Doomsday Preppers: The Coy Family

After a week off, Doomsday Preppers is back with a Pacific Northwest-centered episode entitled “Fortress at Sea”, which is really only relevant to the second profile.
However, we start out in eastern Washington for a look at the homestead of Kevin & Annissa Coy.
kevincoySince they live in an area with at least four active volcanoes, it’s only reasonable that they’d be at least a little concerned about one of them blowing its top.

With four kids, everybody has their designated role—their daughter runs the weather station (for predicting approaching volcanic ash speeds and such); son is in charge of food; son-in-law (former Army, of course) is in charge of defense, &c.

Naturally, if you’re worried about a giant cloud of ash and poison gases rushing down the valley to Pompeii-ify your home, you’re not going to focus on hunkering down bunker-style, so the Coys are planning to bug-out at a moment’s notice. Or at least, the moment they get word of an eruption, they’ll start loading up their caravan of bugout vehicles: an RV, a pickup truck and livestock trailer, an ex-charter bus, and a sailboat. Yeah, wow. You can imagine with an array like that, bugging out isn’t going to be as simple as grabbing bags and leaving.

Now, we’re reminded that they’ve been living in this house for a quarter-century, and so the big dramatic question becomes: can Annissa leave their home behind should the time come? Remember the Professor’s words: “One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.” And in this case, pretty much everybody in this culture is in fetters to all the STUFF we acquire.
As Kevin says, “It’s not going to be easy to be mobile and jumping around all the time.” Complete the thought: “…after being sedentary for so long.” (In his lectures, Max Brooks has often suggested that the biggest stumbling block to long-term survival among Americans is our opposition (instilled by our ambient culture) to “going native”. After all, Our way is the One Right Way to Live, so why should we care that the indig locals’ way was totally sustainable and survivable? (As Eddie Vedder sang, “Those ignorant indians got nothin’ on me”)
In a kind of compromise for his civilized wife (unwilling as she is to live without square shelters and pictures on the walls), Kevin builds her a Tiny House they can potentially take with them on a bugout. Which is cool, because I’m a big fan of microhousing (hey, any downsizing is better than none). And what’s even better is Kevin’s solution to the sanitation solution: the microhouse features a bonafide Jenkins model HUMANURE setup! Praise Jeebus, finally! (Of course, like Permaculture, we’ll never hear the H word uttered on the show, but that’s what it is). They even let Kevin go over the basics and benefits of such a system!

Now, I said earlier their son is in charge of their food supply, much of which is “on the hoof”—they have a large menagerie of chickens, pigs, rabbits, and a goat. Kevin also reminds us that they also have a poodle and a Chihuahua, if they’re ever really hard-up for some protein. “I’m kidding”, he says, to Annissa’s if-looks-could-kill glare. He shouldn’t be kidding. While he should definitely keep the poodle around for hunting small game (my old poodle was a first-rate rabbit tracker), the shivering bighead pooch is coyote bait and should probably be eaten ASAP. Hell, that’s what they were bred for in the first place!

Because there hasn’t been nearly enough drama coming from Mrs. Coy yet, we head out to the homestead’s hog lot, where the plan is to butcher one of the not-nearly-big-enough piggies. Of course, she can’t bring herself to pop Brother Pig in the head, so apparently Kevin just dispatches it with a knife. (He is a former butcher, so I’m pretty confident it was done as humanely as possible, but still.) Yeesh.

With that fun out of the way, they proceed to attempt a practice bugout. To make it more interesting, they impose a timecrunch on themselves: the volcano has erupted, and the ash-cloud will be here in an hour. Can they make it in time??? NO. And how.

So why does it take them twice the time needed, and still not go as planned? What do you expect, trying to bugout with multiple vehicles, a bunch of meteorological junk, live animals, and a 3,500-pound microhouse?

For starters, although we’ve been told their one year’s supply of food has been dispersed throughout all their vehicles, we still see Annissa making trips to the basement to retrieve more food. For what it’s worth, if your plan is to Get Outta Dodge in a hurry, keep the stuff you plan to grab on the ground floor.
That said,—I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it—if you have to pack, it’s not a bugout.

Then they try to round up the animals into a livestock trailer and hitch it up to a truck. It looks like there’s an issue with the truck’s hitch-ball being too low for the trailer, so that’s a no-go; they wind up filling the charter bus’s luggage compartments—in which they had planned on sleeping—with some of the livestock (thumbs-up for flexibility, and adaptability at least).

Then the guys try to slide the 1.75-ton tinyhouse onto a flatbed truck. It doesn’t work; the chains and straps break, and they wind up leaving it behind.
In the end, after all that they throw up their hands after two hours and call it a day.

From what I’ve seen, here’s what I would do. The microhouse is only eight by twelve feet, so it’d be totally feasible to lighten the load and integrate a trailer into the design—hell, that’s how most of the tiny houses I’ve seen work anyway.:
tiny-house-on-trailerUse the pickup truck to pull it, freeing the flatbed to carry the livestock—modular walls are easy to come by, they could make a frame to hold everybody’s cages, and you could still hose it off every now and then. This saves the charter bus for hauling cargo, gear, and food; use the RV for hauling people. Bam, problems solved.
However, it all comes down to the importance of testing and practicing a plan before lives depend on it. You wouldn’t go camping in the wilderness without knowing how to start a fire or make shelter (at least I hope you wouldn’t), so save these pre-disaster times for getting familiar with your plans. In the Coy’s post-filming update, it sounds like they’ve done just that, and have had successful bugout drills.
The experts give them 67 points for eleven months’ initial survival time, which Kevin graciously accepts as a pretty fair assessment.

Of course, what they don’t mention (thanks to the show’s one-issue-only format) is how Kevin and Annissa’s little farmstead is—like the Taylors from a few weeks back—all about self-sufficiency and simple living without reliance on the Grid. If the volcanoes don’t erupt but the dollar goes bust, I have a feeling these guys would still be doing just fine.


6 responses to this post.

  1. A nice review and interesting perspective.
    […] Always interesting to get another’s perspective on how you did. this blog reviews all the doomsday preppers episodes from the National Geographic channel. I just found it and thought I would share. I have been getting a lot of feedback lately and press . If you put yourself out there you never know what will happen. I hope it helps others to share my story so that people can learn to be more self reliant and debt free. […]


  2. Too much stuff is the problem-o! first and foremost bugging out means leaving some stuff behind. If you aren’t ready to leave in a moments notice you are already shot down and maybe dead! Leave the animals penned and if nothing happens then that is great but if it does where you gonna put them anyway? I have farmed, had animals and have butchered or helped my husband do so. where do these so called other people think their meat comes from? anyway. off load lots of stuff. Save yourself and as much of the food you can carry to your vehicles and get the hell out of dodge!


  3. I can understand having a tiny home but I can’t understand having it mobile. Why not just buy a travel trailer? It will cost less, particularly secondhand and it is less weight to haul. Even all but the smallest sleep six in a pinch and all the necessities are at hand. Put a rubber roof on it and it is going to last a very long time.

    I also don’t think they accounted for the animals possibly panicking and making their time much longer. If they have to run around a pen for even minutes per animal….

    It seems to me their best bet is to equip themselves and their equipment with the ability to withstand the possible severe environmental conditions (ash and heat) for a few hours, which will give them more time to “bugout”.


    • Posted by A. on 9 March, 2013 at 17:49

      Keeping in mind that they already have a travel trailer/fifth-wheel camper, I think having a tiny house was more of a peace-of-mind thing for Mrs. Coy by helping to maintain a semblance of normalcy during a bugout. Evacuating and leaving behind one’s home with a camper (a temporary shelter at best) is one thing, but if they do so with a tiny house, I think the idea was she would feel ‘at home’ wherever they wound up.

      I agree their plan re: animals doesn’t take into account the likelihood of the animals being uncooperative. Honestly if they’re worried about the welfare of their livestock, I would personally unlock all the cages when they bugout; in my mind it’s more humane to give them the opportunity to range about on their own, versus dehydrating/starving to death in cages should the family be unable to return.
      Thanks for reading!


  4. Posted by Charles E A Johnson+ on 10 March, 2013 at 07:58

    When we were ‘evacuated’ last summer due to three, yes three, wildfires within two to three miles of us, we took our rabbits and goats, left all gates open for the horses and chickens, and bugged out. Three days later, when we were allowed to return, the fires had stopped before reaching our ridge, and the horses were waiting to be grain-fed.


  5. Posted by Charles on 10 March, 2013 at 21:04

    Wow! So much stuff! With all of these vehicles, people and animals one would think that they were setting themselves up to lose control of their bug out. I am a firm believer in being prepared but don’t you think this is a little too much?


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