Doomsday Preppers: Brenda McSwigan

The episode continues with a visit to the Appalachian home of Brenda McSwigan.

© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentShe’s preparing for an Avian Flu Pandemic—wow, seems like we haven’t heard about one of those since Season 1!

The question now becomes What’s She Selling? As soon as I see a person on the show agreeing to air their full name, I assume they’re not really worried about ‘OpSec’ and having their location revealed, so they must have something to sell. In Brenda’s case, it’s her how-to-survive-a-pandemic book.

So with that fact established, Brenda sits on ten acres of woodland, which she shares with horses and at least one squirrel. There’s a shot of installing some 400-watt pv solar panels, and she gets nineteen food points from the experts at the end (must have one helluva garden we didn’t see, or something), so I’m guessing she’s at least aiming for self-reliant homestead.

To help her survive her predicted pandemic, she’s recruited a “task force”—read: a group of friends—that includes a hunter, nurse, and farmer. Hey, at least it’s way better than the usual Kevlar-clad, gung-ho wannabe soldiers-of-fortune this show usually fixates on, but I still strongly dislike this kind of specialized pigeonholing, distilling all the various facets of an individual into a single label. As a certified jack-of-all-trades, I’m scared to think what simplistic occupation someone would stick me with if I got roped into someone’s survival group—educator, craftsman, musician, writer, gardener…? Hmm, probably best to stick with ‘freedom enthusiast’.

On the plus side, at least Brenda has an altruistic angle to her ‘prepping’ and actively wants to help people, so she and her crew whip up a horse barn hotel for potential bird-flu ’fugees. There’s some roleplaying with inspecting new arrivals, and some drama when a couple have to get ‘quarantined’ for a few weeks in a camper, but nothing comes of it.
Then there’s a segment where Brenda gets a lesson on checking chickens for the birdflu. It goes on way longer than necessary, especially since it revolves around repeated use of the word ‘cloaca’.

And finally there’s a rare glimpse of level-headed realism, sorely missing from most preppers’ post-disaster visions, when Brenda ponders a pressing issue if a pandemic should occur—what to do with bodies? Answer: have your farmhand start digging a mass grave.

The experts give her 73 points for thirteen months. Given what we’re shown, that seems a little high, but as we all know, the points don’t matter.


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