PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - More South Floridians are proudly identifying themselves as 'Preppers,' dedicated to making sure they are ready for the very worst, whenever and however it may come.
After years of living this lifestyle under the radar, some of these 'Preppers' are going public, including Palm Beach County's Charley Hogwood. "You do become a target if you tell everybody in the world that you've got something that they want, so you just keep it to yourself," he said.
Hogwood, a former military man, was at one time measuring radiation levels in Chernobyl. Later in life he found himself on the front lines here at home after Hurricane Andrew. Time and again, Hogwood was in the heart of devastation."You're always going to have people feel that somebody will be there, that there will always be food on the shelves, that there will always be gas in the pumps," he said. "But we know from being down here after or before a hurricane, things are not so comfortable."
Hogwood is a self-proclaimed 'Prepper'. "When it comes to prepping, people are accepting it. The trend is there," he said. "People are seeing it's not that hard and it's really not that crazy."
What is 'Prepping?'
Currently, 'Prepping' is the focus of a National Geographic Channel reality television show. Its subjects are often gun-toting, mask-wearing, end-of-the-world obsessed 'Doomsday Preppers'.
The lives of most 'Preppers,' though, are much less than dramatic, but still very dedicated to constant preparation for a potential disruption in social or political order.
"The smoke and mirrors that everything is OK, that the government is going to fix everything... I think people realize that maybe that's not true," said Neal Wisemen, who left the real estate business when the housing market crashed. Now, Wiseman is a Pompano Beach gun shop owner and an online facilitator for the Florida Preppers Network: Region 6, which covers West Palm Beach south to Miami.
"I think there is going to be a return to tribalism of sorts, where people find alliances in their communities," said Wiseman.
Many South Florida 'Preppers' have been quietly stockpiling supplies including ammunition, gasoline, clean water and a long-term supply of food. Some of the edible supplies can last up to a quarter century, said Wiseman, who has reserves for his family to live 'off the grid' for up to twelve months.
Hogwood and his loved ones are ready too."I'd say that, if we had to, we could live a year at this point," he said.
'Preppers', at times portrayed as extreme, say they are simply prepared."I don't want to be the guy that's hoisted off his roof by a helicopter, like it happened in Katrina."
Prepping' has gone professional for Hogwood, who recently launched a website and online store called Ready Go Prep ( bitly link: http://bit.ly/IvBgZ1 ) for those who want to 'prep', but do not know where to begin.
WEB EXTRA: To see our full, in-depth interview with 'Prepper' Charley Hogwood, click the video tab above.