I was recently at a hen’s weekend with a bunch of my best girlfriends — the people I see literally every weekend so it’s safe to say we know everything there is to know about one another.
There’s typically no surprises when it comes to our friendship, and conversations tend to flow more in the direction of current affairs or who’ll have a baby first.
After a day of drinking in the sun, one of my pals (Ellen McCabe) accidentally let slip that she’s a doomsday prepper. Like the ones you see on TV.
We all know 2020 hasn’t been off to the best start. Australia is in the midst of its worst bushfire season on record, in early February, residents of low-lying areas north and south of Sydney were evacuated due to flash flooding after the city received two months of rain in two days, and Coronavirus has been declared a global public emergency. The lines at pharmacies are out the door while people are clamoring to stockpile face masks and hand sanitiser (I bought this one from Aesop for desk and handbag).
It’s definitely not the carefree summer we’re used to.
So, while we all laughed hysterically and pummeled her with questions about her prepping ways, there was also a hint of sincerity behind our queries — like should we all seriously be prepping for worst-case scenarios?
Before we all headed home the next morning she took me to her car to prove her boot was full of supplies — and that’s when I decided I had to interview her for TheLatch—.
I just needed to know more; specifically how she’d been keeping it all a secret from her fiancé. (He’s now fully aware after we got on FaceTime to fill him in).
So here we go.
Amanda Bardas: So please tell me Ellen. What are you preparing for?
Ellen McCabe: Generally speaking, I’m prepping for some form of catastrophic event that requires certain skills and resources to survive.
Specifically, I am preparing for evacuation. A focus of my prepping is to make sure I can evacuate from potential danger if there were an emergency. As part of my prep, I have arranged a meeting point at a family friend’s property which is approximately four hours west of Sydney. This is the one thing Matt (Ellen’s fiancé) has always known about.
Despite his eye-rolls, he has agreed that if a crisis were to happen, we would meet there. Because we live in an inner-city suburb, I don’t have the space to keep renewable food sources, etc. and I don’t believe in having weapons or resorting to violence. Protecting myself and my home from others is not my goal. When prepping I always consider others in the community. The more I have the more I can share in an emergency. Some might say this puts my likelihood of survival at risk, but I think we are all better when we work together.
I think a lot of preppers plan for specific events and their focus is on a certain ‘type’ of doomsday. My approach is more flexible and versatile because it’s impossible to know what might cause a mass emergency.
Some examples are a catastrophic weather event, terrorist attack, a pandemic, economic collapse.
AB: OK, I like that you’re prepping for the community. I live about eight minutes from your house so that works out well for me. What’s in your doomsday kit?
EM: It’s split into a few categories.
First, the basics. Lots of water, canned food, batteries, torches and spare light globes, first aid kits, masks, candles, matches and lighters, a tool kit and a Jerry can.
Then specialist items. I have bio-terrorism hazmat suits, a transistor radio, and solar batteries.
I hope to add more to my collection — a solar-powered generator, tent and swags, and plan to collect more food and water.
I have been slowly collecting things over time and my kit is nowhere near complete yet. I stockpile in our attic and the boot of my car.
AB: I’m mostly blown away because I’ve been in your attic and never noticed. You’re clearly hiding your supplies well. So what are some of the key pieces we should have in our survival kits?
EM: Canned food and water — enough to keep you and your crew alive until you can replenish resources.
Solar or battery powered supplies — electricity is finite. If we lose electricity, we need an alternative power source.
AB: Smart. What survival skills do you think we all should have? When we’re all together as a group of friends we discuss who would last the longest if The Purge came to town. Funnily enough, everyone always says you’d be the first to go — obviously now I’m rethinking things.
EM: Basic first aid — the likelihood of injury or illness is increased in a crisis so knowing first aid could save your life and others.
Creative thinking — being generally creative and good at problem-solving is a huge benefit in any scenario but I definitely think an ‘outside of the box’ approach is an essential survival skill.
AB: Have you kept your doomsday prepping under wraps on purpose? Why isn’t your fiancé 100% aware of your prepping ways?
EM: I know that there is a certain stigma surrounding the idea of being a ‘prepper’, so I try to keep it under wraps. I think people assume that if you’re a doomsday prepper you’re also a conspiracy theorist or paranoid. I just feel it’s better to be somewhat prepared than not. My fiancé hasn’t been aware of my prepping ways (until you insisted on FaceTiming him) because I kind of started slowly and the more I added to my kit, the more serious I was about it, the deeper I was in the rabbit hole. He has no idea about the hazmat suits in the attic, which I got my hands on by chance.
AB: How did they come about? Who just stumbles upon hazmat suits?
EM: Well… I don’t know if I should even be saying this? Anyway, they came about from an administration job where I was responsible for doing inventory. The suits were being replaced so I fudged the inventory and nabbed them. Am I going to get arrested now?
I have a feeling he was starting to catch onto my prepping ways. Before I left for Kate’s hen’s weekend he was helping me pack the car. He happened to see the rope, cable ties, and a torch in the boot and asked who I was planning on murdering. I had to explain, whilst significantly downplaying the extent, that I had been slowly accumulating supplies.
I also think if he knew how often I went to Bunnings to add to my collection he would be shocked and potentially worried. Little does he know; my prepping ways could potentially help us both survive.
AB: And me. Don’t forget I live eight minutes away! Have you started to learn any new skills like how to fix a car or how to bandage an injury?
EM: Fortunately, I am pretty handy and love learning to build and repair things. I have a fully stocked toolbox that I use regularly around the house. Although, cars are a different story. I have always been curious as to how things work, and I would love to know how to work on a car and repair it in a time of need. I will definitely consider learning how to do this to increase the chances of survival.
So there you have it. Is anyone else shook? Does anyone else prep for worst-case scenarios? I need to hear from more preppers because I am so fascinated. It’s just so far from the way I operate in this world. The most I do is grab an extra can of tinned tomatoes and packet of spaghetti now and then in case I have an unexpected hankering for pasta. Slide into my dm’s and tell me if you’re a prepper, so I can start stockpiling everyone’s tips.