REALITY SHOW’S ‘PRACTICAL PREPPER’ ON BEING READY FOR ANYTHING
Richard Dean Anderson is an accomplished TV actor, having starred for a decade in the successful sci-fi hit Stargate SG-1. But to many, he’ll always be MacGyver, that 1980s secret agent who, says the website macgyveronline.com, at different points in the 141-episode ABC show, could use a gum wrapper as fishing tackle,make a hot air signal balloon frompapermache and a ball, and build a baby crib from hockey sticks.
Scott Hunt has no interest in building a bomb out of a paper clip, but as a survivalist prepper, Hunt savors the idea of being somewhat of a MacGyver-type. “That’s what I do,”says Hunt a professional prepper who is a mentor to the survivalists preparing for the worst on the National Geographic Channel series, Doomsday Preppers.
“If you came here the last two days and watched me, I spent that time tweaking a centrifuge – not for nuclear material, just want to make that clear – for making black diesel. I took wasted motor oil and transmission fluid, and we made our own fuel that we could pour into my Volkswagen. And we drove in it.” Hunt is among the growing number of Americans who want to thrive when the unexpected happens. We’ve seen recent natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, Super Storm Sandy along the Atlantic Seaboard and devastating tornadoes throughout the Central Plains. What happens when you could possibly lose everything, and individually that could be a job, a family member or your life savings?
That’s where Hunt’s company he started three years ago, Practical Preppers (864-915-1855; practicalpreppers.com), hopes to get people started on having a plan in place in the event of a calamity like, and Alaskans know these are very possible,earth quakes or fires.Many of his how-to videos available on his website or YouTube channel (youtube.com/user/engineer775) show him working with enough gadgets to keep James Bond comfortable if one of the villains he’s battling actually does succeed with world destruction.
Hunt has an intriguing resume:he earned a master’s degree in engineering from the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy,N.Y.) and worked as a product development engineer with Michelin Tire for a decade; he spent 10 years as a senior pastor and operates a successful cattle/livestock business. But prepping for the worst and using his creative energy to figure out how to survive is a passion. Assisting those preppers on the National Geographic show has opened the eyes of viewers one way or the other.
“Doomsday Preppers has really helped me. I live in the middle of nowhere so how do I get my name out there?The show helps, the Internet helps like social media,” says Hunt, who just finished writing a book, Practical Preppers: A Guide to Disaster Preparedness that will be available beginning in August. We caught up with Hunt from his rural South Carolina property where he talked about not losing balance when your life is turned upside down.
Chris Cocoles In watching some of your videos, what you do seems pretty complicated to an on expert like me,but is it a pretty simple process for you?
SCOTT HUNT [laughs] I do a variety of things and try to keep it simple; just throwing up (videos) of every possible thing that I can come up with to help people be prepared for whatever they’re preparing for. The shows that have come out, like Doomsday Preppers, you have a variety of people: a mixture of preppers, some survivalists, and you have some that do both. And we recommend learning both. But from a preparedness standpoint, we think building community and not just heading out into the hills is the way to go. But my part in is I’m trying to promote a preparedness lifestyle, something where you’re not as dependent on the system. But you’re also not hiding under a rock somewhere. But if there is a crisis a tornado, ahurricane,or something, that you’re part of the solution and not the problem.
CC So how did you get involved in prepping with your diverse background?
SH It’s all kind of come together. I had a good education in mechanical engineering and robotics. And I was a pastor who traveled and did missionary work and helped a lot of people that way. So prepping is a way to combine both of these for me, using the skills I’ve learned. It’s kind of a weird way to get where I am, but a long path. It’s been a grea tmatch and just makes sense.
CC Tell me about your experience on Doomsday Preppers.
SH I was on the pilot episode.We got back to the production company, Sharp Entertainment, when the show was sold to Nat Geo. We were assessed, but we said, “How could somebody from downtown Manhattan assess our preparedness?” We challenged them; they asked us if we wanted to be on season one.We said no, but “what if we do the assessment part of the show?” We just finished (shooting) season four.
CC What’s it been like to assess this cast of characters appearing on the show?
SH There are what I call true preppers that are very cynical and do not like the show because it’s sensationalizing the prepper movement to some degree. But I tell them that you’re just getting a 15-minute snapshot of a person who has worked 20 years on what he does. It’s not fair. But if you look at this objectively, you can pick up something from each one. I’ve talked to hundreds of people and I always pick up something. I finally talked to the production company and said, “Would you let me to talk to the prepper?” I could talk their language, so to speak, and I could see what they’re preparing and how they’re preparing and what they’re preparing for.
Get me on the phone with them for at least a half hour and I can get what this person is doing. I’ve learned a lot from what they’re good at for their climate and conditions, and their possible national disasters. That could give me another
idea and project to work on. It’s been nothing but awesome to talk to different
preppers. There are some who probably shouldn’t have been on the show. But overall, it’s been very positive for me to be a part of Doomsday Preppers.
CC Was there a time earlier in your life where you were unprepared for something and it convinced you to become a prepper?
SH Not necessarily, but seeing other people suffer and paying attention to that as a pastor for a church, I saw people who lost a job or had health concerns. They weren’t ready for that. Maybe a spouse is addicted to a drug and it completely wipes out the family. Preparedness can be for anything. People talk
things like the apocalypse or EMP’s [a nuclear electromagnetic pulse], but people in general are not prepared for life. I spent 10 years pastoring people who were wiped out in their life.You can’t prepare for everything. But it’s nice to prepare at some level and to be help others in those situations.
CC When you see the after math of a disaster I think we all say“Wow,we could have been more prepared to handle this.”But did it hit home for you even more when you saw what went on after Hurricane Katrina or Super storm Sandy?
SH You see people like a mother who can’t give her child an asthma rescue. There are simple things when you say, “Oh my goodness, I have the solution for that.”People suffer because they don’t prepare. When something like Sandy hits, you know there are people who are going to be wiped out. (Hurricane) Irene in Vermont (in 2011) and people stranded. Katrina was awful, of course. So storms continue to get stronger and more violent. Simple things like being in Oklahoma and not having a tornado shelter, it’s just not wise. And being able to get away from a wildfire, a tornado or flooding, those are not things that require you to spend a life savings to do. A lot of times you just need to leave where you’re at, and people sometimes aren’t even prepared to do that. FEMA can’t come and rescue everybody.You can’t imagine what’s going to happen.
CC I grewup in the San Francisco Bay Area, where, of course, there’s always a threat of earthquakes. And when we had a quake we’d watch the news, which would always tell us to be prepared and have emergency supplies stored. And my family and I always thought that we need to dot his, and we sort of did it, but really we never did. And I think that’s the mentality a lot of families have. But like you preach, you should more than prepared for that, right?
SH Exactly. If people just followed the government’s guidelines at ready.gov,we would be way better off. People do not follow it. They are now going more towards a week’s worth of preparedness. Because help is not always going to get to you for a period of seven days, so why not have enough simple water, food, shelter, and those things on hand? We’re not talking about a mass in gan arsenal and trying to protect your community. No matter what the scenario there could be a breakdown and social chaos. Humans become animals within a few days when
they don’t have food or water. Being exposed to the elements in some climates is brutal. A lot of reality shows in Alaska, those people have to be preppers. They have to or they die. But most people in the Lower 48 don’t have to prepare like that and survive on a daily basis. They become dependent on food, water and medicine being available or delivered.
The communication system is always working. It’s a very fragile, high-tech society. I understand the technology, but I also like old, simpler ways to fall back on. It can fail and it has failed in pockets in different ways. Why not have simple ways to stay warm, cook your food, take care of your family and have some potable water so nobody gets sick?
CC But it’s not just about natural calamities, it can be losing a job or a family member or having a sick family member you should prep for just in case, correct?
SH You do see that in some of the prepper groups: they run their groups through scenarios. “Today, Joe lost his job.” It’s hard to simulate what you’re saying with a job loss. But it’s good to make people who you know or work with to think through that scenario. You don’t know what people will do until they’re put in that situation,or course. So sometimes it’s good to maybe throw the breaker or turn the power off. The family doesn’t appreciate it, but it’s a good test to see how we are addicted to our cell phones, our tablets, everything. There will be severe psychological trauma if the Internet goes down. I’m just as bad as anyone else because I live in a very rural area. I could not do what I do without it. From job loss to that huge disaster, you don’t know what people are going to do and how they’re going to behave.
CC Have you been told by people,“Hey, you guys are eccentric, you’re nuts, you overdo it?”
SH [laughs] All the time. But then when something happens, “Maybe Scott wasn’t that crazy.”I’ve always done this; Idon’t golf, I don’t hunt. I like to do what I do and help to give people ideas on how to prepare. It helps me to be prepared because I build these things and install them. I’m going all over the place to install solutions that I design. So it doesn’t bother me that people think I’m crazy. And a lot of people who used to think I’m crazy are totally on board. The light bulb went off and “now I get it.”But some extremists or nut jobs can ruin it.“ If that’s prepping I don’t want anything to do with it,”and I understand that. We need food,water and shelter and that’s all I’m talking about. I tell people a little bit about electricity goes a long way. If the grid goes down for a week, can you generate a little bit of power? It can be generators, solar panels in your area or maybe you have a creek that works for hydro. I don’t care if it’s human power up to very complicated hybrid power systems.But start simple. The Amish are laughing at us for this; they are prepared and don’t need our technology.
CC You have quite the impressive resume, and you’re an intelligent person. And you have to be a little creative and think outside the box in what you do.
,b>SH You do. I think my goal when I bought this small piece of property, my hobby was could I live off it and be self-sufficient. What do I have? I have wood, I have water. And from that I have done crazy things and it’s been fun. It just keeps going. The more people that could be prepared, it’ll pay off. People who have gone through the hurricanes, a lot of those people say, “I will never do this again.” I get a lot of calls from people in Florida who have gone through multiple hurricanes. They ask me,“What do I need to have water?” I start with water; I don’t care what your political bend is; everybody needs good water. When I start off with the Doomsday Preppers, I ask them to tell me about their water supply. How do they get it? What’s their long-term solution? A lot of people don’t have one. I make suggestions. Water opens the door for me to talk to everybody. I don’t start with, “How many guns do you have?” That turns off a lot of people.
CC There are a couple of great quotes on your website from two men I admire: Benjamin Franklin(“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”), and Henry Ford (“Chop your own wood, and it will warm you twice.”). What do those two quotes mean to you? Because I see Franklin and Ford as kind of geniuses who thought outside the box.
SH Absolutely.You had almost a scientist, of course, in Ben Franklin, and more of an engineer in Henry Ford.Where I grew up in upstate New York, everywhere you went you were using and getting wood. Though I despised it as a teenager I love it now and use it for everything. But yes, they’re both awesome guys. I’d put Michael Faraday and (Albert) Einstein in there as well. They’re just creative out-of-the-box men,and I enjoy that.
CC What’s one message you hope Doomsday Preppers can send?
SH The first thought that comes to my mind is wake up. A lot of people on the show say they are preparing for everything. And the show does a good job of spreading it out: “You’re preparing an EMP, you’re preparing for a wildfire, you’re preparing for a job loss.” Doomsday Preppers gets it out there that,“It could happen to me. We need to do something about it. That person showed me what I could do.” Some people spend crazy amounts of money,but there are some good and practical solutions to protect yourself and your family and maybe even your community. So kind of the message is to wakeup to the reality of how fragile our society is.
CC So about that MacGyver comparison…
SH I have 300-plus videos of MacGyver like stuff. My shop is a disaster. I have 50 projects going on. It’s a lot of fun. I have a couple young guys who I’m training. So I said, “Come on guys: let’s build this.” I have so many gadgets and gizmos. This was my dream that I could be, for lack of a better word, a MacGyver and be able to share that with other people. I’m having a blast; I need to get more sleep [laughs].
Editor’s note: For more information on Scott Hunt’s company, Practical Preppers, go to his website, practicalpreppers.com