You might have heard that the apocalypse is scheduled for Friday.
December 21, 2012 marks the end of a "Long Count" cycle in the Mayan calendar, an event which occurs once every 5,125 years. Although Mesoamerican scholars agree that Dec. 21 is simply the end of one Long Count and the beginning of another, people around the world anticipate the date with emotions ranging from indifference to hysteria.
Locally, it seems few people expect the world to end later this week, but a growing number of people are preparing for a range of disasters.
Fueled by apocalyptic movies, television shows and the news media, an entire subculture of "preppers" has emerged over the past couple years. While some of these preppers dedicate their lives to preparing for the worst, most simply see prepping as an enjoyable side hobby.
Jack Simons owns and operates the Springs Road Gun Club in Hickory. Although he thinks nothing unusual will happen on Friday, he said "there's always the possibility of other disasters" at some point in the future.
Simons said solar flares predicted for 2013 are a cause of concern for many people. Weather-related incidents in the United States, from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to Hurricane Sandy, have led many of his customers to consider how they would survive if the municipal services on which they rely were interrupted.
How would you survive if you were without electricity for a week? What about water and groceries? Preppers answer these questions by gathering specific supplies and by honing their survival skills.
Vince Blalock, Jeff Williams and Darren Sweet all work at Springs Road Gun Club and share an interest in prepping.
All three men have put together "bug-out bags" which would allow them to leave home in an emergency and survive for about three days with only the contents of the bag.
A basic bug-out bag includes a medical supply kit, food, and items for protection from the elements. A modest bag costs about $50 to put together, but the cost can range up to thousands of dollars depending on the items a prepper selects for his or her bag.
Blalock said the most important pieces in a bug-out bag are the items that will help keep you warm and dry. He said a person trying to survive in the wilderness faces a greater risk of becoming a victim of the elements than a victim of a malicious person or animal.
His bug-out bag includes a torch lighter with extra fuel and a collapsible mylar tent. He said "redneck stuff," including duct tape and zip ties, is handy to a person living off the land. Duct tape rolled into a cylinder can provide a better flame than a candle and zip ties are perfect for fixing broken tent poles or making spears.
Williams said that when he gives information to novice preppers, "the main thing that I ask people is, 'What would you not do to feed your family?'" He says invariably people answer that there is nothing they would not do to protect their loved ones. "If you go back to primal instincts, you'll do whatever you have to do," he said.
Williams keeps his bug-out bag ready and his gun magazines loaded. "I don't let it take over my life to where I sell everything and just buy prepping stuff, but I feel like I'm pretty well set," he said. "I'm a firefighter/EMT. I don't want to hurt anyone for any reason. All I want to do
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