TEOTWAWKI information, SHTF scenarios, checklists, guides, and useful information

Season Four - 2014 Series




 This page is where I take a long hard look at each episode and give my thoughts......

This was brought on by a gathering at my home where a group of us watched an episode, an interjected various remarks about the particular episode. We also tended to disagree quite often with NatGeo's 'expert assessment' and wondered just who these 'experts' were. 

We don't plan on covering every episode, but hopefully we will hit on some more memorable ones.

Now, an additional disclaimer - Due to the sites expanding popularity, it was inevitable that some of the featured people run across it.  These critiques are not intended to disparage anyone or put them down. They are intended to point out things that I think might be missing, so that others might think about it as well. 

Yes, I know that the feature is only 12 minutes, that not everything filmed was shown, that there are bits and pieces we just don't know because either the segment was cut out, or the prepper just did not want to reveal all of his cards. That's Fine. But I can only judge what I see on the episode, and that keeps it fair. 

Each of these episodes is a teachable moment. let's accept it as such.......

 Note also that this season adopted the 'new' rating system based on my previous one (see Doomsday Preppers Critic' tab above), however I have ignored this myself this year as it appears to be faulty to a large extent. The 'Survival Time' rating is especially concerning as it gives these poor people a false sense of security, I will only rate whether the have any survival potential at all.



Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 7/31/14

Prepper #1

Concern: “Social Unrest” – Causes of this possibility were pointed out by the commentator, but Patrick was not specific about his particular vision.

Who: Patrick and family –

Overview: Patrick indicates he has moved to northern Virginia (from somewhere, I don’t believe we are told) to better prepare himself for a societal breakdown.  He is a firearms instructor for the local prepper community, and seems to have some experience in the pyrotechnic field.  He has a ‘private well’ and a basement with 12” thick walls. He plans on using pyrotechnics and induced stress to provide his security.  His prime exhibit was a ‘detonator case’ that could be wired to various items (flares, speakers, pyrotechnics) for command triggering to frighten off intruders.

The scoring personnel gave him the following ratings: (points out of 20)

Food – 12 points , Water – 15 points , Shelter – 13 points, Security - 18 points, Experience factor- 13 points – total survival time put at 12 months.

My Summary:

Frankly, the scoring system is ridiculous. But lets take a closer look.

Patrick claims he started prepping because he remembers the New Jersey riots in 1967. It may be nit-picking, but sorry, he just doesn’t look that old, and he has a toddler as well. Maybe he heard about them from his father, I know I did. It is not clear where he lived previously (New Jersey maybe?), but moving to northern Virginia is not exactly moving into the boonies. Pictured is a nice house in a subdivision with houses on both sides. Notably, the area is remarkably free of any trees, it resembles a very large open field. The house itself is worth taking a good look at, as the pictures show it to be almost all glass, with windows everywhere.  Twelve inches of concrete wall in the basement will not help one bit if some disgruntled neighbor tosses a Molotov thru one of those many windows.  From a security standpoint, the building itself is indefensible, yet he proposes to defend it with ‘pyrotechnics’.

A quick pause here while we review the rest of the story.

He has a ‘private’ well. That’s the water supply they scored him 15 points on.  All that means is that he doesn’t have public water. Guess what, in a power failure, public water will still work, a private well will not. He has no gravity system and no observable stored water. He has no way to obtain water without stepping outside into the (wide) open.  The episode did not show any food holdings either, so I am really unsure of where they got the 12 points from.

Now the defense plan -  As people move close to the house, he will trigger selected items to deter them. This means that they would have to be placed outside, in the open, and wires run to the command console in the house. Each one is a ‘one shot’ use. It requires a group of observers in the house to be on watch duty, relaying information to him at the ‘command center’ at all times. That these items could be disabled by a shotgun blast doesn’t seem to occur to him. Nor would they have to, since there would have to be many ‘targets’ peering from the windows trying to see who might be getting close.

Since his system is 24V, is it portable? Where are the batteries? Does it depend on A/C voltage?

This is actually an indefensible position.  The concept might work in a more confined area, but it reminds me more of “John Wayne” in season one with his wire detonated pipe bombs.

A determined person (a single person) could penetrate his defenses in an hour. A group would simply charge the house from all sides.  This is important, since his primary event was ‘social unrest’, which would certainly mean roving groups of looters at the very least.

My verdict: certain quick death.


Episode Air Date: 7/31/14

Prepper #2

Concern: “Economic Collapse” –

Who: Nick and Chree, Phoenix, AZ

Overview:  This is the Hare-O-Ponic guy.  Nick raises rabbits for food, and recycles the waste into food and fuel production.  Chree is a willing partner and tries to learn some of the basics of what will be required, killing a rabbit and preparing it to eat. We don’t get a good overview of the home, but it appears to be close to others in the area. Nick shows off a poo-powered flamethrower he has created to ward off the rabble, earning the Duke Nukem title here.

The scoring personnel gave him the following ratings: (points out of 20)

Food – 14 points , Water – 16 points , Shelter – 9 points, Security - 7 points, Experience factor- 9 points – total survival time put at 6 months.

My Summary: First off, kudos for showing the rabbit process. It amazes me how many people could not do this if they had to, and the only way to overcome it, is to do it. Chree did a good job and I congratulate her.  Now for the rest.

Rabbit meat is notoriously lean. The native Americans used to joke that the settlers “would starve to death on rabbit”. It would be hard to live on a rabbit diet without other sources of fat. My main question was this, if Nick is preparing for economic collapse, why is he buying the seed for his hydroponic grass for his rabbits? Wouldn’t one need to grow their own?  This kind of lifestyle, like Patrick in the prepper #1 review, is only possible under limited control conditions. In other words, social order must be present in some form to keep the situation stable. In a true collapse, none of this would be possible, since staying out of sight would be a priority.

The Duke Nukem flamethrower is just publicity hype. This is a relatively useless weapon, as it is not man portable (you can’t walk around with it, you are attached to a tank), however it could be built into the defenses of the house (which it is not).  I cannot imagine a scenario (other than maybe zombies) where this would be a good idea.

My verdict: certain quick death.


Episode Air Date: 7/31/14

Prepper #3

Concern: “Second Civil War” –

Who: Keith and Amanda, Yukon, MO.

Overview:  Keith has moved from Alabama to Yukon, Missouri into an off grid rural property. He has a small solar array (240 watts) and a rainwater collection system. His strategy is to simply live a self sustaining lifestyle in relative isolation.  He can also use his vehicle to generate power to charge two marine batteries which gives him 75 hours of power per charge. His wife Amanda is learning the lifestyle and seems very supportive. Keith is skilled in archery and is teaching his wife to shoot as well.

My Summary:  In spite of the fact the Keith really hasn’t gone out of his way to do anything monumental, he is the best prepared of the three preppers in this episode.  He is in a rural area, off the grid, and seems capable of surviving on his own. On the other hand, there are some holes in his long term plan. Once his truck runs out of fuel, he will not be able to charge his batteries as shown in this episode. He would, one assumes, be able to charge them from his solar array. We are not really shown what his solar array actually runs, so we do not know. While he refers to archery as ‘keeping it simple’, it really is not, as he is using a compound bow and carbon fiber arrows. You cannot shoot a homemade arrow from a compound bow without serious risk of injury. If the bow fails, repairing it in the field would be difficult. While you can recover most arrows, over time the supply will become depleted. I saw no evidence of firearms in this segment, so I cannot assume he has any.  His plan on making bread also relies again on a semi-controlled disaster, as he needs flour and yogurt and sugar for ingredients. While he mentions you can make flour from acorns, he does not mention how long that process takes (a very long time). Nor does he appear to tap his maple trees for sugar, or raise goats or cows from which to manufacture his yogurt.

Note that currently 12 states have rainwater harvesting laws preventing the kind of thing he is doing here. (He is ok in MO.)

The scoring personnel gave him the following ratings: (points out of 20)

Food – 14 points , Water – 16 points , Shelter – 14 points, Security - 12 points, Experience factor- 16 points – total survival time put at 13 months.

My verdict: eventual death from starvation.


Final Notes this Episode:

  • None of the three people mentioned here had any backup plans, all intended to make a final stand where they were.
  • None of the people here had any stored food or water supply to speak of, especially off site.
  • None had a viable defense plan, or a suitable shelter.
  • None indicated they had prepared with barter items other than their own critical stocks.



Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 7/31/14 , 9pm est

Prepper #1

Concern: “World War Three”

Who: Jimi and his cats, Montana

Overview:  Jimi moved to the mountains in Montana decades ago and has been living in what appears to be an off-grid cabin out in the boonies. He has stocked a years supply of food and collects rainwater, preserves his meat, hunts, and heats with wood. Jimi is trying to train his cats to hunt and bring back food with little success. He has a network of caves stocked with supplies and is ready to leave his home should he be forced to. His proximity to a missile base is a deciding factor in his bugout plans.  Jimi plans on panning for gold should he need something to barter with, and appears to have practiced it a bit.

My Summary:  Nothing fancy here, yet Jimi is probably the best prepared person I have seen in many a season of ‘doomsday preppers’.  This means I may have to get a bit picky in this review, since on the surface he seems to have covered all the bases.  

Some of Jimi’s food stockpile is under his house, where we see him loading up some plastic totes with canned goods and dried food. Since Montana winters can reach minus 50 degrees F. , plastic would become extremely brittle in those conditions, and probably could not be moved without breakage. Animal control would also be a concern, in the Northeast, bears and raccoons, among other critters, would rip those to shreds.  The cans were another issue. I am not sure about putting cans where they would freeze, and even if you could freeze them safely, once they thawed in the spring they would have to be eaten. My guess is that he doesn’t really put canned goods in those totes, but looking at the cans he pulls out of the buckets in the caves makes me wonder.

Depending on his cats to help him survive, or at least expecting to be able to train them to help is wasted time, in my opinion. The only way those cats would help him survive would be if he ate them. He would be better off with a trainable small dog.

 The scoring personnel gave him the following ratings: (points out of 20)

Food –16  points , Water –19  points , Shelter –18  points, Security -10  points, Experience factor- 18  points – total survival time put at 16 months.

The commentator closes by dismissing Jimi’s concern of World War Three by saying the United States has never been invaded by a foreign army.  He obviously failed history class. (There are German U-Boats on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, scattered raids along both the East coast and West coast took place during WW2.), not to mention the well known ones like 1812 (British), 1849 (Mexico), The Sioux nation took and held Wounded Knee, S.D. for 71 days in Feb., 1973, Three islands in the Aluetians (Attu, Agattu and Kiska) were occupied in 1942 by the Japanese, and were retaken by the 7th Infantry Division, and most recently – “Mexican Army Invades US, Shoots Tucson Man”  - May 6, 2014.

 My verdict:  We have a Winner !



Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 7/31/14 , 9pm est

Prepper #2

Concern: “World War Three & Invasion”

Who: Cindy and Family, Georgia

Overview:  Cindy believes in eventual nuclear exchange with accompanying invasion. Interestingly, this has been a common theme during this season, while it only occurred once in the first series. Cindy moved from Atlanta to the outlying suburbs apparently in an attempt to put some distance between herself and what she describes as ‘military installations’, presumably in the Atlanta area. Oddly, Fort Benning is about 100 miles west of Atlanta, so she must be referring to something else.

Anyway, the have a rural home situated ‘250 yards’ from the public road, with ample surrounding land. She practices evasion drills with her family and apparently some neighbors or friends, concentrating on defense and perimeters. They seem pretty self –sufficient and have turned their attention to performing taxidermy as a group profession. This seems to supply them with a quantity of meat of various kinds which they keep in a large freezer. The home is equipped with a safe room, which has an escape access door through the ceiling and to the roof outside.

The highlight of this episode was the exploding animals. Apparently (and this was not very clear), they will use improvised explosives, disguised in stuffed animals (real skinned animals) to ward off intruders. They appeared to use two part exploding target mix as the filler, which must be detonated by impact of a bullet from a gun. 

The scoring personnel gave him the following ratings: (points out of 20)

Food –16  points , Water –13  points , Shelter –14  points, Security -14  points, Experience factor- 16  points – total survival time put at 13 months.



At first, this episode seemed pretty straightforward, but after thinking about it, some strange questions popped up. For the primary concern of WW3 nuclear attack and invasion, no evidence of any radiation protection was shown at any point. No underground shelter, no Geiger counters, no suits or masks. Very strange to be unprepared for the very threat you believe is your primary one.  Food supply does not seem to be long term, as for the venison in the freezer, just a power failure will decimate the 6 months supply in a few days. No water provision was shown either, yet they get scores of 16 and 13 for water and food? I give them credit for having an escape plan from the safe room though. This is sensible to realize sometimes it is best to run rather than commit to an all-or-nothing last stand. They are well armed and seem to practice plenty. Not sure where they plan on going if run out of the house though. And why so concerned about perimeter defense if they are ‘250 yards’ from the road? Seems with that kind of distance you could place some good blocking, downing a big tree or wires would certainly make access difficult. We do not get a chance to see the setup, so we just don’t know. With the land shown, there is certainly ample room to install a concrete storm cellar, and stock it with some supplies.

The exploding animals is a gimmick of the show. There is much we are not told here, but the discerning prepper can see what is going on. While being presented as a perimeter deterrence somehow, this was an actual test of shrapnel penetration on a dummy at fairly close range. They were trying to determine the amount of charge to inflict damage at a serious level, although none of this was said on the show.  The real intent is not known. Think about it, why disguise the explosive in an animal? Are the invaders going to shoot at it? If they do, surely it will be at a greater range than a few feet, so what effect could the explosive have?  Are the defenders going to shoot at it? If so, why disguise it at all? Why encourage someone else to shoot at it?

Too many questions here and no answers.

Cindy and family have a good attitude and a good plan and location, but that alone is not enough to compensate for some well thought out plans.

As usual, the commentator ends up by spouting nonsense about how a nuclear war is unlikely. I think his specific job is to completely invalidate the reasoning of the episode that was just aired, as every episode ends with some condescending, snarky comment.


My verdict: We could have a winner, but we don’t. Too bad.

Slow death by starvation. 




Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 7/31/14 , 9pm est

Prepper #3

Concern: “Natural Disaster caused by Global Warming”

Who: Rod, West Virginia

Overview: Rod lives on a hill in West Virginia, at an elevation of 1200 ft. to help mitigate any disaster from flooding.  He has stocked his small ranch house with food and has a selection of rifles he uses as his security. He has two BugOut vehicles, both equipped with ham and CB radio. His main objective is to man a ‘command and control’ center on the hill to facilitate search and rescue and disaster teams.


He has enlisted the help of local townspeople in running the center during emergencies.  His command center consists of numerous radios on all frequencies with several large antennas. For emergency power supplies to run all this he has an old (turn of the century) gas well on the property, and has a generator that will run on natural gas.  He has some ponds on the property to obtain water from.

The reviewer gave him high marks in all areas, food, water, shelter and security, as well as giving him the highest survival time we have seen to date, 18 months.  This was the primary reason I stopped even repeating these ratings, as they were obviously related to nothing we saw.



 Where to start? How about here. As we saw in season one, some people are not preppers. Rod is not a prepper. While it is true that Rod has prepared extensively for his narrow objective (natural disaster due to global warming), this is far too narrow a niche to earn the label of ‘prepper’. If that was the case, my buying two extra propane tanks and keeping them filled so I don’t unexpectedly run out of propane during a barbeque would make me a prepper.  People who take Vitamin C to prevent a cold would be preppers.

The problem is that ‘prepper’ is not well defined.

“A Prepper is a person who has proactively taken steps to ensure their survival through unforeseen future events”.

While a prepper cannot guess as to which events might be life threatening, he or she must take steps to minimize the impact of the most likely ones. This pretty much eliminates the ‘single issue’ preppers, since any other event would easily do them in.

Lets use Rods case as an example.

Rod believes, and states, that ‘communication is essential to survival’.  This would be true in some events, and not true in others. Communication requires a level of organization on both sides of the disaster, in other words, it cannot be so bad as to reduce his house to rubble, or reduce the nations communication grid to chaos. Think about an EMP event here. What a disaster. Who will you communicate with when not only the power goes out, but the radios fry and static is overwhelming.

Events that reduce the infrastructure to chaos would render all of Rod’s ‘preps’ to uselessness. His ranch house doesn’t appear to be very well protected against the very threats he envisions. I would expect concrete walls and a steel subroof, but I do not see any. I would expect a working generator system. From what we see, the old gas well is quite some distance away from his house. Are gas lines already run to the generator? Why is the generator just sitting outside under a tarp? None of this looks operational. In a hurricane, none of it would be accessible or reachable. Not to mention the antenna system which could easily be brought down by wind, fires, EMP pulses, or earthquake.

The ‘water supply’, consists of ponds on the property, but we are shown no way to filter, purify, or even transport this water to the house.  Having water ‘nearby’ does not make you prepared.  In a really catastrophic event like a strong hurricane, roads would be impassable with downed trees and wires, and with power out and his house potentially damaged and no antennas up, I fail to see how he is not trapped up there in a mess. He has no plans to actually ‘bug-out’, his vehicles are not intended for that since he plans on staying and running his command and control center.  What is the defense plan for this center? Will someone be pulling guard duty while he mans the radios?

The reviewers gave Rod 18 months. In a real disaster, I might give him 18 days, just long enough for a hungry mob to descend on his ‘command center’.


Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 7/31/14 , 9pm est (original air date 1/14/14)

Prepper #1

Concern: “Cyber attack taking down the power grid”

Who: Joe, Texas

Overview:  Joe lives out in the flatlands of Texas with his wife, a teacher. They have “2 years supply of food for 24 people” and a 1500 gallon water tank storage, and plans on increasing his stored water supply.  Joe is concerned that a cyber attack on the SCADA systems of US infrastructure would set people back 100 years in terms of power available. Like a previous prepper, Joes main consideration is his radio shack which he operates as part of the MARS system. To his credit, his radio shack is powered by solar and wind, I did not see a generator. Joe plans on keeping in touch with other radio operator nets if and when the grid goes down. He also plans on calling up reserves and using his communications capability to know when trouble approaches.  They are stockpiling books in an effort to create a school to educate people in the aftermath of the post-power world. Joe is relying on his community to pull together for mutual support during a crisis.  

  Joe has formed a prepper group, giving the operation the name Mission: Lifeboat.  His group consists of 28 people scattered over 20 miles or more.  The episode then shows some of the details of the security. Apparently at Joes ranch, the perimeter is ringed with wire, along with some tanglefoot on the inside of the perimeter. Joes security expert made up what he called some “Claymores”, which were really just an improvised tripwired shotgun, which could be buried in the ground for stability, and tripped to set it off, although in testing the device did not work. I suspect this was intentional, since it is actually illegal to create a ‘short barreled shotgun’, which is in effect, what they did here. Due to concerns over previous preppers being investigated after appearing on these shows, I assume this was the purpose behind showing the idea, but not the device actually working.  The climax of the show appears to be the auto-gyro which they intend to use for recon and attack.


Summary:  Flashback to previous episode. In a post-power world, even if Joe can maintain communication due to his ‘free energy’ setup, how many others will be able to?  It is probable that most of the MARS net will still be up, but they are few and far between, and unlikely to be able to communicate any impending threats like marauders approaching the town. Eventually, the batteries storing his solar and wind energy will give out, and they will not be able to be replaced.  This all assumes a cyber attack is all that occurs, not an EMP or solar flare. In that case, most equipment will be fried.

Two years supply of food is an impressive amount, and it seems to all be stored in one place. Security details were not discussed at all, nor do I get the impression they were part of any real plan he has. As always, a well tossed Molotov makes short work of any structure containing you or your supplies. There is little excuse for not having buried vaults on the property.  Water is another issue. As we all know, Texas has been enduring a long drought, and 1500 gallons of water will not go very far, especially for 24 people.  I was without power and water for 3 weeks, and we used an average of 2-3 gallons per day per person. Since a large percentage of that was flushed down the toilets, an outhouse would be a big improvement, but nothing along those lines were mentioned. Even with additional water storage, it will give out long before the food does.

I saw no items to barter with. Assuming rough civil control exists under his scenario, with no electric there will be no monetary transactions, some type of exchange will be necessary. Maybe he plans to barter his food supplies? A dangerous gamble there.

Although a sixgun was slapped on the table at the end of the segment, no real defense or security measures exist, and no plan B is evident either.

 Joes wire perimeter is a good idea for anyone, wire is cheap and easy to get. It should be stored on site until it is needed. His ‘claymore’ mine, actually a rat trap fired sawed off shotgun, would be effective as well, and I assume the malfunction on the show was intentional. Apparently though, everyone will have to assemble at Joes house.  The secret weapon is actually an auto-gyro with which they intend to perform recon and possibly ‘air-power’, as they put it. It is a two seat version, so this is possible, but I question the original intent of the plan, as Joe is concerned with the power going down and America returning to a pioneer society, and I wonder how he is going to provide fuel and maintenance on what is obviously a high tech piece of machinery.  It would also require a runway to take off and land reliably, and is a relatively slow moving target, so ground fire could be very effective.  Hopefully they didn’t all chip in for something like this (as the show implied), they would have been better off buying a few old deuce and halfs and up-armoring them. This would be a much more effective method of patrol and could carry a squad besides.  Typical  Doomsday Preppers  to air such nonsense.

My original summary stands. Defense/security largely inadequate. Water severely short, mobility very limited, no plan B.



 Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 7/31/14 , 9pm est (original air date 1/14/14)

Prepper #2

Concern: “Foreign Invasion on US Soil”

Who: Mark, Georgia


Overview: Mark is a firefighter in Georgia who is preparing for an invasion of the US. He has stocked a 6 month supply of food, and has gas masks and suits for his kids which they all practice putting on.  He has put together a few people to assist him in creating a ‘fire team’ to form a resistance group against any aggressors.  He practices enduring torture to extend his physical limits and hopes to infiltrate behind enemy lines by hiding in a decoy propane tank, intending to be smuggled into a fortified area.


Okay, well, here goes. Some very basic missing pieces of information here. The idea of hiding in a propane tank to gain access to a secure area is pretty novel. But the overarching question here is why?

What does he intend to do if he is successfully smuggled, with a few friends, into a heavily secured, fortified area?  Even truck parks in military bases are within the perimeter security fence, manned by armed guards, and ringed by heavy machine guns. What would possibly be the purpose of sneaking in? He most certainly will not be calling his buddy to come pick him up by setting off a smoke grenade while inside the compound, nor is he likely to get out at all without being discovered.  I confess, I really do not understand what the goal here is, other than to be captured or killed.

With the strategy out of the way, lets look at execution.  The propane tank idea was different, and almost plausible, but they did not go far enough to pull it off.  Tanks I have seen have “PROPANE” decals on both ends, as well as “FLAMMABLE- NO SMOKING”. These are required by various agencies (DOT, OSHA, etc), not spray painted letters saying “gas”. Basically, the tank did not pass the realistic-looking test. In addition, his point that energy fuel would be in demand and taken is certainly valid, but he has done nothing to the tank to allow it to pass as usable.

The first thing anyone would do upon discovery of an ‘abandoned’ propane tank is to open the valve and see if there is any propane inside. In this case, since nothing comes out, the tank would probably be filled full of holes as target practice. (Because there is always some nut that likes to shoot holes in things).  Suggestion – inserting a small BBQ tank inside and plumbing it to the top valve would allow a convincing hiss of gas to escape if the valve was opened.

The other test everyone uses is to simply rap on the tank. In this case it would clearly be empty. A two inch layer of concrete along the inside walls would accomplish several things, it would sound ‘full’ if you rapped on it, it would resist bullets being shot at it, and it would add the weight to simulate a real propane tank, but of course then they couldn’t have set it on a small utility trailer. Which by the way, was not placarded, an obvious mistake.

The water boarding segment was foolish also. If security is such a big deal, then there are much easier ways to prevent information from getting out, basic OPSEC like simply not knowing a persons real name (using a nomme de guerre), and not letting key information out.  Whether he resists 14 seconds or 28 seconds, does it matter if he is still going to spill the beans?  But you cannot leak what you do not know.

Lets recap – Food for 6 months, I assume that’s for him and all the kids. Nothing on stored water, no home defense, not sure who will be caring for his kids if he decides to crawl into a propane tank and get behind enemy lines.  




Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 7/31/14 , 9pm est (original air date 1/14/14)


This is a recap of several previous episodes (back to season one) and is broken down into the critical survival elements of food, water, shelter, security, etc.


Actually there is a huge amount of useful information here, as is one of the best ones I have seen so far. Well worth DVR-ing and using as a reference.


No critique of this one since it does not show the complete earlier episodes, just excerpts of relevant material. It would be unfair to comment of these people since we are only presented with a portion of their segment.

Two thumbs up for a decent job by NatGeo on this one!


 Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 8/07/14

Prepper #1

Concern: “Cyber attack on the Power Grid”  (This one has been appearing often in this seasons shows)

Who: Roger, Texas

Overview:  Roger and his wife own a small farm in Texas. He has provisioned food for 24 people for 3 months in a set of underground shipping containers. He has created an air infiltration pump to provide oxygen, and intends to shelter in this if things get bad.

On the surface, Roger raises cows, pigs, rabbits and chickens, which he intends to butcher if they have to go into his underground bunker, putting the meat in a chest freezer he has there, alongside a full kitchen.

The episode was primarily about a ‘bug-in’ where they practiced what it would be like living in the bunker.


Not much going on here, and what did go on was a bit questionable. I assume Roger had a huge storage tank of water somewhere, and that this was piped to his bunker, since nothing was said about it. It was also unclear as to whether all his food was stored in the bunker or not, as the opening sequences appear to show him in his house with much of the food. Apparently he has no intention of staying in his house if ‘the grid goes down’ since there are no security measures in place there.  I guess the most glaring thing about this to me was that he had a generator running his underground bunker to provide lights, water, and air. This generator appeared to be on the surface, humming away, while at the same time he has taken great pains to hide the bunker.  I would have liked to see hidden solar with low voltage systems supplying the bunker needs instead.  In any underground shelter, the air requirements are critical. One person uses 80 cubic feet of air per hour. This equates to about 1.2 cubic feet per minute, per person. The fan system providing air to the bunker would have to be at least 28cfm to supply his anticipated 24 people. While that does not sound like much, (a bath fan runs at 60-80 cfm), running this on solar direct current would require some extra work.  24 people would not survive long locked in a shipping container underground without a good amount of fresh air, in fact, they would last about 3 hours.  If the generator ran out of gas or didn’t work, they are entombed. Of course you cannot pump air into a closed container either, an air outlet must expel air so that it moves through the bunker. Given all this, his bunker idea is not feasible the way it is set up.  No real security was present here either, except for a few handguns (which he collected from everyone at the start). Instead of assigning different people to different tasks, he simply made himself King and ran the show. There should have been armed people stationed at the doors, there should have been shifts, everyone should have a specific job to do.

Overall a good example of how not to set up a bunker.

Death by discovery, or mutiny, whichever comes first.


Episode Air Date: 8/07/14

Prepper #2

Concern: “Peak World Population”  (This is a first…)

Who: Curtis, Missouri

Overview:  Curtis has a farm in Missouri where he raises goats, chickens and rabbits, on the show he gets a stocking of fish for his two ponds. He plans on living on his locally raised food supply and is teaching his children and grandchildren to use primitive weapons like bows and atlatls, presumably to hunt food or ward off intruders.

That’s it.

No kidding.

Summary:  Not even a prepper.  No stored food supplies, no stored water supplies. There is a winter in Missouri, where is he going to obtain all of the grains, hay and other feeds needed for his animals? He isn’t growing any on his 36 acre farm.  Most of those animals will die of starvation without some kind of stored food supply, just for them.  But NatGeo gave him 9 months survival time! I guess that leaves out the winter season.  Curtis even disagrees with this assessment, saying he would use the 9 months to do his preparing.

The hilarious part of this was in the details.

Curtis is a retired Environmental Specialist. His concern is peak population, yet he has ten children and 35 grandchildren.  Oh, the irony.

His belief that bullets will no longer be able to be produced may be true, but the stockpiles will last generations, and arrows and spears will be no match for some long range shooting. He also seems to forget (or ignore) the fact that guns have been around for hundreds of years with no ‘bullet factories’. These are called black powder guns, and they work, essentially, by distilling saltpeter from the dirt, adding some charcoal and some sulfur. For bullets they can shoot rocks, nails, or gravel, just like they used to.   

So, no security, no food, no water, no plans. And for this he gets 9 months?

 Just about long enough to have kid number 11….




pisode Air Date: 8/07/14

Prepper #3

Concern: “Economic Crash”

Who: Karissa and Marcelo, California

Overview: Karissa are young peoples living in California. They live in a ‘mini house’, as they call it, and raise goats and chickens. They save the fur from the goats and dogs to eventually utilize to make clothing when the great crash arrives.  They have a small garden which provides them with vegetables in addition to the chicken eggs. They plan on using the chickens as barter in a total collapse scenario.

Summary: Obviously, before their time, I remember nearly everybody lived like this, somewhere out in Arizona usually, where you went to ‘find yourself’.  After finding themselves broke, most moved back to the cities eventually.  Karissa’s min-house is 350 square feet, with sounds big when said like that, but is actually 18 feet by 18 feet, the size of a typical ‘great room’.  That said, I lived in a 20 ft by 20 ft house myself, which wasn’t too bad.  In addition they have a small shipping container in which appears to be a dining room situated.  All that said, this does not necessarily relate to being a prepper.

What does relate is more disturbing. While bartering chickens sounds plausible, it only works (and this is true of all barter), when society abides by a civilized set of rules. In other words, civil control must still exist. Otherwise, there is no barter, just taking. And there is no defensive provisions made here.

Even if these two were against weapons, passive defenses could be put in place that would effectively deter intruders. (see Survivor Janes episode for this).

Making clothes is actually fairly low on the priority list. Unlike most places in the world, the US has an overabundance of clothes. It is unlikely that there will be a clothes shortage even with total collapse. Some items like shoes, winter clothes, etc. will be important to have, but the rest will be widely available.  Using nontraditional sources of fiber (goat and dog hair, plus human hair) is even more risky than necessary. They have a goat, why not get a few sheep?

No water sources or stored food were visible, no defensive items, and no plans to do anything else.

Not preppers, not even primitive skills people, just hippies.




Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 8/9/14

Preppers #1, Jay and Holly , northern Virginia

Concern: “Social Unrest , Mobs”


Jay and Holly live 60 miles of so outside of Washington D.C. in a suburban neighborhood of large brick homes. Jay is an ex-officer and has equipped his house with 6 months food supply and water. He has pre-fabricated plywood panels to install over his lower floor windows which can be put up in about half an hour. He has an assortment of weapons with which to defend himself and has trained his wife in defensive measures. As added security, Jay is part of a larger group of neighbors who will work together to fend off any attacks from a raging mob on his house.  For lower lethality, Jay plans to use pepper spray juice to incapacitate unarmed intruders. They plan to shelter in place in any sort of mob violence.


Summary:  Well, homemade pepper spray seems to be in fashion this year. I have the same concerns as before, unless strained into clear juice, this would tend to clog fine nozzles. Also the stability of the juice must be questioned, how long will it store without gumming up?  The defensive use of this with pump squirtguns is inventive, but as we saw in the clip, not likely to stop an attacker within 20 feet, especially if it cannot be gotten onto his face. I still think a powdered form would be preferable for both storage and coverage in use.

I find it odd that Jay still lives so close to DC and is concerned about mob violence, with plans only to shelter in place.  The simplest solution for those in Jays position would be to invest in a van or truck, stock it with your supplies, and hit the road at the first sign of trouble.  The choice to shelter in place commits you to a do-or-die situation, and as such, you have put the survival of yourself and your family at risk.  The plywood barricades Jay intends to erect will actually do little to slow down a group of attackers. We all saw in Ferguson, Mo. how fast such things can be breached.  One shotgun blast of buckshot aimed at the bolt holding the panel on will blow it completely out, and the panel will simply fall away.  Better to have several bolts protected with a large diameter ¼” steel ‘washer’ , which will prevent the pattern from blowing a hole around the bolt (the washer should be about 6” in diameter).

Of course Jay intends to prevent the mob from massing at the boarded up windows by shooting at them from the windows on the second floor. There is a problem with that however, as the second floor contains dormer windows, which do not allow any visibility downwards. One would have to crawl out the window to the edge of the roof to actually shoot down at the mob below. 

Being brick, the house is marginally protected against Molotovs, but the roof, upper windows, and plywood panels would make inviting targets.  The house itself, being in a tightly packed community, would make a tempting target for a mob, especially when they realize that defended houses will have all the goodies inside. Instead of the 3-4 looters Jay seems to expect, he should be prepared for 50-75.

Jays last ditch action is to activate his prepper group, and they showed how they could work together to defend the house during violence, but in actuality, during real violence, these people will be defending their own homes, not grouping together to defend one.

NatGeo pointed out some obvious issues as well, energy provisions are non-existent, light, and heat are also critical parts of a shelter plan.   While NatGeo gave him 6 months, I would have to disagree.  A handful of well organized people could drive him out of the home in a few hours at night, and he has no place to go.





Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 8/9/14

Preppers #2, Brian and Tatiana , Boston, Mass

Concern: “World War Three, nuclear exchange” (This one comes up often this season)

Overview: Brian is a beginning prepper living in downtown Boston.  He has liquidated his possessions enough to purchase 50 acres of land in upstate NY, and a motorhome which he intends to use as a bugout vehicle to reach, then live on his land. Inside the motorhome are 30 days supply of food and water, additional water is available on his NY property. He has practiced his bugout scenario with his new wife Tatiana who arrived from Columbia. It seems he has chosen his wife based on cultural and traditional values which he believes will help them as a family in difficult times. She does not seem thrilled with her role, but has accepted him as is.  While earning low scores for preps, this is understandable in newly organizing preppers and if he continues to plan accordingly he should do much better.

Summary: I hate to discourage new preppers, so Brian, if you are out there, please take this as constructive advice.

Brian obviously has a job that ties him to the center of Boston. In a likely nuclear exchange, or even a terrorist attack (as we have seen in Boston), this is a poor place to be. Movement out of Boston proper is unlikely in these events, because as we have seen before, lockdowns go into place immediately.  Since it is apparent that Brians motorhome is not parked on the street in front of the two story walkup, I must assume it is in a storage facility somewhere nearby. Since lockdown means no movement out of your home, Brian cannot even reach his bugout vehicle containing his supplies.  Brian needs to relocate further out from the city center to have a chance of making a fast escape.  Given a nuclear exchange, even if Brian had immediate warning, he would have less than 20 minutes to be far enough from Boston to avoid radiation and impact shock. In this situation it would be unlikely that any authorities would issue any warnings at all, so he would be reacting to a developing situation rather than being proactive in avoiding it.

Interestingly Brian has handguns and a rifle. This is rather difficult in downtown Boston and Massachusetts in general. Hunters traveling up from the south to hunt in Maine usually detour around Massachusetts due to strict gun laws in place. How Brian plans to get his guns across the border during a crisis when there would be checkpoints everywhere is unknown.  Even the handguns he brought in on this show cannot be transported across the state line, unless he has a NY permit for them also, and his wife is not allowed to even touch them either way.  Sounds like some more planning is in order.

Brians entire survival plan consists of getting out of Boston and driving a minimum of 137 miles to his property in NY (assuming it is right on the border).

Since this is critical to his survival, he must make sure this element of the plan is practically foolproof. First, his motorhome is huge. While he has all the conveniences of home, it is difficult to maneuver, must be stored away from his house, and has limited abilities in rough roads, snow, etc.  He would be better advised to scale it down to the smallest size possible. I would think in his situation this would call for a small converted bus (high ground clearance), a 4 wheel drive van conversion, or a 4 wheel drive pickup with a slide in camper.  Or skip the camper entirely and just get a small 4wd pickup. He can always leave a mobile home parked on his property instead.  I could easily picture his barge of a motorhome parked on an interstate surrounded by a sea of unmoving cars. No ability to turn it around, but at least he can be comfortable while he waits, at least until the angry motorists start to get out of their cars.

On the property itself, I would cache supplies (and NATGEO recommended this, to their credit), as well as building a ‘root cellar’, which would serve to preserve any food and provide radiation protection.

This guy was given 8 weeks survival time, but considering what we saw, and the many things that could go wrong, he would be lucky to get that far.





Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 8/9/14

Preppers #3, Brian and Lacey , southern Ill.

Concern: “New Madrid Fault”  (This one was in season one as well)

Overview: Brian and Lacey operate a number of small enterprises in town. Their concern centers on the New Madrid fault zone opening up and creating a lagoon extending from Louisiana to Illinois.  The New Madrid Fault runs generally along the Mississippi river from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes.

Brian has stocked plenty of food and water and runs his shop/house on wind and solar generation as an addition to utility power. He has a large battery bank to support this, and has worked out that he can run without wind and solar for 9 days or more.  He practices bartering for goods and services, showing the concept in his purchase of a container he intends to bury in the backyard. They both have ammunition and weapons for security as well.


Summary: I liked these guys because they seemed to have most of the bases covered, but as always, there are a few areas I must question. The house is located in the town which appears to be quite built up.  Even burying a container in the backyard, while a good idea, is not ideal. First, everyone in the town will know what you are doing, its hard to hide with so many neighbors. Word will get around as well, and in the event of social unrest, it may become a target for those who suspect what might be inside. He would be better served by picking up a piece of lane outside of town for this type of thing, something NATGEO recommended as well.  The rest was quite good, but the barter issue needs to be discussed.

Brian got it half right on the show, bartering his old truck as partial payment on the container. This works because the value is set by both parties, who agree to it. If the container guy did not want a truck, the value would have been zero dollars. If the container guy desperately needed a truck, they could have exchanged outright. The value is based on the need.  Where it goes wrong is when Brian brings out the gold bullion. Here the value is not set by the two people involved in the exchange, it is set by the market, which is currently the banks.  The London Gold Exchange sets the price, and gold is exchanged for MONEY.  This means gold and money are the same thing. He needed to pay an additional $900 for his container, he could have paid in cash, but he paid in gold EQUIVALENT of the cash. No difference. There was no negotiation of value between the two parties. This is a money transaction, not a barter one.  This is what financial people mean when they say that gold is not an asset. An asset you obtain, then can exchange at a later date for much more (in theory). Gold can only be exchanged for the set amount of dollars is current is set to.   If you bought gold ten years ago for $50, and sold it this year for $500, you did not make any money, you converted a currency. 

As long as you think of precious metals as currency, you are fine, but never think you have an asset or investment, because it is not, (unless society completely collapses, then it may become an asset).

NatGeo gave these guys 13 months or so, and if they had a way to get out of Dodge, I would probably agree, but if they insist on ‘sheltering in place’, then no, not likely.

One other nit-picky thing. The average elevation of Illinois is 600 feet above sea level. The New Madrid fault is a partial ‘strike/slip’ fault (meaning the two sides move past each other, like the San Andreas), the other part is a ‘reverse’ fault (meaning one shore is diving under the other, like Japan.)

While the fault was created originally as a ‘rift’ (pulling both sides apart), it no longer is doing that, so the scary diagrams we see of a large inland waterway separating the US in two pieces is not likely. Note that if it did, the valley it creates in between would have to be well over 600 feet deep to reach Illinois. The San Andreas shows only a minimal valley, and in many cases none at all.  Since the Mississippi flows down it, I would expect this to continue, earthquakes or not. Bridges would be affected however, so crossings from the east coast to the west would be greatly interrupted, and that is a real threat.






Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 8/14/14

Preppers #1, Chuck and Heather, Texas.

Concern: “Electro Magnetic Pulse”  (This is getting tired)

Overview: Chuck and Heather live on a small farm in southern Texas where they have goats and chickens, and possibly some pigs (judging by some of the feeding scenes), but possibly not, and are preparing for a world with no infrastructure due to an EMP.

Once again, NATGEO screws up the issue by explaining how the Sun can cause an EMP, and how a nuclear detonation can also cause one.  Once again, I have to explain that a CME is NOT and EMP, and while some of the effects can be similar, it’s like comparing a tornado to a hurricane, yes, the winds are strong, there is rain, and damage, but no, they are two separate things.

A CME is a mass of protons thrown off the surface of the Sun by a sunspot, which is a kind of magnetic storm on the surface of the Sun. If this cloud of protons heads for Earth, it can cause severe problems with the electrical grid. It does this by building up a static charge on metal surfaces and conductors. If this charge is not drained away, this charge can become very strong, resulting in a ‘lightning’ like discharge that will damage capacitors, diodes, chips, and other solid state devices. The heat generated can be very high, resulting in fires. At no time here is there any ‘pulse’. A CME is a more extended event and can last for a week. The effect can be similar to an EMP, but that is a different animal.

 Electrical utility lines function as a ‘collector’ for CME events, and build a charge in them, passing into houses and appliances where they are connected, and burning out the electronics.  Batteries would be affected more by a CME than an EMP, as the plates (car batteries) would heat up and short together. Recent studies suggest most cars, even new ones with loads of electronics, would easily survive an EMP.

For more read http://www.empcover.com/emp-faraday-cage-faq-questions.html

Now we have that out of the way again, lets resume.

Chuck has some firearms ( a small handgun is shown), and presumably some other weapons (not shown). He has food packed in barrels and buried around his property. He utilizes a cipher code to reveal the ‘buried treasure’ locations.  He has assembled a low budget wind turbine made from a plastic drum which he intends to use for power. He maintains a dug well for auxiliary water. He has no plans to relocate during any emergency.

Summary: Not too bad a setup, but missing some key elements.

The farm was quite exposed, maybe away from civilization some, but visible, for sure. Chuck did not seem to have any defense plan for the property, assuming, I guess, that some civil control may remain, even though he stated he was concerned about the food hungry mobs.  His wind turbine was an interesting idea, but it was unclear what he intended to power with it. Generating a light bulb or charging a battery seemed to be the total use of it.  It was not explained how he planned on protecting the motor and wiring of this from an EMP, which it is supposed to sustain him through.

The water from his well seemed pretty cloudy, and although he plans on using his miracle Meringa tree to filter and sterilize it, there are far easier ways to go about this, and more effective as well.

Burying supplies is always recommended, but using a cipher like this depends on memory and the availability of the family. What if they forget how the sequence goes and no one is there to jog their brains?  The system was unclear, so I will not dwell on it, but hidden things should be discoverable without too much thought, since under pressure (and darkness), one may not be thinking all too clearly.

This couple were given 8 months time, which I think is generous, given what we saw. It was not clear Chuck was even prepared for his main concern, an EMP.  As I have pointed out on the website, there are primary disasters which lead to secondary disasters. An EMP is a primary cause, the secondary effects are hunger, riots, water shortage, economic collapse, transportation collapse, and extreme civil disturbance, if not outright chaos.  Any disaster plan must meet the basic needs of Food, shelter, water, heat/light, and security,  not just for the primary event, but the secondary events as well.






Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 8/14/14

Preppers #2, Lisa and LLoyd, Minnesota.

Concern: “Global Climate Change”  (I assume this means severe weather extremes, not 40 days and 40 nights…)

Overview: Lisa is not a prepper, but she obviously has a plan. She has followed Ojibwa indian practices as her outdoor skills set, and has taught them to her kids. Lloyd is native also, and has good outdoor skills as well. They live in a mobile home on a good amount of acreage in a rural area.  I find it interesting that her main focus is on bugging out, when she seems to be in a decent area, but we are not told why, especially since her concern is about severe weather (in Minnesota, don’tcha know). Isn’t that where Fargo is? The place where “summer is a weekend”? They have plenty of water, food, and skills, but they segment did not elaborate on shelter (except in the bugging out part), or defensive measures other than the basic punji pit.

Maybe I shouldn’t call her a prepper as much as a ‘primitive skills’ person, but the stored food, hidden caches, and defense plans push her slightly into the prepper category.


The Ojibwa territory surrounds Lake Superior, and extends into Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. During different seasons, the natives moved to different areas of the territory to take advantage of food sources and weather. Rice was harvested along the Great Lakes in the fall, and Michigan and Wisconsin were visited in the spring for sugaring, while moving west in the summer and early fall for hunting. AS such, the Ojibwa were excellent hunters and survivalists.

While Lisa has learned and practiced much of these skills, one has to question the basic assumption. Why bug out and live off the land in an area that is frozen solid for most of the winter, and not much better even in the short summer? This is puzzling since her concern is focused on even more severe weather than currently exists. Apparently they have no plans of staying near their home, even the food caches are on the island they intend to canoe to if things get bad.

The island, we are told, is defendable and isolated. Well, defendable in the summer maybe, when people would arrive by boat, but most of the time in that area, (even during this segment), it is snowing and the ground is frozen solid. Needless to say, walking to the island across the ice would be quite easy. Maybe even driving there. Living in a sapling wigwam does not sound much like a good shelter to me in those kinds of conditions. Last winter the temperature in that region was dipping to -30 degrees. Survivable? Maybe, living comfortably, no.  We are not told what trigger she would use to initiate such a bugout either. Weather too cold? Too warm?  Why bug out for bad weather anyway? A subsurface shelter where she lives would be a far more practical choice.  

Try digging up a buried cache of food when there is a foot of frost in the ground. You need a pickaxe and a lot of patience. Building a fire on top might melt some of the frost but would risk ruining the food.

You won’t be trapping any beaver during the ice season either, or digging punji pits. Snow tends to leave many tracks so security is certainly an issue.

Personally, I would like to see her spend a winter on that island, just to see how she survives.  I am not saying it couldn’t be done, just that it is entirely unnecessary.

As for climate change, so what? The climate has been always changing. I think we are fools if we think that the climate as it is right now is ‘perfect’, and any cooler is ‘too cold’ and any warmer is ‘too hot’. Maybe the best climate for the Earth is really bad for humans?  In 1816 we had the ‘year without a summer’. For 3 years 1815-1817, the weather around the world was unusually cold. There was snow in June in New England, crops failed, people and animals died and were frozen. This was before the Industrial Revolution, so no man-caused warming here, no fossil fuels, nothing. It turns out that one volcano in Iceland was enough to cause this, (like the one erupting right now).

In the 1500’s, grapes were cultivated in England and Scotland, places where they cannot grow today because it is too cold. Was the much warmer climate back then ‘better’?

For a good, and relatively unbiased account of the history of climate temperatures, see this excellent site - 




Anyway, this segment was not prepper material. Some of the primitive skills demonstrated here would be useful to know, but not prepping fundamentals, as was promised in the ‘back to basics’ series.





 Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 8/14/14

Prepper #3, Tom and wife in Vermont.

Concern: “Peak Oil”

Overview: Tom is a retired teacher living in Vermont with his wife and family. They have created a refrigerated storage building by freezing 5 gallon buckets and using them as coolant sources. This allows them to have a much bigger ‘refrigerator’ to preserve food. I think they said he had over 300 five gallon pails, so that equates to 1500 gallons of potential drinking water, used as coolant and then a water supply. Tom taps a few maple trees and cooks up some syrup on his wood stove.  In a homemade rice paddy he is planting rice for a sustainable grain source. Toms big contribution was what he calls ‘the Dome’, which is an igloo made from modular cement pentagons that he created using wire, carpet and cement. If he needs to bug out, he intends to live in his dome for shelter. To emphasize defense and security, Tom built an air powered artillery piece to use when bullets are no longer available, and he demonstrated the ability of it to penetrate concrete by piercing one of his dome panels. Toms wife’s name is not mentioned, nor does she seem to really be involved, just present.


Summary:  The ice bucket trick has been used for ages in New England, some of the early ice houses being so large that clouds would form inside. We tend to forget that only 100 years ago, ice was the only way a refrigerator worked, and the ice-man delivered ice to your residence with iron tongs. You then placed it in your ‘ice box’.  Cutting pond ice was a major industry that vanished almost overnight with the introduction of an electric compressor (refrigerator) motor.

However, this is not well done.  I have done this same trick, and freezing these buckets will result in a fair percentage splitting, so placement inside would have to allow for water leakage until the bucket could be thrown out. Second, I question the need for this in the first place. The early farmers used root cellars to keep preserved food cool, and they didn’t need ice. Keep in mind, food kept at the ‘refrigerator’ level does not last very long. In power failures, we shut down the fridge after 1 week, since most of the items inside tend to go bad in that time.  The chest freezer, on the other hand, is invaluable, as it maintains frozen food which last much longer.  Making a ‘freezer’ out of his ice room makes more sense, but it appears that the building is not well enough insulated to perform that task.

Tapping maple (and birch) trees is always a good idea, and my kits contain maple taps for this purpose. Sap season is of limited duration though, so processing must take place during the run, which is typically in March. Lots of snow on the ground in Vermont in March. Getting around to obtain the sap can be difficult. The rice thing seems to be more of a show than anything useful. The small mudpond he created will grow some rice, but hardly enough to bother harvesting. 

The modular dome is a pretty good idea, but impractical in reality since it, (or at least the panels), have to be premade, and carrying big blocks of concrete is not practical. More cement work is needed for assembly to join the pieces. Why not just make sure your house is on poured concrete? Then just go downstairs. If you had a separate ‘bug out’ property, then building something along these lines could be an option. I won’t get into his bugout thing, it should be obvious that living in a concrete dome would not work well in a Vermont winter. Nor could that dome contain the family shown in the segment.

It would be like sleeping in a small tent, and just as warm.

Lastly, his pneumatic artillery piece is also fairly useless. First of all, the size is huge, and obviously non-portable without much effort. Even his wood ‘bullets’ would be difficult to carry. Second, since his concern is about no energy (Peak Oil), how would he power the air compressor to fill up the tank?  I have seen potato guns that were more portable.  Lastly, again we see the closed minded thoughts that ‘bullets will run out’.  Nonsense.  Bullets can be reloaded, black powder can be made by distilling dirt, all that’s needed to continue to use conventional arms is a primer, and these are tiny bricks of thousands of pieces. One can easily store several thousand small rifle primers, which are in boxes about the size of a deck of cards. Reload the shell with black powder and off you go. Of course black powder guns do not even need the primers. Metal cartridges are only a hundred or so years old, yet we had plenty of firearms before that. Notably, we didn’t see any firearms in this segment, and the house appeared to be located in a fairly built up area. Nothing about the house itself was shown, so I guess during a food riot he will be moving Under the Dome…






Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 8/16/14

Prepper #1, John , (northwestern US, my guess, around Oregon coast).

Concern: “Unpredictable Events”

Overview: John is an inventor who lives on the northwestern coast of the US. He has a large house situated in the countryside, perched on a cliff edge, and a 1000 foot long driveway with a steel gate.  John is just ‘being prepared’ in general, no specific concerns, just that something could happen, therefore he wishes to be as prepared as possible. His house contains a dozen security cameras, armor-filmed windows, and a good view of the surrounding countryside. Inside, an automated pepper spray dispenser is activated by a motion detector.  He is practicing with a rifle and has some food and water preparations made. His bugout vehicle is a 2 wheel drive ex-police suburban, although as he admits, he has no where to run to. John has a good practical view of prepping in general and has taken many of the initial steps to being well prepared. I believe NatGeo gave him 13 months time, but advised him to catch rainwater and stock more food. NOTE – both Washington and Oregon States have laws against harvesting rainwater. Since we are not told exactly where John lives, we do not know if these apply. (California, strangely, does not have any).

Summary: There was not much here to take issue with. I liked the house location on the Cliffside, this would greatly deter intruders from that side, leaving him to concentrate on likely routes in. If I had one thing to pick on, it would be his reliance on technology, in the form of cameras and detectors. The segment did not show any alternative energy systems, so I must assume that if the power goes down, his cameras and detectors will too. Even a battery backup system would not last very long.  His main weakness is that he is using this technology as a force multiplier, since he is alone up there on the hill. One person cannot keep an eye on everything, even with the cameras up and running. If you intend to use passive defenses, make sure they are not dependent on power being available, or make sure you have your own power supply.

I agree he has a water problem. Obtaining water from a river ¾ of a mile away is not feasible, especially when there is a cliff in the way. While his armor filmed windows may resist some impact, they will eventually fail.

“Security window film in 4, 6, 7, or 11 mils applied to the interior glazing surface can also reduce explosive event hazards. The film can either be applied to the vision surface only, edge-to-edge (where the film extends into the window frame), wet-glazed (where the film is adhere to the window frame with silicone), or mechanically attached (where the film is screwed to the window frame with mechanical batten). Blast curtains and shields can be used to mitigate the hazards from flying glass. They do not stop the window from breaking, but they are designed to catch and trap the glass shards before they can be propelled into the room.”

[ http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.nibs.org/resource/resmgr/BEST/BEST1_033.pdf ]


So sustained fire from a weapon will effectively chop this glass up. Usually a Molotov follows shortly after. I think John needs to rethink his bugout plans.

Of course, where armored glass is concerned, it is usually easier to just break through the wall, which is generally unarmored.

The steel gate will supposedly stop a ten ton truck, but it will do nothing for people on foot. Unless really well designed, it is easier in many cases to simply go around the gate, even if it means a little tree clearing.

John had no sustainable food or water sources, just stored items, and no barter items put away, once they are gone, then what?






Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 8/16/14

Prepper #2 – Jeff, from Washington

Concern: SuperVolcano  (This was another concern covered in season 1)


Jeff lives in a small town in Washington State, just under Tacoma. He is concerned about a supervolcano event occurring in the Yellowstone basin, about 800 miles east of his location.  He has stockpile a large supply of food and water between his bugout location and his residence in town. He adds to his preps by picking up items at storage auctions, and as such, is probably a good representation of most preppers (and a stark contrast to John, the prepper in the previous segment) in the way he acquires his supplies.

John is planning to relocate to his bugout location by plane should an event arise, although he admits he could drive there as well. Since we know nothing about his bugout location, we will not be discussing it during this writeup.  He is shown practicing a power off landing in an open field, so we can assume there is such a place nearby where he plans to bugout to. NatGeo gave him 6 months, which he largely contested, and maybe he is right, after all, we have no idea about the other half of his plan.

Summary:  I find it interesting that Jeff is concerned about eruptions 800 miles away to the East, when he lives only 100 miles north of Mount St. Helens.  From the segment, I got the impression that Jeff plans to bugout to his hideaway at the first sign of trouble as he has not taken any precautions to defend or secure the residence against ash fall or intruders. (He does have plenty of toilet paper though). A minimal home protection of plastic sheeting and duct tape, and some respirators would be a good start. I say at the first sign of trouble because once the ash starts falling, no plane will be flying. Car motors require extra protection as well or they will cease to function fairly quickly in such a dusty environment. How he intends to move the preps at his residence by plane or car is unknown also, I suspect he would have to leave everything. The four people in his family would load the plane almost to its limits, so cargo capacity would be minimal. Same with a standard car. 

In a supervolcano (or any US mainland volcano event), the ash would drift East generally, and Southward, due to the prevailing wind patterns. The natural route to avoid this would be northwest, but as Jeff indicates, west is not an option without a boat. He instead chooses to go south, the only real choice left, although a quick glance at the map reveals Mt. St. Helens right in the flight path.  It is reasonable to expect that during a Yellowstone eruption, that nearby volcanoes would become active as well, so this route would most likely be blocked.  Maybe Jeff needs a boat and not a plane.

Since he often refers to his bugout location as ‘up’, I think it safe to say the southern route during the show is merely a deception, and as we see, not a safe route either. It is pretty clear he intends to go North instead.  A typical light plane such as his has a fuel capacity of slightly over 50 gallons, and a range of about 800 miles,  so either Jeff has land in Canada, or he has a destination in northern Washington in mind.  Since he brings supplies from his bugout location to his house, it is obviously in the US, and probably not more than 2-3 hours north of his house, probably up Route 5 near Mt. Vernon area.

Just a guess.

Anyway, lest I become too distracted,  I applaud a bugout plan, but only as a plan B to staying put, which should be the primary plan. As such, his primary plan lacks self sustaining food, hardened shelter, caches, defensive measures, ash protection (NBC), communications, heat, heavy transportation, etc, etc.







 Season Four –

Episode Air Date: 8/16/14

Preppers #3 – Alan & Franco, Missouri

Concern: Economic collapse, GMO foods

Overview: This was a strange segment.  Alan and Franco are both in the electrical fields, both live in the same town, and both are heavily invested in aquaponics.  Both feel that this will supply them with food in the event things go south. Franco is prepared to eat earthworms and Alan will eat soldier fly maggots. Alan eats some duckweed as well.  The hydroponic systems provide vegetables and in at least one case, fish. 


Summary:  This is a quick one folks, neither of these people are preppers, and NatGeo is just wasting our time here. These two have just dressed up their hobbies as ‘prepping’ because they grow some food.  If that was the case, I know many gardeners who would be prime preppers, but of course they are not.

There is no attempt to go ‘off grid’ with any of this, without electricity, those pumps would shut down and so would the veggies and fish. This is not sustainable. One doesn’t live on veggies and fish either, not in Missouri, year round. It does get cold in Missouri, especially in January.

Average high/lows are given here – NOV: 54 / 37 , DEC: 42 / 26 , JAN: 38 / 21 , FEB: 44 / 27 , MARCH: 55 / 36

So it appears those greenhouses surrounding the aquaponics projects must be heated as well. More electricity dependence. No mention of stored food except fish (frozen? more electric), water might be filterable and drinkable from the system in an emergency, but nothing said about that. No generator, solar, or wind, no security, basically no other provisions for anything.

Please NatGeo – stop putting these people on.





Episode Air Date: 8/21/14

Prepper #1

Concern: “Electro Magnetic Pulse”

Who: Survivor Jane and Rick, Appalachians (NC area)

Overview: Jane and Rick moved to the mountains, the exact area is not revealed, and intend to be self-sufficient by raising vegetables and fruit.  They have used natural barriers (on several levels) for their defensive needs. For food they raise goats and chickens. Rick has water in storage and available in ponds.  The overall review by NatGeo was extremely positive, but I feel we haven’t been shown enough here. An added note, Jane is “Survival Jane” who has written some books and is widely known in the prepper community.

Summary: Most of the things I noticed here are true of previous episodes as well. Taking it at face value, here are my observations.

Supposedly, they are preparing for an EMP, but right away, the narrator confuses the issue with a CME, (Coronal Mass Ejection). They are not the same. A CME builds over time, and there is typically a few days warning. An EMP is a sudden, unpredictable surge (a pulse), with no warning, and lasts for a second. A CME may last for a week. A nuclear bomb causes an EMP, the Sun causes a CME. A CME is more serious than an EMP, as more infrastructure is likely to be affected.  Despite the preparing for this, no electrical protection devices or mitigation is shown during the episode.

How does Rick feed all the animals? We are never shown acres of hay or alfalfa or corn in any of these episodes, (not just this one), so do these people buy feed?  I know I do, so I know how difficult it is to keep animals alive without giving them added food, especially in the winter months. Its easy enough to free range chickens in the summer, but mine tend to hate the snow and won’t go out in it.  Animals require food in storage just like people do.

I also question the off the grid comments made by the narrator.  While they may be truly “off the grid”, there is no evidence of that. The scenes shot in the house indicate many electrical appliances, and the outside shots show no solar or wind generation units, so how are they off the grid? Its one thing to make a statement, and another to show how it is done.  While they may have a generator (not shown), that does not really make them “off the grid”.  No shot at Jane and Rick for that one, just the NatGeo team.

The house on top of a mountain may give 360 degree viewing, but it also means 360 degree defense is needed. Two people cannot hold a position like this alone. Only one could be awake at any given time, and they must be always watching.  As the Good Book says, “a house on a hill cannot be hid”.

The natural defense angle is good, and I admit I practice the same thing, except I use Barberry and Catbriar. More people should practice this.

The hidden garden concept is something I have advocated from the start (www.teotwawkinasg.webs.com) but strict varmint control is necessary. Most people do this with a fence, but in a survival situation this would be unlikely. While herbs and vegetables can repel certain animals, they will still find a way in.

The rest of the defense is poor in my opinion. While the pepper spray idea was interesting, it remains only an idea. No working examples were shown, which would have to be hooked up to some high pressure air, and the crushed and pulverized peppers could not be refined enough to flow freely through a sprayer tip without clogging, or even just fermenting in the container. It would have to be mixed prior to use and deployed with high pressure through a large diameter nozzle.  Dried powder would be a better bet.

The poisoning by digitalis (Foxglove) was the poorest example, as it requires at a minimum that their ‘guests’ allow them to live and ‘serve’ them dinner, which would be highly unlikely. Equally unlikely would be that enough dried foxglove leaves could be added (and eaten) unnoticed to allow anything but a bad case of indigestion. [Wikipedia]  “The entire plant is toxic (including the roots and seeds). Mortality is rare, but case reports do exist.”

Castor beans would have been a better choice. (Ricin)

Needless to say – there was an obvious lack of any weapons, and thus, any form of force multiplier which could be utilized to make up for their isolated position. I would have expected a number of types of traps,  outposts, and plan B setups, but there were none to be seen.

Another failing in these ‘passive’ defenses is that they are focused on the threat that the defendees believe will come.  While blowing pepper juice all over a mob wielding guns may prove quite effective, what is the difference if it consists of 2 or 3 elderly women and a dozen small kids? Both are equally a threat to your survival.  Both will eat your food, drink your water, and consume valuable resources. Whatever defense you utilize, make sure it can be tailored to the threat.

Here is my breakdown –

Food  - not enough to feed animals all year and themselves as well

Water – possibly enough, cannot be sure.

Shelter – exposed, undefendable with limited people

Security – very low level




Episode Air Date: 8/21/14

Prepper #2

Concern: “LA Earthquake”

Who: Jim , LA, California

Overview: Jim is concerned about another ‘big one’ occurring in the Los Angeles area. He carries two weeks food supply in his Jeep, as well as other equipment to help him survive should such an earthquake occur. He shows how he has hooked a car battery to an inverter that he can carry as a portable power source, and is convinced he can obtain other batteries from abandoned vehicles to replace a dead one. He wears a sort of military-swat looking outfit on which he carries various survival accoutrements like knives, compasses, firestarters and first aid supplies.  He says he is an inventor and his occupation is product testing. He has developed a paintball that will spontaneously ignite which he will use for deterrence, and he demonstrates this on a manikin which obligingly bursts into flame. (Another Duke Nukem candidate). He also developed a walking-spear which I assume will be used defensively, but has interchangeable heads for a garden rake attachment. He claims this can be used to pick fruit or pin down an animal.

Summary: This really should be a short review, since Jim is obviously NOT A PREPPER, but there are some things I want to cover here.

Jim has shown some good, cheap, common everyday use items and how they can be used in a prepper situation. He section on earthquake proofing a home is also good info, although pretty standard in California, but preppers could do well to perform these things anywhere. While I live in an area that really does not experience earthquakes, I have strapped my woodstove pipe to the wall where it exits to prevent it from shaking away should there ever be an earthquake, just for my own piece of mind. I have not strapped off my hot water tank yet, but I plan to. My bookcases are all screwed to the walls for additional stability as well.

His attire is worth commenting on as well. His explanation is that it offers the appearance of a military or police authority (which it does), and that this can deter him from being attacked. This is true, and something worth keeping in mind. Jim is in good shape, so he can pull this off convincingly, not everyone can. This idea is similar to what I discuss about transportation vehicles in the article “Transportation and Moving About”, www.asgteotwawkin.webs.com (pdf file).

Nothing about Jims home is shown, I am guessing that he must rent it and is unable to perform any modifications at all, or he simply has done nothing there because he does not intend to stay there during a disaster. Interestingly his truck is stocked with a two week supply of food. He indicates during a disaster he can make for the hills and forage for food, I think he forgets he will have a few million people doing the same thing.  If your concern is an earthquake and the disruption it would cause, why live in LA?

So upshot is, very little stored food, no water, no bug-in plan. What’s left, Oh yes, security.

Jims flammable paintballs. Here is the breakdown for you paintball geeks. It appears Jim utilizes a Tippman 98, or possible an A5, it is difficult to see, along with a 12 ounce CO2 propellant canister, and homemade paintballs filled with glycerin and potassium permanganate.  Mixed together they form an exothermic reaction which builds to flammability.  As a former paintball player, broken balls in the gun are a common problem, especially when creating your own paintballs. A broken ball in his gun would still ignite, and in the segment preview, there is a quick shot of the barrel flaming away, so it is fair to say this happened to him while trying to shoot it.  Homemade paintballs are also highly inaccurate, so hitting anything at any distance would require much luck. Lastly, all players know that a CO2 tank is one of the most unreliable sources of propellant there is.  Too hot, and the canister overpressurizes, blowing out the safety valve. Too cold and the tank freezes after a few shots and has no power.  Needless to say, keeping all this in the trunk of his Jeep in California, would result in a hot tank very quickly. At least it would function as a portable fire extinguisher if the balls break and light his jeep on fire.

In the quick segment previews he is shown with a nice 8” Bowie knife he pulls from his tactical vest, as well as several other smaller knives. The small ones he may get away with, but the Bowie? In LA?

The segment preview also shows him playing with a small novelty crossbow, and thankfully this was omitted from the actual shoot.

Telling indeed was the fact the Jim turned down a review by NatGeo. I think he knew full well which way that would go, smart move.

In spite of his military uniform and his fire breathing paintballs, I vote for :




Episode Air Date: 8/21/14

Prepper #3

Concern: “Major Hurricane”

Who: Jack , Alexandria, Virginia

Overview: Jack is a newcomer to the prepper world, although he has been practicing many of the concepts for a good part of his 16 years. Jacks concern is about a major hurricane impacting the Chesapeake  Bay area and the ensuing damage on civil disturbances. His plan is a simple one, If the area gets to dangerous, pack his stuff up in his kayak, carry it to the river a mile away, and take off for the wilderness.  Later in the segment he camps with his friends in a simulated disaster to practice his wilderness skills.  Because he is starting out, NatGeo only rated him at 4 months (with which he disagreed, typical teenager), but I feel he has great potential if he continues on this path.

Summary:  That being said, Jack still has a lot to learn. His basic plan is seriously flawed, part of which he found out himself as he attempted to carry it out. But the bigger picture is more disturbing. During a hurricane (his choice of prep target, not mine), he thinks the best course of action is to take to his kayak? On a major river? And how , even as a highly skilled kayaker, is he to paddle upstream, against all sorts of flood water and debris, to his bugout area in the north?  I suspect the kayak part was simply worked into the segment at NatGeos guidance, since it was probably just sitting there. His plan to hike out (they drove) and go north is more workable, although how they would accomplish this in a hurricane disaster is still a mystery. The rest of his plan involves hunting and fishing, but as we older and wiser know, that is a poor option, especially after a hurricane, where fishing would not really be possible and hunting greatly complicated by wind, fallen trees and high water, not to mention the animals would be bedded down against this.  Hunting for food is not a survival option, unless it is a supplement to your food. 

I think Jack could learn much by joining up with a local APN chapter (he is already a Scout), and learning more. To qualify as a prepper, he needs food supplies, water supplies, shelter, and defense. Light and heat help too.

He has a start, lets see what he makes of it, but for right now, its - 



Episode Air Date: 8/28/14

Prepper #1

Concern: “Biological Weapon”

Who: Jerry , Colorado

Overview: This was an interesting segment. Jerry and his wife moved from Houston up to Colorado, and purchased a defunct telecommunications property.  We are not told what Jerry does, or what he sold, but Jerry has invested millions in upgrading the property to meet his defensive requirements for a biological attack. That said, he still has invested in many of the mundane things that preppers everywhere must do. Water and food (and lots of toilet paper as he points out) are stockpiled in the building. He has 4 wind turbines and a bank of solar panels that supply most, if not all of his electricity.

He has constructed a double entry system to deter invasion, and has a corridor in which he can use ultraviolet light to disinfect people inside. His ventilation system can be sealed to prevent airborne  particles from getting into the building. As back up, he has generators and a large stored gasoline tank to run them. His plans include developing a prepper village around the main building to enable a self sustaining community.

Summary: There are some things here that are not clear, or simply do not make sense. While the segment implies that Jerry constructed the building, this is unlikely, as I know of no zoning or building code that would allow such a building to be constructed without windows. So the hardened building was there already, and he simply renovated it. This is important, because some of this comes into play later.

The tower is still up, and he has sensibly placed his solar and wind generators on it. In the shot at the base of the tower, showing the generators and gas storage, I could not help but notice that the 500 gallon tank (presumably full of gasoline) is completely exposed. Well placed shots from the outlying area could penetrate the tank and cause a ‘gasoline flood’, which could then be ignited. It appears this would be close enough to the building to at least cause damage to the infrastructure like power cables and lines running from the tower to the building. The explosion itself, if properly detonated, would provide an extreme amount of blast pressure as well. There is also large propane tanks in the same area, which could be used the same way. Exposed solar panels and wind turbines could also be sniping targets from quite a distance out. Once these are out of commission, someone would have to leave the safety of the building to access the generators, becoming a target in the process. 

With only two windows, the building is well protected, although visibility outside is extremely limited. It is clear he will be relying on video surveillance cameras to see what is going on, but these would be useless with no power to them. They would also be useless if someone did some target practice on them.  The other issue with windows comes up here.

We learned in the first season, that a human being needs 80 cubic feet of air per hour, or 1.2 cubic feet per minute. When Jerry shuts down his ventilation system, his building is sealed. In a biological lab, air is pumped into the lab to pressurize it. This is so the air inside is slowly forced outside (positive pressure) which in theory carries contamination outside, and makes it impossible for outside contamination to seep inside through cracks. I saw no evidence that Jerry can generate clean air from inside the building. This could be done of course, using large tanks of compressed air allowed to slowly bleed out into the building. Since we are not told what the square feet of Jerrys building is, we cannot know for sure how much air it contains, but using an average house size of 2000 square feet, this gives us about 100 hours of air per person (Jerry and his wife), which is about 4 days. Not sure that would be long enough to outlast a biological event, especially considering that those calculations run the air to exhaustion. In actuality, after the halfway point, the lack of oxygen would cause serious effects.

So two days clean air supply, no weapons, no active defense are the cons, 

Good food storage and a good passive defense are the pros.

He actually has a chance if he addresses these issues.





Episode Air Date: 8/28/14

Prepper #2

Concern: “Wildfire”

Who: Josh and Rachel, California

Overview:  Josh and Rachel live in wildfire country in California, and Rachel almost lost her home to a previous fire. They are almost preppers, but not quite, as their concern is very narrowly focused. They do have a years supply of stored food, and an underground bunker to house it in.  Josh grows Tilapia in an aquaponics system similar to other ones we have seen on this show. He practices fire drills with the kids and has built a “mobile” fire apparatus for the house area. They have chickens and pigs as well.

Summary:  We have previously discussed ventilation requirements in underground bunkers, so I will not get all technical in this review, crunching the numbers gives about 20 hours of air for one person, about 5 hours with a family of four, and that’s includes “Oxygen to zero”, which is not possible to use. In reality the oxygen in the air we breathe makes up 20%, once O2 levels reach 10%, humans go unconscious, so lets say a few hours of air with a family of four.

If you are going to build an underground system, please do it right. Everything else in Josh’s bunker looked good. Here are some options.  Lease some welding tanks from a supplier, nitrogen and oxygen are both very common. Breathing air is 78% Nitrogen, so you could run the tanks through a regulator to supply a precise mix, very slowly, over a long time.  

Example - Volume of Air in a Cylinder Storage

The standard atmospheric air in a 1.76 cubic feet K-type cylinder at 2200 psig (2214.7 psia) can be calculated as:

Va = (2214.7 psia) (1.76 cu ft) / (14.7 psia) = 265 (cu ft)

Nitrogen cylinder pressures can run as high as 6000 psi, with potentials of 800 cu. Ft. available.  This type would be ideal for Josh’s situation as he envisions utilizing the bunker as fire protection for short term.

Simpler solutions involve using natural convection currents. The old timers knew that if you provide a certain size opening as an exhaust vent, and a smaller opening as an intake vent, natural drafts will pull air through the bunker. This could involve some sections of 4” PVC pipe leading out of the bunker to a point on the outside downwind of the prevailing winds.  The suction of the wind blowing across the pipe(s) will pull the air into the intakes (which should be on the upwind side). Inside the bunker, caps should be provided for the pipes to seal out smoke and irritants.  Fans and blowers could be installed on these as well.

 Other things here did not make sense.  In the event of a fire (his main concern), he would lose his hydroponic system, so this would not sustain him. Even if the power was interrupted, he would still lose this, (and the animals as well). This appears to be why he has stocked his bunker with food, but they would not even be living there if the place burns down, so why stock extensive food supplies there?

His ‘booby trapped’ 72 hour food pail he has carefully poisoned almost makes no sense at all. Who is he going to poison? Starving people looking for food? Firefighters?  It seems he is confusing his theoretical prepper plan with his concern over fire.  If his house got overrun by a mob, then it makes a bit of sense, but that is not what the segment is about. 

His homemade fire apparatus is largely useless. Since it is on wheels and weighs hundreds of pounds, it can only be moved on relatively flat surfaces. Why does he envision needing such a thing? This is not explained. I won’t even go into the firefighting segment, it was completely irrelevant to the show.

It seems that Josh and Rachel are fairly self sufficient, a prepper trait, but have no real prepper plans. There is no plan for alternative power, no security or defense plan, no stored water, and no long term living in the bunker.


 Well, another season of DP draws to a close. Hopefully we have learned some new things from this season. Some of these people do actually stand a chance of surviving a disaster, but many will not, since there is one other ingredient that is never discussed.

With it, you can increase your odds dramatically. With it, no matter how bad things look, and how bad things continue to get, you can shout out "Is that all you have?" 

I was going to say "Luck", but that is not it. It is something that can override luck, something more powerful than nature itself. Something that makes you a 'survivor'.  


Some are born with it, the rest of us have to practice at it.  

Your attitude towards events can indeed change the future. You have only to believe.