South Florida Survivalists Prepare for the Apocalypse

South Florida Survivalists Prepare for the Apocalypse

Jorge Villa was an exporter with an engineering degree from the University of Miami when Hurricane Andrew struck Kendall in 1992. As the storm arrived, he took his pregnant wife and the rest of his family to a warehouse space across from the Tamiami airport. It was a clear, breezy evening. He bolted the roll-down door, and the family laid out sleeping bags. By 1 a.m., he could hear the ventilation fans being ripped off the roof. By 2 a.m., it sounded like a freight train was running over the building. The rooms filled with water. His wife felt like she was going into labor.

When he emerged, devastation was everywhere. Warehouses just like his were gone. Airplanes were scattered. He spent the next seven years of free time devising and constructing a shelter that could withstand hurricanes and virtually any other attack.

Today, the yard outside his warehouse is filled with 18-ton bunkers — octagons of white-painted concrete atop thick, square steel legs. They look virtually immovable. In the office, a child's drawing shows one of the UFO-like objects, with the name of his company, "U.S. Bunkers," scrawled along the top.

Neal Wiseman has enough food to sustain his family for a year.
Jayme Gershen
Neal Wiseman has enough food to sustain his family for a year.
Chris Petrovich has been a prepper for 25 years.
Jayme Gershen
Chris Petrovich has been a prepper for 25 years.

Villa will custom-manufacture one of these units for anywhere from $8,000 to $60,000. Options include beds, built-in toilets, air-conditioning hookups, toxic-gas filtration systems, gun turrets, rocket-propelled-grenade armor, video surveillance, plumbing, and snappy wood trim. Villa says he has sold "a couple dozen units" since starting manufacturing in 1999.

He cites growing interest in the shelters in the past few years, due to uncertainties about the economy. He has received calls from people concerned about the end of the Mayan calendar this coming December. The units he has sold are hidden in back yards around the state, away from the prying eyes of neighbors who would seek shelter in a time of need. Solutions like this appeal to a growing segment of people who are actively preparing for what they think is inevitable: devastation on a scale we have never known.

Some of them fit the stereotype of survivalists: the sometimes-camoed, always-armed fellows who wander in and out of gun shops and banter about calibers at the counter. But the image of the hostile sociopath hoarding guns under a tarp is an outdated one, and it's not good PR for those who want others to prepare. Survivalism has gone family-friendly, and its proponents call themselves "preppers."

Terrorism, alien attacks, the Mayan apocalypse — the typical doom-and-gloom scenarios for the end of the world — are on some preppers' minds. But a more immediate, and more unsettling, threat is the chance of economic failure. Preppers imagine a worthless U.S. dollar and all financial investments wiped away — and along with them all the rules governing behavior and property. And they, like Villa, will do what comes naturally: work to protect their families, whatever that might require.

Neal Wiseman can see his entire shop from where he stands, behind the glass display case at Dixie Guns and Ammo, but he can't see the future — not yet.

That doesn't mean he won't try. Wiseman is in his 30s, with a soldier's buzzcut and the friendly forward momentum of a high-school wrestling coach. A pair of iPhone earbuds frames his face as he greets customers.

It took a little faith for Wiseman to buy this business, tucked into a chainlink-fenced corner of a Pompano Beach public-storage park, with a partner in 2008. Sales are brisk, but the feds are always a distant threat, ready to shut him down for selling a stolen gun or failing to check registrations. The shop relies on hand-painted signs and word of mouth.

Wiseman used to sell residential real estate, but around 2005 he thought he saw home prices begin to flatten. "I got extremely defensive in my positioning," he says. He sold off 14 properties and became a police officer. "I thought things were going to really crash at that time, so I was wrong. But the situation is progressively getting more volatile."

He leads me into the back office, where he does his bookkeeping, and shuts the door. Bars cover the window. Settling into a swivel chair at his desk, Wiseman unpacks a rifle from a cardboard box and expertly pieces it together, aiming for a moment at a spot on the wall.

If society collapses, one thing is for sure: The glass counter and electronic cash register separating his business from his customers won't count for much. In a scenario where there is no money, no electricity, no doctors, and no food, the people who haven't prepared — the "zombies," as they're called in the prepper community — will swarm the preppers. Wiseman will need to find a new way of living, taking survival and protection into his own hands, leaving behind his reliance on the value of a dollar or a police officer's word. "For now, I'm still selling shit that other people made," he admits. "I haven't found my place in that society."

Wiseman moderates a group on Meetup.com called the South Florida Survivalist Network, Region 6. On the network's website, members of the group discuss various end-of-the-world scenarios (officially called "shit-hits-the-fan," or SHTF, in prepper lingo). He reads a quote from another prepper: "It always has been and always will be the power of the mind that has the most influence on the course of human events. Practice now, store now, think outside of your comfort zone. Each and every moment that our [electrical and communications] grid is up is a blessing."

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24 comments
Jose Periut
Jose Periut

apocalypse, mayan calendar, jesus, when are you idiots going to stop believing in fairytales??

Ptruble
Ptruble

There is also the story of the bridesmaids who were told prepare for the bridegroom by getting themselves oil for their lamps. 1/2 did, 1/2 didnt, and when those who did not went begging to those who did they were sent away to get there own. They did not share, and they were not convicted by God for it. I find people ridiculous who believe what others have is theirs. That attitude will get you shot when your gubment fails you and own laziness and narrow-mindedness leads you to looting your neighbors. And by the way, the very government you will be waiting on to feed you is telling you to prepare with food, water, and a plan. Try ready.gov to get informed and stop spreading misinformation.

Tiptoethrutulips
Tiptoethrutulips

I find this prepping movement demonic. You look at your neighbors as enemies. you don't share what you have or give doing a crisis...you are hoarders. You should read the book of exodus and pay particular attention to Joseph. His generosity during the hard times famine fed not only all of Egypt but neighboring communities and nations...this the folly of chaos not the wisdom of God...even Noah invited his neighbors to join him...they refused...

Chris J Petrovich
Chris J Petrovich

Obviously, you don't know anything about them...and it is all public...1. They donate their our food items for rotation to soup kitchens and the homeless, and They strongly believe in CHARITY, as in having extra for their neighbors.......So unless they let their kids starve so you can eat, they are evil??? Hoarders....????? So when a person spends their money collecting canned food instead of collecting Nikes', or spending all their money on booze-drugs-hookers-gambling, cruises, or season tickets they are evil?? you live in a Hurricane Zone and you don't have atleast 1-2 weeks worth of food and water??? YOU have every right to collect food and water as they do, and you choose not to because...they are supposed to be collecting food for YOU?? And since you won't spend your money on food and water, these people should be forced to give everything to you??? You live in an area that CAN NOT sustain 1/1000th of the population without the DAILY 1,000 trucks bringing in food, fuel, medicine, clothes, etc....Even the food warehouses here, only have a 2-3 days supply of food for the area...if you recall Joseph had put enough food away for Egypt for 7 (Seven) Lean Years, we have 2-3 Days ...period....Noah wasn't offereing food to starving unprepared people................YOU already look at them as enemies........and all they have done is invite you to join them, and have volunteered to help you for FREE.............

Ptruble
Ptruble

Survivalists and prepping are defintely a growing trend, but i hope it isnt like other popular trends that rise to the surface and disappear into the shadows of our society. People shouldnt think of prepping as a means of preparing some improbable cataclysm, but instead should focus on those crises that are more likely to happen like a house fire, torbado, hurricane, job loss, etc... If you make an emergency plan that encompasses these disasters, then you are better prepared to happen the 500 year type events. Uf you are prepping, the Survival gear and supplies should be purchased at reputable dealer like www.patriotprovisions.com. Get help with planning from resources like ready.gov or other sources. Preparedness is insurance that is more important than any other.

 << Work at home, $35/h, link
<< Work at home, $35/h, link

When you take charge of your life, there is no longer need to ask permission of other people or society at large. When you ask permission, you give someone veto power over your life.

Raylinx
Raylinx

The events of which one has not contemplated in any given scenario, even that of any given scenario, is most likely the one that will harm.

God is always the only one who is in total control. Trust Jesus Christ and believe.

All that can be done is that which one can do. So do that which you can and will do and keep it all through God and in His wisdom. Discourage not the good works of any.

Live, love, believe, pray, and prepare.

Ruth Barnes
Ruth Barnes

I hope DHS and the other agencies are investigating all these survivalist nuts... especially the ones on the TV show. I would not want them living near me. They should not have guns or children either, in my feelings. I believe they are unstable mentally and just cannot cope with real life, and seen doom around every corner.

Ptruble
Ptruble

Wow. Have you ever read the Constitution or even know what it says and means? To each their own. I am certain if the govt ever fails to feed you in a crisis you will be first in line to steal and loot from those same well prepared neighbors.

Moonymaniac
Moonymaniac

Wow. They've done nothing illegal, are open about what they do, and you want the government to investigate them? You get to decide who can have children now do you? I doubt they would want a fascist like you living next to them either.

AllanDonald
AllanDonald

just as Brandon said I'm blown away that a single mom can get paid $7398 in 4 weeks on the computer. did you look at this link

===>>> Just Click on My Name For detailsb>

Jesus Ridriguez
Jesus Ridriguez

Make peace w.Jesus C. and buy plenty of ammo,machetes and anything else you find.

Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris

12 21 12 it aint the end of the world .. ITS THE END OF AN ERA ... apparently people dont like reading history ... or just don't understand the Mayan Calender ... WE WILL BE ALIVE ON 12/22/12 ... so you all can welcome the new Era ... Wow people really just don't understand

Chris J Petrovich
Chris J Petrovich

We welcome one and all to join us on our southfloridapreppers meetup group or find me on my facebook and linkedin pages or on survivalistnow

To clarify, it wasn't Zulu Rebels, it was IFP Zulu Nationalists demostrating against Mandela's ruling ANC Party, and it wasn't a slit throat, it was a burning tire on the poor guy's head. They also omitted my best experiences from Angola, Liberia, Mozambique, Zambia, and Uganda watching the bodies wash up on shore from Rwanda.....while America's first Black President Bill Clinton ignored it, because it was an election year. 1 million people in 100 days.

Also, I am a plain Non-Hyphenated American........

Stefan Kamph
Stefan Kamph

Chris, thank you again for all your help with the story. We'll correct that information in the online version.

Chris J Petrovich
Chris J Petrovich

Oh man, Stefan......Can you find a better picture of me, not even my family recognizes me.......I would owe you one for that......and in a worst case scenario, that could be a very good thing for you.......worth more than gold.

myoleman
myoleman

There's a sure disaster coming soon, when the Yellowstone supervolcano explodes (we just don't know exactly when, but it is due anytime now). Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to protect yourself except to flee as soon as possible to the sourthern hemisphere in a plane. Hopefully theyre will be some rumblings and warning signs before the dire disaster. Much better to make your peace with Lord Jesus and secure a berth in eternal life in his kingdom.

Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris

12 21 12 it aint the end of the world .. ITS THE END OF AN ERA ... apparently people dont like reading history ... or just don't understand the Mayan Calender ... WE WILL BE ALIVE ON 12/22/12 ... so you all can welcome the new Era ... Wow people really just don't understand

runrandrand
runrandrand

GET A JOB----GET A LIFE-------GET SER-IOUS!!!!!!!

JakeValentine
JakeValentine

95%+ of these prepper articles attempt to paint preppers as crazy people scared of the Mayan calendar. I have never, ever met a prepper worried about the Mayan calendar. The vast majority are simply being responsible preparing their families for any unforseen natural or manmade disaster. It seems as though a certain segment of society takes offense at the lack of faith in the government post-disaster. Feel free to wait for help if a disaster hits your area rather than ensure your family can deal with the circumstances, but you aren't fooling most people with these hit pieces against preppers. The number of preppers grows every day.......

Stefan Kamph
Stefan Kamph

Hi Jake. I hope you will take the time to read the story beyond the first few paragraphs.

runrandrand
runrandrand

I HAVE A GIANT NICE CERAMIC MAYAN CALENDER PLATE/BOWL WE ARE GOING TO SMASH WITH THE SLEDGE HAMMER , AND DO FIREWORKS, HAVE A BAR-B-QUE, AND DRINK LOTTSA BOOOZE ON THE APPROPRIATE DAY AND TIME---THAT IS MUCH MORE POSITIVE--!

Steve
Steve

Hope your sarcasm doesn't come back to bite you hard. Otherwise, you'll just be another dead zombie.

 
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