little uncertain about that, but since the only firearms showed on their segment were a bolt action .22LR and a scoped-deer rifle, it might mean they didn’t have sufficient firepower and/or numbers, since it is rather difficult to drive and shoot. They give them 11 months of survival time.

There are preppers that theorize and never implement, a smaller number of preppers that test their theories thoroughly, and a minute band of full-time preppers that live the same way now as they would after a pending disaster. Captain William E. Simpson, skipper of the all-steel, 90-ton, 70-foot Iron Maiden, lives as he preps on a mobile, sea-worthy bunker built to survive a solar storm that would destroy the modern world with an electromagnetic pulse.

Designed as a floating Faraday Cage to protect on-board electronics, the Iron Maiden is designed to be twice as strong as any other wood or fiberglass hull her size, and can still cruise at 12 knots with ten tons of supplies on board. Her hull is bullet-proof to small arms, and even her hatches and windows are as well. Unlike any prepper who has been on the show at any time, the Simpsons have “walked the walk”; they’ve been on real-life voyages up to three years on the Iron Maiden. This isn’t theory for them. It’s history.

By setting out into the ocean, he uses the Pacific itself as a moat against anyone who would attempt to raid his cache of supplies. Short of pirates, Simpson would seem to have little to fear.

The toughest part of the perpetual voyage for Captain Simpson is trying to shape those he would save into a passable crew.

When it comes to training his crew for shipboard tasks, Simpson seems competent, but his idea of defensive arms leaves a lot to be desired. His insistence on avoiding firearms, and instead relying on spearguns, molotov cocktails, and flare guns, means that while the Iron Maiden may be nearly bullet-proof at a distance, the crew is potential prey for any rifle-armed boarding party that would presumably have little trouble clearing the decks before the dubious short-range weapons on the ship came into play.

The experts at Practical Preppers dinged Simpson for his lack of practical defensive weaponry as well, but the fact remains that the Pacific is huge, and it would be difficult to even find the Iron Maiden, much less attempt to assault it on the move. They give Simpson the highest prepper score of the season, and how couldn’t they? He’s out there doing this every day, and his systems have worked for years. Even then, Simpson isn’t impressed with the show’s experts, claiming that they don’t know jack about nautical prepping. I’m inclined to defer to his years of experience.

Freda is a descendant of the Hatfields, specifically Devil Anse Hatfield, the leader of the clan during America’s most infamous feud. She lives in a homestead in the backwoods of western Virginia, where she prepares for a nuclear weapon to bring an EMP attack. Well, the show says “backwoods,”  but the constant sound and occasional view of traffic in the background suggest they’re actually on a moderately busy two-lane road.

I’m impressed with the mechanical ingenuity of Freda’s boyfriend Mike, if not his intelligence or practicality. There is a reason catapults and throwing stars are obsolete, and if there is an EMP, building a waterwheel to charge batteries is a pointless exercise when the electronic devices and appliances themselves are fried beyond repair.

They have good food stores, but when it came time to rank their water supply, I’m not sure what the experts at Practical Preppers saw that didn’t make the show. Freda has a mountain stream, drilled well, and artesian well on her property, and still got one of the lowest water scores I’ve ever seen. One might deduce they lack any way of purifying the water, but the show simply fails to explain why. Armed with a single shotgun, pistol, and a compound bow (in addition to Mike’s homemade weapons and their not-so-backwoods and relatively undefended location), they got a low security score as well. They are given just seven months of survival time.

It looks like the McCoys have a better chance this time around.

There’s no nice way to say this: Mike Adams is a delusional sewer monkey who has watched Red Dawn too many times. While Preppers has a long history of featuring preppers with some dubious fears, a foreign invasion and occupation carried out by sleeper cells of foreign agents is simply impossible (once you look past Chicago, Detroit, and the 2008 and 2012 elections).

Based purely on the numbers, there are 80-100 million gun owners in the United States, and we are at a point in history where we are the best-armed and best trained we have ever been. If China and the countries of the former Soviet Union invaded together — very unlikely considering their mutual loathing of one another — they’d still get their butts kicked, even with Patrick Swayze dead, Charlie Sheen high on coke, and Jennifer Grey still searching for her old nose.

Mike thinks that even after an invasion, the terrorists would still need him and his family because of their family-owned BBQ joint, and he thinks he can skim enough food off the top to feed his family and turn the restaurant into a prepping base… and so he told the entire world of his plans.

Mike’s sister Jennifer thinks Mike is an idiot. I think Mike’s an idiot too, but still give Jessica the survival chances of a lemming.

Mike wife’s Jessica is on-board with his prepping, but she suffers from epilepsy and has grand mal seizures. This adds another level of complexity to their prepping, as Mike thinks he’ll now have to steal her medication from pharmacies presumably under armed guard. His plan? To seek medical resupply through the sewers of his town. He thinks they’ll be unguarded. I think he’s half-baked, as his one attempt at sneaking through the system put him on the wrong side of town.

The experts give Mike five months to live. I’m surprised he’s made it as long as he has.

Joe is a former floor installer from the city who moved his family to Kansas, where he lives a miles away from the closest power line. He’s ditched most of modernity and is trying to strike a balance between 19th century living and some of the key essentials of the modern age. It’s an interesting life choice, and he’s pared his electrical needs down to just eight items that draw from his solar panel array. He’s living a simple, hardscrabble life that I sometimes would like to attempt… though I value the continued companionship of my wife more.

A simple life, however, doesn’t get Joe prepared for the social unrest that he thinks would follow an EMP, and he’s trying to prepare his wife and young daughters to fade into the wilderness with their goats and forage off the land if violent people come his family’s way.

It’s a non-violent path that I can respect, if not necessarily one I would be entirely comfortable with as a father in charge of daughters. I hope I need say little more.

The experts at Practical Preppers dinged Joe and his family hard for his utter lack of security, but he still gets a very respectable survival estimate of one year, and would last a lot longer than some preppers we’ve seen in the past two years. Frankly, Joe and his family are the kind of folks I’d root for and would try to protect if it All Falls Down. He has skills and knowledge to share, and the kind of gentle heart that seems to be missing all too often in this dog-eat-dog world.