The number of people preparing for some form of societal collapse continues to grow and it is often the most unlikeliest of people.
Best-selling author, preparedness expert and former military survival instructor, Jonathan Hollerman has been running a successful preparedness consultancy agency for the past five years.
He now advises clients over the phone for $150/hour about the best way to prepare their own home for disaster, to designing and building entire off-grid survival retreats from scratch. He also holds on-location classes for $1,000/day.
Jonathan enlisted in the military for six years until 2002, where he trained as a SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) instructor, one of only 17 graduates out of an 8,000 applicants.
Jonathan says that, despite a negative portrayal in the media, people in the prepping community are normal, everyday people who just want to protect their families in the event of some form of societal collapse.
‘Anybody that’s a prepper, the media always paint them as an extremist, conspiracy theorist wearing a tin foil hat in a bunker with a beard living off rice and beans,’ he says
‘I can tell you right now I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of clients that I’ve worked with over the last four or five years, and I’ve never met a crazy person yet. Every single person I’ve met has been blue collar, white collar, a normal sane individual that you could go to a restaurant, sit down and have a normal conversation with.
One of the toughest and most grueling positions to achieve in the military, Jonathan was pushed to his absolute limit in some of the most testing environments known to man.
His own training was then used used to train pilots and navigators about what to do if they were shot down behind enemy lines – from finding food and water to evading capture.
Jonathan set up his company, Grid Down Consulting, in response to the growing concern within western society that a disaster could seriously cripple the infrastructure of even the most advanced of countries.
So what is it that Jonathan is preparing for? Not a nuclear war, not an alien invasion and not a zombie apocalypse but a grid-down scenario – a complete shutdown of the electric grid in a country.
Such an event could occur via an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack, a solar flare, a cyber-attack such as the one undertaken by Russia against the Ukraine in 2014, or a physical attack by terrorists.
The vast majority of western democracies rely on a network of high-voltage transformers to turn the power created by power plants into energy that is usable by the average consumer.
The transformers, which take between 12 and 18 months to build and typically weigh over 400 tonnes, are the most critical part of a country’s power network – without them, any country would be brought to a standstill, explains Jonathan.
‘It’s not going to take long for people to start freaking out and start going to the grocery store and cleaning it out. Once those grocery stores are empty and the food distribution centers have been looted, there’s no more food coming. You’re essentially on your own.
‘Very few Americans and Europeans have the life skills needed to live without electricity. How to garden, how to can food, how root cellaring works. Most kids don’t even know how to build a fire right? Every aspect of human life revolves around electricity,’ Jonathan explains.
In 2015, hackers thought to be from Russia took down Ukraine’s electric grid for an 18-hour period, something which Jonathan believes ‘was just a warning shot across the bow,’ and not intended to actually destroy their grid.
Such an attack is just as likely is this to happen in a country such as the United States or Britain, for example.
Admiral Michael S. Rogers. speaking to Congress in 2014 warned of such an event: ‘What I have told my organization is I fully expect that during my time as the commander we are going to be tasked to help defend critical infrastructure within the United States because it is under attack by some foreign nation or some individual or group.
‘I say that because we see multiple nation states and then in some cases individuals and groups that have the capability to engage in this behaviour. We have seen individuals, groups inside critical U.S. infrastructure, you know, that has a presence, that suggests to us that this is – this vulnerability is an area that others want to exploit.
‘All of that leads me to believe it is only a matter of the ‘when,’ not the ‘if’ that we are going to see something dramatic.’
‘I think the reason preparedness isn’t in the minds of most people is they really have this idea that ‘hey we’re civilised, if something bad like this happens we’re gonna hold hands, sing Kumbaya, and we’ll all work together to fix this,’ says Jonathan.
‘And they’ll use instances like Hurricane Katrina, where everyone rallied around to help in the aftermath after the devastation that was caused. But those are only localised disasters and there were plenty of people not affected by the disaster that came to the rescue. In a nationwide grid-down scenario, no one is coming to help because everyone is in the same boat as you, even the military.
‘People will work together in desperate times if they have eaten in the past couple of days. But if you take away their food, their information, law and order they’re not going to work together. I use the example of an average blue-collar worker who never committed a crime in his entire life, who goes to church every Sunday. And he’s got a four-year-old daughter who’s lying on a couch he hasn’t been able to provide food to her for two or three weeks straight. She’s starving to death in front of his very eyes.
‘There’s almost nothing that that man, or woman, will not do to get their child some food. They may beg and plead from their neighbours at first, but eventually if they think you’ve got a can of peaches, they’re going to come and take it by force, by whatever means necessary.’
And this is where Jonathan steps in. He advises people from all walks of life, from doctors and lawyers with multi-million budgets who want an entire off-grid survival retreat to people living on shoe-string budgets who just need a little advice.
‘Preparedness is a mindset,’ he says.
‘I recommend educating yourself on the various threats, and having a game plan in your head saying ‘ok, if this happens I’m going to do X.’ Cause for most of the population this isn’t even on their radar. They have no clue that the electric grid could be down for over a year.
‘A big thing that people ask me is how do you live with all this concern? I don’t live in worry. Some clients and some people in this industry are very scared, they’re operating their preparedness mindset in a state of fear, and I don’t recommend that because who knows what’s going to happen from one day to the next.
‘There’s a lot of other things, like a pandemic or financial collapse, that could lead to very bad circumstances in the future and I believe it’s going to be sooner rather than later, but I don’t live my life in fear. Preparedness is a journey, you have to start somewhere, and I recommend you start sooner rather than later.’