SAN FERNANDO VALLEY - Inside a used RV that's
anything but recreational and loaded with survival
equipment, rain has leaked through a wooden overhead
bin near a light fixture.
A.B. remarks that he'll have to get that fixed,
and time is running short.
It's now less than one month until his group's "ready" date
- December 21, 2012, when the long-predicted
doomsday event based on the Mayan long-form calendar
A Los Angeles-area survival group has actively
recruited people with specific skills in the
past few months, tying its disaster preparedness
effort to Dec. 21.
The founder, A.B. (who asked to remain anonymous),
doesn't necessarily believe the prediction, but
he's certain that something will happen eventually.
"There's so many different scenarios, there's
so many things that could possibly go wrong," he
A member of the U.S. Armed Forces, A.B. and
several others in the group have military experience
that has taught them survival skills.
Preparing to survive a catastrophe has become
its own culture, popularized by the cable show "Doomsday
Preppers" and giving rise to the American
Preppers Network, which offers tips and contacts
to practice self-reliance during disasters.
When it all hits the fan - or SHTF - preppers
usually have "bug-out" bags and locations
ready to go, with means of survival such as food
stores, water access and security measures.
There are numerous doomsday scenarios: powerful
earthquakes, a super volcano at Yellowstone National
Park, economic and social collapse, nuclear fallout
or a solar storm that destroys satellites and
Few preppers rely on the Dec. 21 prediction,
however. Experts on Mayan culture say that date,
the winter solstice, simply marks the end of
a cycle, no different than flipping the calendar
to a new year after Dec. 31.
Despite assurances by NASA and others that no
threat is imminent, the date has still built
up its own mythos.
"I do have some members who believe, come
Dec. 21, 2012, all hell is going to break loose," A.B.
His survival community is large, with about
65 active members and about 150 when counting
spouses, children and other loved ones.
A.B. is still willing to take in a few others,
but only to fulfill specific functions, such
as doctors, engineers and ham radio operators.
There's a job need list on the group website,
Other members of the community declined to be
interviewed, and other groups in the Los Angeles
area also declined.
Preppers often like to maintain their privacy,
out of concern that outsiders might figure out
their bug-out locations and overrun them.
A.B.'s group has several places picked out,
within California, where there's enough wildlife
to live off the land and water sources that
could be used to catch fish.
One location has a swimming pool where fish
can be raised, a technique that A.B. saw on "Doomsday
Preppers." Innovation is common among
preppers, and others often borrow ideas.
The hope is to survive long enough for government
and society to stabilize, and A.B. even cautions
members to protect against pregnancies until
things return to normal.
"We hope the government will someday
replenish the electricity. Once that's accomplished,
then everything else comes back online," he
said. "We all believe that life will continue,
just not the way we're used to."
In the RV, A.B. holds up an ice cream maker.
It isn't there for ice cream, but it's an
effective way to complete the pasteurization
process for milk, which will come from two
He also has five hens for eggs, several potted
plants, medical supplies and a kitchen full
of dry and canned food that he plans to load
up before driving out of L.A.
The parts for small wind turbines are stored
in the RV, along with two weather stations,
a telescope and small game traps. Electricity
shouldn't be a problem, with five gas generators,
two hydro-electric generators, 10 solar panels
and several inverters.
There are also two 450-gallon water tanks
and A.B.'s homemade water heater, plus a U-haul
truck loaded with supplies.
And every week, A.B. works to acquire other
goods his community might need.
Other preppers have criticized him for assembling
such a large group and basing it in Los Angeles,
often regarded as one of the worst places to
be in a disaster.
But this is where he lives, where his family
lives, and he believes there's safety in numbers,
with multiple people capable of providing 24-hour
A.B. has five children, three of them young
adults who live apart from him, and he wants
to have the resources to take care of them.
"It's a stress on my side, I worry about
my family, I worry about people I care about," he
said. "But trying to do it all, it's an
His father doesn't believe in the need for
extreme disaster preparedness, and A.B. recognizes
that a disaster could force him to make some
"Just leaving my mom behind is something
I do not want to think about," he said.
The community itself is carefully balanced.
Some applicants are rejected, with members
providing input about who gets to join.
One person, a professional clown, was met
with skepticism by the group because no other
skills were offered. It was a tough decision,
A.B. said, that never had to be made because
the person didn't respond to a questionnaire.
An astrophysicist also came with some question
marks because of clashing personalities, and
A.B. wound up agreeing to share some provisions
as separate groups.
"I think where we're at is a stable operation
right now," he said. "I wouldn't
want to get anything beyond 150."