- Title: Survival camps cater to new fear: America's political unrest
- Date: 23rd December 2019
- Summary: FORT GARLAND, COLORADO, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 9, 2019) (REUTERS) ***WARNING: CONTAINS PROFANITY*** FORT GARLAND DRIVING SHOT COLORADO SPRINGS RESIDENT DREW MILLER DRIVING MILLER GETTING OUT OF CAR MILLER WALKING TO FACILITY (SOUNDBITE) (English) COLORADO SPRINGS RESIDENT, DREW MILLER, SAYING: "The major thing we've got are storage rooms, an underground shelter in case there's fall out threat, a lot of sleeping areas, a lot of stored supplies and all of that is completely worthless, or worse than worthless if you don't have the means to defend it, so we've a lot of weapons out here. Both the company has a lot of weapons here and ammunition and our members as well have their personal weapons and ammunition here." GUNS AND WEAPONS (SOUNDBITE) (English) COLORADO SPRINGS RESIDENT, DREW MILLER, SAYING: "You need weapons, and the two we recommend for all our members, it's pretty much a requirement, all our members are required to either have the 12-gauge pump, shotgun or else an AR-15. It's commonly called an assault rifle, it's a bad name for it, assault is a tactic. These are defensive, it's a defensive weapon, and yes it's got a big clip, and a lot of rounds because if we're defending our place, there could be a group of people coming after us. With a lot of weapons like this, we need a lot of firepower too." WEAPONS VARIOUS STORED FOOD BUNKER MILLER WALKING INTO RESIDENTIAL PART OF HOUSE (SOUNDBITE) (English) COLORADO SPRINGS RESIDENT, DREW MILLER, SAYING: "We are kind of dual purpose organisation. We are survival community for bad times, we are vacation and recreational place-to-go facility in good times, so members can sign up, they can do up to ten days per year free stay. If they want do longer they can pay to stay more." MILLER WALKING OUT OF RESIDENTIAL PART OF HOUSE PARKER, COLORADO, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 10, 2019) (REUTERS) FORTITUDE RANCH MEMBER KIKI BANDILLA AND PREPPER GEAR SELLER DON RODGERS BANDILLA BANDILLA AND RODGERS (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORTITUDE RANCH MEMBER, KIKI BANDILLA, SAYING: "I really want to, one, support him but two, I figure 'why not?'. And in the meantime, I can go and I can utilize his communities just for a camping site, and when all hell breaks loose or the shit hits the fan, as they say, then I have a place to go. So, for me it's kind of one of those things that I find is fascinating and it's really nice to have it sort of in my portfolio - the 'just in case'." BUENA VISTA, COLORADO, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 9, 2019) (REUTERS) DRIVING SHOT ON WAY TO BUENA VISTA, COLORADO (SOUNDBITE) (English) COLORADO SPRINGS RESIDENT, DREW MILLER, SAYING: "We keep our locations confidential, just because we don't wonâ€™t to advertise where we are but we don't have to have secret locations. If people know where we are, it doesn't really make any difference. We are able to defend ourselves and keep people away but we don't advertise our locations, we keep them confidential." VARIOUS OF MILLER AND COLLEAGUE AT SECOND CAMP AMERICAN FLAG (SOUNDBITE) (English) COLORADO SPRINGS RESIDENT, DREW MILLER, SAYING: "This is an additional source of concern now that with President Trump openly telling his supporters that 'Hey, we were cheated in New Hampshire last time,' - that's the allegation - 'If they cheat us again, we may not accept the results of the next election'. He's said it almost that strongly, and we've been seeing that on blog sites, so there is a growing concern that after the 2020 election, there could be massive, long-lasting civil unrest if people say 'Hey, I don't buy the new president, don't recognize him or her' and won't accept them. It's a potential other source of unrest here that we didn't track before." (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORTITUDE RANCH MEMBER, KIKI BANDILLA, SAYING: "I see it's going to increase as we get closer to the election, because I think with what this election is going to bring, and based on the last election, I think that the chaos is going to be greater. There's going to be more fear on both sides because there's so much division. And so, as a result, I do see that the self-reliance movement is going to grow as a result of that." MILLER AND COLLEAGUE OUTSIDE CAMP (SOUNDBITE) (English) COLORADO SPRINGS RESIDENT, DREW MILLER, SAYING: "We have a lot of business people, people who run businesses, small businesses, who are members, a lot of former military, former law enforcement - not here in Colorado but out in DC and the West Virginia facility. We have some former intelligence community and some current intelligence community members, so a lot of our members are aware of the threats and they're also aware of how people can act badly trying to staying alive in a difficult collapse-type situation. But we have businessmen, realtors, single housewives, a lot of different people." PARKER, COLORADO, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 10, 2019) (REUTERS) PREPPER GEAR SELLER DON RODGERS TALKING TO BANDILLA (SOUNDBITE) (English) OWNER, ROCKY MOUNTAIN READINESS, DON RODGERS, SAYING: "You know, you can teach people to do things pretty quickly but it's hard to change how they view things so, if you just throw strangers together - because you're always going to have group dynamics where somebody wants to be in charge who maybe shouldn't be - so that can be difficult. That's when we do it on the scale that I was talking about before with families and stuff. We've been working with some of these folks for 10 years so there's that trust level so all that stuff's worked out in the beginning. It would be a challenge, I think, to throw 100 people into a compound without really knowing each other. It would take a special group and a special leader to hold that together." BUENA VISTA, COLORADO, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 9, 2019) (REUTERS) MILLER AND COLLEAGUE IN HOUSE STOVE (SOUNDBITE) (English) COLORADO SPRINGS RESIDENT, DREW MILLER, SAYING: "We really think that if law and order goes, it could be out for a long time. So we're prepared to go for at least a year. If we need to go longer, we'll go as long as it takes, so we'll do gardening, we'll continue to hunt and you know, got our shelf stable food. We're very careful about calories that we use and we'll make our food last and keep growing and producing more chickens and everything else we can raise." CHICKEN VARIOUS OF MILLER OUTSIDE CAMP SUNSET
- Embargoed: 6th January 2020 18:21
- Keywords: Colorado community preparations prepper survival camps
- Location: FORT GARLAND / PARKER / BUENA VISTA, COLORADO, UNITED STATES;
- City: FORT GARLAND / PARKER / BUENA VISTA, COLORADO, UNITED STATES;
- Country: USA
- Topics: Human Interest / Brights / Odd News,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA001BB7XETJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Aiming an AR-15 rifle across a Colorado valley dotted with antelope and cattle, Drew Miller explains how members of his new survival ranch would ride out an apocalypse.
The former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer said his latest Fortitude Ranch community, under construction below mountain forests, will shelter Americans fleeing anything from a bioengineered pandemic to an attack on the electricity grid.
For an annual fee of around $1,000, members can vacation at the camps in good times, and use them as a refuge during a societal collapse.
"If you've got a lot of weapons, if you've got a lot of members at guard posts, defensive walls, we don't think we're going to need to fight," said Miller, crouching on top of a fortified position on the camp perimeter.
The expansion of Miller's camp chain underscores the growing mainstream appeal of the "prepper" movement long associated with anti-government survivalists.
In recent years prepping has overlapped with millennial interests in renewable energy, homesteading, minimalist living and concerns about climate change.
Then there is politics.
Increasingly, Miller said, clients fear sharp political divisions will deepen around the Nov. 3, 2020 U.S. presidential election.
"There is growing concern that after the 2020 election there could be massive, long-lasting civil unrest if people say, 'Hey, I don't buy the new president, I don't recognize him or her,'" said Miller, who has added "civil war" to his risk scenarios.
Skeptics said Fortitude Ranch was preparing for catastrophic events that were unlikely and possibly not worth surviving.
There is a rational level of readiness for natural disasters or power outages, said New York University Professor Robyn Gershon, and then there is "hyper-extreme" preparedness.
She predicted a bad ending for anyone holing up in a compound with strangers to make it through a global pandemic or nuclear war.
"The quality of life will be degraded to a point where, for modern-day people, it probably won't be worth living," said Gershon, a clinical professor of epidemiology.
The solar-powered camps cater to middle-class Americans worried about their vulnerability in cities and suburbs. Unlike traditional survivalists, many are not schooled in off-the-grid living, and some have no idea how to hunt. Besides the annual fee, the main requirement for members is an AR-15 style rifle or pump-action shotgun for defense.
The camps stock about three months of food and have goats and chickens. In a collapse situation, members would follow orders from camp leaders like Miller. Tasks would include collecting firewood and nuts, killing game and growing vegetables. Everyone would do guard duty.
Miller expects marauding gangs to pour out of cities if law and order breaks down. He expects his ranches to have superior firepower. The new Colorado camp has a .50 caliber rifle to take on armored vehicles.
Anthropology professor Chad Huddleston said such fears sounded like "apocalyptic fiction."
"The research around the world shows that communities come together first, before anything else," said Huddleston of Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, citing studies on the aftermath of disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
Fortitude Ranch has around 175 members from all ethnic groups, many with business or military backgrounds, and most distrust the government, said Miller. He asked that exact locations of camps not be disclosed.
If he can find investors, Miller hopes to expand communities from two existing locations in Colorado and one in West Virginia to 10 more states.
Members like health insurance professional Kiki Bandilla, 53, of Castle Rock, Colorado, worry about over-dependence on modern technology and see the ranches as survival insurance.
"We all need to have a certain level of preparedness," said Bandilla, who runs Denver's Self Reliance Expo showcasing everything from tiny homes to body armor. "I see it becoming a little bit more mainstream, because I believe what's happening in our government, on both the right and the left, is chaos."
Tom, a 52-year-old who runs a Maryland housing business, fears a 2021 economic meltdown and wants a place to take his girlfriend and children.
"You're going to have a lot of people who are going to want to give up, but most of those people are not going to be at the ranch," he said, asking that his last name not be used.
Just how many Americans are prepping is hard to measure as most keep their activities secret. People within the industry, including Roman Zrazhevskiy, chief executive of Ready To Go Survival, said interest is growing.
Zrazhevskiy said sales of his survival-kit bags and gas masks have doubled or tripled on demand from "liberal preppers". "They're concerned about what Trump is doing," he said. "The whole civil war thing isn't that implausible."
Some within the movement say private survival communities may not be for everyone.
"It would be a challenge, I think, to throw a hundred people into a compound without really knowing each other," said Don Rodgers, who runs Rocky Mountain Readiness, which trains families in emergency preparedness and sells gear.
"It would take a special group and a special leader to hold that together."
Miller believes Fortitude Ranch is that group: "If you've got to be here, then it means it's really, really bad out there, so where are you going to go?"
(Production: Sandra Stojanovic, Rollo Ross)
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