Seventy-Two Hours to Animal

Michael Hayward

There’s been a lot of “hunkering down” during the pandemic, though our “hunkering” goes by many different names: perhaps we’re “staying close to home” or “staycationing”; we might be “laying low.” But most of us are mere amateurs at hunkering when compared to the “doom-preppers” described in Bradley Garrett’s Bunker: Building for the End Times (Scribner). As you might expect from a deep dive into an obscure subculture, Bunker is awash with arcane terminology and acronyms (helpfully, a six-page glossary of terms is included at the beginning of the book). “Preppers,” we learn, are those who foresee a dark time looming on our collective horizon, and who try to prepare themselves. They envisage a general collapse of civilization, with widespread shortages of staple items, accompanied by anarchy and looting as everyone (except themselves, of course) is forced to scavenge to survive. “A common saying among preppers, ‘seventy-two hours to animal,’ suggests that even the most mild-mannered of people might turn wild within days.” If that prospect makes you anxious to stock up on dried pasta and canned tuna, then you’re already primed for the fast-talking snake-oil salesmen Garrett calls “dread merchants,” who see the collective anxieties of others as a business opportunity for themselves. One such merchant is Robert Vicino, a California developer of dubious background, now CEO of the Vivos Group, which proposes to build a series of underground bunkers at various secure sites around the globe. Garrett visits the site of a competing option, the Survival Condo in Kansas, a decommissioned missile silo transformed into “a fifteen-story luxury bolthole,” where a mere $1.5 million (USD) secures a half-floor unit where you could “weather a maximum of five years inside the sealed, self-sufficient bunker during a doomsday event.” At PrepperCon in Utah, Garrett learns how to make a Faraday cage to protect his electronics from an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), using only “a steel trash can, two yoga mats, and some duct tape.” It’s fascinating and disturbing stuff, which should come with a warning: by reading Bunker you run the risk of becoming a full-blown paranoiac.

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