Prepper, or Refugee?

The difference between an idiot and a hero is quite often his timing.

I can’t take credit for this quote, but I also can’t remember who originally said it. Still, it is true. One man rises to charge a machine gun nest and is cut down. The next catches the gunner and his ammo handler during a loading cycle and kills them both – saving his squad. Idiot, and hero. Seconds and worlds apart.

Except that BOTH men were heroes.

audie-murphy-1What we have here, in this quote, is the reputation each man receives, based on what others think about him. Their timing was suited for one outcome or the other. In that critical moment, each man moved based on what he believed he should do. There was little time to prepare, to ensure a positive outcome. In fact, the second man, seeing his friend torn apart, really did have to pull on his inner strength to continue, and not falter. I may take some artistic license here, and state that the first, seeing in his mind, the imminent deaths of his friends, suffered a personal horror which catapulted him into action first. Before any other man. Before anyone else could offer himself up as a target.

Both are heroes.

What these men of action share in common with the prepper is their willingness to take charge. They had a measure of preparedness training – military training and field experience. What these grunts lacked was the time to respond to their situation in a suitable manner. Each would have preferred to approach unseen, and drop a grenade or two between the gun pit occupants. Boom. Light cigarette and write a letter home.The independent split-second decisions of men on both sides of the conflict lead to stories of heroism and defeat. Most survivors will tell you that the fog of war is as real as the men that rise up in the midst of it.

The prepper is an action man, too. He trains, plans, war-games and exercises. In battle, the soldier comes out dead or alive. Set aside the Doomsday Prepper B.S. for a moment, and consider this. You are quite likely to come out of the more common preparedness scenarios alive. But your experiences during and your situation /condition after?

You will typically be a statistic from one of two camps. The Prepper (successful), or the Refugee. Your level of preparedness has a lot to do with this.

The Webster’s Dictionary definition of a Refugee is “a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.” Here, we shall refine that to read “a person who flees to an imagined safe haven to escape danger, disaster or corrupt power.”


“…a person who flees…”

  • “This isn’t supposed to happen! Where are the police?”
  • “Just get in! We have to go now!”

Fleeing isn’t always an indictment on a person’s emergency planning. Sometimes, you just have to go. But that decision follows on a good plan accounting for likely problems your area presents. You know, the usual categories such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wild fires, civil unrest, killer asteroids, herds of rabid turtles… (they DO exist). No preparedness plan will ignore local historical problems and disasters. They will also consider developing problems of a local or even global nature. Man and nature. Both seek to disrupt your breakfast as often as possible.

HoustonEvacThe Prepper’s plan will include the much clichéd “Bugging Out.” The Bug Out will have triggers – events which demand the evacuation begin at a specific time due to specific conditions. Some bug outs are similar to a military immediate action drill. Others are more like a family camping trip.

The Refugee will have an idea of what he might do, but insufficient thought and no actual practice. He won’t have experience running through any sort of plan at all. He will wing it because he is smart, capable and good under pressure! The situation’s fluidity won’t present problems, but answers. His confidence, and the right to continued existence, is all he needs. No matter that he will most likely leave late. Hollywood tells us that last-minute action always has an out.

The Prepper may encounter the same things as the Refugee, but his preparedness will bolster his confidence (which will fall apart for the Refugee). His decisions under pressure, backed up with planning and practice, will open up different answers to common problems. His course will quickly diverge from that of the unprepared. He has no guarantees, but better odds.


“…to an imagined safe haven…”

  • “If something happens, I’ll go over to Jack’s place. We’re ‘tight.'”
  • “I can just go to the hills. I have enough stuff to keep us going for a week or two.”
  • “We’ll go across state lines. We can get there in three hours or so.”

The safe haven. The greener pasture. The roadside grave….

Figuring it out as you go is not the preferred method. The Refugee might only have the hope of rumor, or news from a friend of a friend. Honest and true word of a reliable refugee destination may become corrupt as it filters through the brains of one refugee after another, until it is worse than useless. Refugees typically congregate and travel as a herd. Their numbers do little to ensure a good destination. (Just their numbers alone make any destination, no matter how genuine, a difficult place in which to find adequate supplies.)

MountainHomeThe Prepper has more than one location in his plan, the means to get there, and supplies to keep him going while en route and after makes final camp. By preparing himself, he creates on-the-fly options for his route, travel time and even his destination. His safe haven is a place he’s visited before, or has been properly vetted by people he can trust with his life. No emergency travel is “safe.” But there are degrees of danger. Planning mitigates these.


“…to escape danger, disaster or a corrupt power.”

From what are you fleeing? How does it threaten you, and how soon? Does you plan empower you to pack up those things, people and animals most important to you, and make tracks? Or does it provide justification for hysterics?

Most shade-tree preppers concentrate on the last part of the definition. A lot of energy is devoted to imagining what could happen if a pandemic comes about, or a continental earthquake rearranges the map, or if the government “shows up to help.” While consideration of potential problems is useful, indeed necessary, for planning, this run away exercise builds its own momentum and becomes self-justifying. It loses its utility as a planning point employed in the effort to create an overall strategy. The plan ends up being a mental hash-up of adrenaline and “safe havens.” It justifies not only considering the worse case scenario in each class of emergency, but also the search for ever increasing levels of disaster. Real and actionable steps to a survival plan are left out because this unhealthy focal point controls most thoughts.

The difference between a Refugee and a Prepper is Planning

Real planning and practice. Oh, you might put on a heroic show in your attempt to survive and protect your family. You may go down in a brilliant flash of glory. But, like the first man in the opening quote of this piece, you will be dead. The difference him and you, however, is that you will be dead and an idiot. Then and forever more….

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