Some in Alabama were ready: “People say, ‘Well what are you prepping for?’” –

As toilet paper and canned goods disappear from grocery shelves and fear grows about a lack of medical supplies at hospitals, some Americans like Darron Taylor are feeling relatively relaxed.

Taylor is a “prepper” on a Keto diet. He says he might own a pair of camo pants somewhere, but he’s not the “doomsday” type.

“I have not shot a zombie ever in my life,” he said. “Birds are real, they aren’t drones… and then there are no lizard people that I’ve met,” he added, “but I have eaten three times a day, every day, for 51 years.”

Taylor grows and cans shelves worth of vegetables. He stockpiles food and stores medical supplies, power tools, and guns in outbuildings on his property: an arsenal of self-sufficiency and permaculture on 11 acres in Adger, Alabama.

Some of Taylors’ prepper friends distrust the government, but that’s not his vantage point. A probability analyst by trade, Taylor prepares for the inevitable and the mundane, what he calls “the three D’s of life: death, disease, and disaster.”

Darron Taylor

Taylor says his storm shelter has room for eight people.

Taylor has a flock of chickens, tanks of water storage, medical supplies, and months’ worth of food stored between his home and multiple outbuildings.

“People say, ‘Well what are you prepping for?’”

Well, it wasn’t the coronavirus pandemic, but he’s ready all the same.

His farm is 45 minutes from emergency responders and sometimes tornados and other storms cause power outages for days. Generators, gasoline, chainsaws, tarps, paramedic bags, first aid kits, emergency rations, blankets, towels, extra clothes, hygiene kits, toys and Pedialyte for his grandkids, and a storm shelter for eight adults, are his focus.

It’s partly a fun hobby, something he discusses on his YouTube channel, Mayhem Country Living.

His wife understands.

“She likes the fact that whenever she needs a jar of pickle there are extra jars of pickles, and she lets me know, and I cycle them back in.”

It’s a way of life for generations in his family. He recalls his grandmother would step outside her back door for herbs from the garden when she cooked.

“They didn’t call it preparing for the end of society. It was life. They did not call themselves disaster preppers. They just lived,” he said. “I really think we need to get back into this.”

Business is good

At the Prepper’s Depot and Military Surplus store in Childersburg on Monday, owner Christopher Price has hardly had time to hang up his new stock of chemical protection suits with the recent rush of business over coronavirus in the last four days.

He’s selling more Israeli gas masks than usual, and he sold his last portable stretcher.

Christopher Price

Christopher Price shows an Israeli gas mask people have bought from him for the coronavirus

Price opened his store in Alabama in 2018 after moving from North Carolina, where he managed a Mobile Home Park, to be closer to his mother. Business last Spring was rough, but it thrives now.

“Bad things make people look at the long term, at least for the short term,” he said.

A regular customer calls the store and asks Price to hold a few boxes of MRE’s or Meals, Ready to Eat. He doesn’t usually do that, but he knows this customer will pay.

Price sells buckets of freeze-dried food with a 25-year shelf-life that includes cheesy rice, beef stroganoff and oatmeal in individual packs.

He offers nearly antique metal Coleman camping stoves.

“What happens when that guy at the power plant decides he doesn’t want the risk of going to work and getting the coronavirus? He asked “That’s what people are thinking.”

He’s sold five Woodland camouflage chemical protection suits, impregnated with activated charcoal, to two different families worried about catching the disease from the air.

Most of the people buying goods for the virus are new to his store.

“There are people out there blaming preppers for panic buying,” that’s totally wrong, he says. “You can’t start prepping right now, it’s too late.”

His regular customers are already ready for long-term survival. Their biggest concern tends to be worldwide economic collapse. Many had family members who lived through the depression.

“If they can’t control the world’s economy, well, that’s fine, but they can control how many bags of rice (they buy) this week. They can control how much ammo they buy this week, how much land they have under cultivation,” he said.

Chistopher Price

Christopher Price, owner of Prepper’s Depot and Military Surplus, holds up a bullet proof vest from his store.

“It’s a different mindset.”

Preppers have a way of looking at things that is different than most.

“Most people, driving down the road, see an oak tree and think ‘that’s a really pretty oak tree,'” he said. “Instead, a prepper would think ‘man, I need to remember where this tree is, because that would be a lot of firewood.’ It’s a different mindset.”

But those experiences of depravation are nearly forgotten by the current generation, says Price.

However several young couples came in this year and wanted to start seriously prepping. They didn’t exactly know what for, they just had a sense that something bad was coming.

“They were all basically saying the same thing, ‘I know I need to have something ready. I know I need to put something back. Something is going to happen, don’t know what it is.’”

He tells new preppers to start stocking up food and basic supplies from Dollar Tree, purchase a handgun, and then come back. Then he recommends they buy a good backpack, a sleeping bag, poncho, and sturdy clothing.

More advanced preppers have things like emergency surgery kits. He sells a kit that can stabilize four people. And he sells ammo for people who want to protect what they have.

“What’s going to happen if you show them what you have? What do you think they’re going to do, they’re going to stay in their house?”

Out of caution, he says, many preppers fly under the radar. If you met one, you’d probably never know.

Making biscuits

Some preppers who Alabama Media Group spoke with expressed hesitation to share their names. A few members of a Facebook preppers group responded that they are “not preppers,” including a guy who had posted pictures of a bullet-resistant saferoom under his bed.

But Penny Richards is the kind of prepper who believes in building community with her neighbors, sharing information, and helping each other out. A postal carrier, she started prepping about 9 years ago after tornados hit her area, killing dozens of people, and causing her to lose power and all of her frozen food.

“I thought, you know what, there’s got to be a better way. There’s got to be a better plan for us. And so we started canning foods then and dehydrating and things like that.”

Richards lives alone with her kids after her husband recently died from a longstanding illness. She hopes she never needs to use her preparations, but she calls it common sense.

“Do you know how few ingredients it takes to make biscuits and gravy? She asked. “We would not even begin to feel a pinch for at least three months.”

She says all of those biscuit ingredients are shelf stable.

Richards has the occasional, more remote, fear of an event like an Electromagnetic pulse-related terrorist attack.

“The apocalypse is not a thing that’s going to happen,” she said, “but if you think about being prepared for the zombie apocalypse, you’re probably going to be prepared for the coronavirus.”

Darron Taylor

Taylor’s grandson holds a bag of rice at the store.

“Pack animals”

Richards likes to encourage people to put away a bit of food at a time in storage, in the house, in a barn, with a neighbor.

“Don’t go crazy and run out into these large gathering places Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, and start trying to buy up stuff where you’re congregating with other people who could be carrying this virus that you’re so frightened of.”

Her philosophy is, if one person goes down, everyone goes down. That’s why she attends prepper meet ups and seed swaps.

“You have to know your neighbors know go and say, ‘Hey, man, you know, my tractor’s stuck. Can you help me out?…Oh, and ‘You know, it’s awesome to have you here. Can I do something for you sometime?’”

Taylor, the probability analyst, thinks the term “lone wolf,” used among preppers, is an odd, even horrible description.

“Lone wolves die in nature,” he said. “Wolves are pack animals.”

So when his friends call and say they’re going to buy more bullets to store away, he gives them another idea.

“I’d much rather you go buy some Tylenol or Ibuprofen, maybe a bottle of bleach to help clean and disinfect,” he said. “Or get you some multivitamins.”