Survivalists offer range of options for uncertain future

Posted 10/29/19

Castle Rock resident Kiki Bandilla wanted to live a self-reliant life — the kind of life, as she describes it, in which she could sustain herself without depending on “institutions or grocery …

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Survivalists offer range of options for uncertain future

Posted

Castle Rock resident Kiki Bandilla wanted to live a self-reliant life — the kind of life, as she describes it, in which she could sustain herself without depending on “institutions or grocery stores or medical facilities.”

“We get really upset if our internet is down. We don’t know what to do if we don’t have our car,” she said. “I like knowing how to make these things work. You have to deal with your own emergencies.”

The pursuit brought her to the Self Reliance Expo in Denver about five years ago, and she found herself, reluctantly, walking into unknown territory.

“I was thinking: ‘What is this going to be?’ I had placed a label that ‘self-reliant’ meant conspiracy theorist,” she said. “And I got there and thought it was the coolest thing in the world. At that point, I developed my own definition of self-reliance.”

Fast-forward to 2019, and Bandilla is a well-known figure in the Colorado survivalist community, having purchased the expo in 2017 and transformed it into the National Self-Reliance Project. Through the project, Bandilla encourages thousands to learn more about emergency preparedness, survival skills and living a simpler lifestyle.

That lifestyle has attracted all kinds of people, Bandilla said, but it’s also been known to attract a good deal of negative attention.

“People who don’t understand think these are the crazies stockpiling for the end of the world,” she said. “We need to throw away the labels. The people in this world are smart, normal people who have just taken different steps to protect themselves.”

Ready for ‘the bad times’

Survivalists and preppers are ready for everyday emergencies: blizzards, fires or even just a wrong turn on a hiking trip.

But make no mistake — many of them are also ready for a solar flare that takes out the electrical grid or a bioterrorism attack resulting in a nationwide pandemic.

“There could be all kinds of disasters: a meteor hit, a super volcano, a massive earthquake,” said Drew Miller, a prepper from the Denver area. “What you really need is a group. You’ve got to be able to protect yourself.”

Miller owns Fortitude Ranch, a survival community at which members can vacation during what he calls “the good times” and go for protection in “the bad times,” when a crisis hits. The ranch has locations in both West Virginia and Colorado, the latter of which opened six years ago.

Miller estimates the Colorado ranch, located in the mountains next to the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, has about 70 members, with many of them former members of the military, he said.

He added that for every veteran at the ranch, there’s also a businessman or businesswoman simply trying to be prepared.

Bandilla likewise sees a range of people attracted to the project and expo, especially baby boomers and millennials, with young people accounting for her fastest-growing demographic.

“They’re born into this world where everything is so fast. It’s finding that balance,” she said.

How to get started

It’s easy for those in the Denver area to learn more, Bandilla said, with the expo planning a date for 2020 and no shortage of resources available online, from full-blown websites to Facebook groups and pages.

Meeker, Colorado, resident Linda Cearley runs one of those Facebook pages, @milehighprepper, having been inspired to share tips and news with anyone looking to bolster his or her survival skills, she said.

“Most of my followers come from both cities and rural areas,” she said. “More questions on how to get started originate from the potential preppers within cities. Questions generally surround how much food or water should one set aside to survive, and what should be included in a bug-out bag.”

Experts like Cearley and Miller suggest everyone keep a bug-out bag, or portable survival kit, in their car, stocked with water, non-perishable foods, matches, flashlights, batteries, a blanket and warm clothing.

Meanwhile, for those who don’t know if they’re cut out for survivalism, there’s Miller’s ranch, which “outsources” preparedness by providing trained staff who plan to address every need during an emergency, he said. “All you’ve got to do is get here and follow instructions,” he said.

Whether the plan is to team up with the ranch members or execute survival strategies from home, “everyone should be prepared,” Miller said.

Cearley agreed.

“The reality is that being educated and prepared will save your life,” Cearley said. “Worst-case scenario of stockpiling: You have lots of items ready to use.”

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