Doomsday Preppers: Bryan Smith

DP’s first episode of 2013 (‘Prepared, Not Scared’) opens with a profile of Bryan Smith in Florida.
bryan smithHis isolated concern is with the ‘total collapse of the US monetary system’. He foresees this will turn urban areas—what with their tight population densities and all—into nightmares. He sees the problem with cities ultimately comes down to food, as the “produce isn’t grown anywhere near where people consume it”, which is true. Of course, he’s looking at the issue from three inches away, instead of arm’s length, so I don’t expect him to be able to find the bars of his cage. He’s identified one troublesome aspect of The Mess, but he hasn’t taken the next step, which is to consider change or alternatives. As a result, his preparedness solution takes a familiar form.

Bryan seems to think that one shouldn’t rely on anybody—not the government (that’s actually true; you really shouldn’t), nor one’s neighbors. Which is silly, because no one can be 100% self-reliant; we simply didn’t evolve that way. Humans are social animals, and we evolved in small communities for mutually assured survival. Well, if I heard right, Mr. Smith has a family of twelve, so it’s no wonder he has no interest in engaging with his neighbors, because his family is already the size of a small neighborhood. To support this massive clan in the event of a disaster, Bryan done some classical Type I Prepping, and hoarded—among mass quantities of shelf-stable prepper staples—literally one ton of rice and beans.

Last year, he dropped a quarter-million dollars on 47 acres somewhere in Florida. Honestly, if you have that kind of money to spend on land, why stay in Florida? I guess he really likes heat, humidity, and sand. Clearly Bryan isn’t worried about climate change and rising sea levels—check out this University of Arizona map showing areas that would be submerged after a six-meter (which is drastically high, but you get an idea) sea level rise. I’m a big fan of Kevin O’Brien from last season, who had the right thinking to pull up stakes and high-tail it outta Florida for the lush hills of Tennessee. I dunno, there is literally nothing about Florida that appeals to me.

So, what’s his plan for this chunk of land? Put up an impenetrable living fence to keep out intruders, dig some semi-subterranean earthship homes to keep cool, and use all that sandy soil to grow root crops to feed the family?
Nope. He’s going to do some farming, all right—but just growing tobacco and sugarcane. His dream for post-collapse life is to have a ‘post-apocalyptic country store’. I guess he intends to use those to barter with…neighbors?…for things his family needs? Sounds like relying on others to me. Then he shows his buddy a ‘still’ he uses to boil some sugarcane-liquor (he says it was just water in the pot), that he can supposedly use to run his generator to pump water from the well.
Now, since he’s going to be a ‘farmer’, he needs fuel for his shiny new tractor, so he and the buddy find an old electrical transformer—donated by the power company apparently—which he says is full of mineral oil. He shoots a few holes in it and they catch the greasy cascade in a tarp. Seems like a lotta work for something I’m not sure he should be putting in his machinery. Plus, couldn’t he just lean a ladder up against the pole and drill a hole in the can?

Bryan next shows off his $100,000 bullet reloading setup. I’m no expert—I’m happy with my one-bullet-at-a-time reloader bench—but that seems a little steep. I know it’s one of those fancy ‘progressive’ loaders, but still. And while they’re talking things-that-go-bang, Bryan shows off some good ol’ fashioned zip guns! One that looks like a cane, one that looks like a pen, and one of those spring-loaded, arm-mounted, sleeve-gun-thingies straight out of Taxi Driver. I’m not sure on the legality of those items, but seeing how much green Smith has been throwing down on everything else, I’ll bet a couple of ATF tax stamps wouldn’t hurt him much.
And why do they have all this ordnance? “To keep the women and children safe!” No, dude, get them involved! Take some classes with them, take them to the gun range, and teach them to keep themselves safe! If you’re all about not relying on others, it’s not fair to make them have to rely on you! Besides, it’s weird we never see any of this massive family in the segment, and there’s something very old-school, patriarchal, and status quo-y (which doesn’t really surprise me, given what we’ve seen) about his attitude, but I’m not sure how else to explain it.

Anyway, we never really see what kind of shelter Bryan has at this location, so he hires an old friend, Ron Hubbard of Atlas Shelters, to build him a $150,000 bunker. It looks like most of his bunkers are made from corrugated pipe, which makes them ideal for burying. The same way arches are like, ideal for distributing weight in aboveground constructions, it seems that circular structures are idea for underground ones.
Ron claims that the bunker “will be completely off-grid so it’s not dependent on anybody else”…so, where is the electricity going to come from?
They drive around on one of those camouflaged glorified golfcarts, looking for a location to bury the bunker. There’s some drama stuff, friends getting pissy with each other and such. Bleh.
Eventually, they find a spot and get the tube buried (20 feet underground!) and installed, and Ron shows Bryan around his new digs. We’re reminded that being stuck in a tube underground can have negative effects on one’s mental health, so these bunkers are designed to help prevent cabin fever, or whatever. I’m expecting they’ve included like, warm solar-wavelength lights, or some simulated windows with nature scenes, or…anything, really. But nope, just an ‘electric fireplace’(how does that work?), a big screen TV, DVD player, microwave, refrigerator, leather recliners, and beer! In other words, all the comforts of home civilization. Atlas Shelters: The world above may be going to hell, but you can still hold on to your god-given right to vegetate for just a little bit longer!

In the experts’ assessment, they suggest Bryan set up some rain barrels, to complement his pumps, which shouldn’t be relied on alone. Bryan declares that he has no intention of collecting rainwater. Wait, what? He lives in the state with the fifth-highest annual precipitation, but instead of connecting some simple and inexpensive plastic tubs to his existing gutters, he actually wants to rely on complex mechanical devices that won’t work unless hooked up to an even more complex machine that requires fossil fuels to run? This, in a humid, salty environment covered with sand? Anybody else see the myriad opportunities for failure here?
Does he think rain barrels are some hippie bunk? Y’know, getting stuff for free without having to work for it.
The experts also basically tell him, ‘You should grow food, too.’ You can’t really eat tobaccy and sugarcane, and that astronaut food and rice is going to run out eventually. They give him 78 points, which is supposed to equal 16 months of survival.
Bryan doesn’t seem to agree, and tells us that his family’s been there for nine generations and 150 years, and over 100 of those years was without electricity or water stores! Well, they might’ve been able to get by without electricity, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing much of that. Also, his comment clears up a hunch I had, which I won’t go into here, but suffice to say that going back nine generations in my family comes out to around the year 1700. You can do the math.

In his post-filming update, Bryan tells us he’s bought some body armor and started promoting these shelters, whatever that amounts to. *Eyeroll*, *sigh*.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Is your hunch that his 100 years of family in Florida survived without water storage and electricity because they had slaves to fetch the water for them? Because that’s kind of how I felt about this fellow.


    • Ron, that’s probably the logical endpoint of my hunch, but I didn’t follow it that far. I was just getting a general impression of leathery, heavily-armed, fast-breeding Southerners.


  2. Posted by Hic on 8 May, 2013 at 20:50

    A generation is considered to be 30-35 years which would = 270 years for 9 generations. Brian’s family would need to breed every 16 years every generation to have 9 generations in 150 years (round number). Small population, short time frame, early pregnancies… Come to your own conclusions.


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