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Continued: Doom? Schmoom. Preppers have your back

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 25, 2013 - 3:14 PM

“You buy insurance for your car,” said Olsen. “You buy health insurance for your body. Why wouldn’t you buy a supply of food for when” — and we’ll paraphrase here — a certain substance hits the fan?

Olsen, a no-nonsense salesman known in the “ready for anything” community as Sgt. Prepper, would rather not broadcast where he lives. Nonetheless, he decided to become a spokesman for prepping after organizing the first Survival Preppers Expo in Bloomington last month. It was so successful that he’s organizing another from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 2 at the National Sports Center in Blaine ( “It’s become a mission,” he said.

While sharing information is one goal, so is clearing up some misunderstandings. For instance, he said, no one walked into the last expo decked out in camouflage gear. Advance publicity clearly stated that politics have no place there. Nor do guns. “There already are gun shows,” Olsen said.

Given the desire for secrecy among some — the place cleared out when TV cameras arrived — it’s impossible to know how many basements are stocked with matches, generators, tarps and dehydrated potatoes. Olsen said he got into prepping gradually, with his wife and five kids choosing a new skill to learn each year.

We’re in this together

Barrett’s path is similar, although he credits being a Boy Scout, which he continues today as merit badge counselor for wilderness survival and emergency preparedness. Scouting also taught him another ethic: “As a Boy Scout, you want to do the good deed daily. I ask my kids, ‘Why are we prepared?’ and they know: To help others.”

Olsen voiced a similar ethic: “You can do more together than you can do separately.”

The ebullient Barrett — he’s been singing in barbershop groups for 35 years — has worked with his neighbors so people know who has a wrench set, chainsaw, a generator. For him, it’s just common sense that will help everyone cope with the most likely scenarios: floods, power outages, earthquakes or terrorism.

“Doomsday preppers are waiting for the comet to hit,” he said. “But I think, do we want to be here after the comet hits?

“I would say if there’s a conspiracy, it’s between Mother Nature, Father Time and Murphy of Murphy’s Law,” he added, then smiled. “That’s not to say there aren’t aliens and yetis, but they’re not out to get us. They’re just out there.”

Bottom line: The best strategy for preparedness is to be aware of your surroundings and, as Barrett has taught his three sons, “the most important thing to pack is your brain — pack it full of all you need to know.”

Besides, if a community’s fan ever does become spattered, Barrett envisions that one of the bigger hurdles will be something that few people consider: Boredom.

That’s why his shelves are stacked with board games. He has multiple decks of cards. “We may not have power, you know,” he said. “And who knows how to whittle anymore?”

Kim Ode • 612-673-7185

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  • Former Boy Scout John Barrett still lives by the organization’s goal to be prepared. His home is stockpiled with water and food (he’s holding a jar of bacon) and with his children he concentrates on learning a different survival skill each year.

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