'Preppers' gather information at first Mid-Atlantic Emergency Preparedness and Survival Expo

August 17, 2013|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Jennifer Lerche, right, qualifying national marketing director for Juice Plus shows William Benson of Princess Anne, Md., the Tower Garden by Juice Plus Saturday at the first Mid-Atlantic Emergency Preparedness and Survival Expo at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center in Hagerstown.
By Colleen McGrath / Staff Photographer

Late last year, a New England town was devastated by Superstorm Sandy, then bombarded by a Nor’easter.

When desperate residents made their way to the area’s Federal Emergency Management Agency office for help, they found a sign hanging on the door. It read, “Closed due to inclement weather.”

Author and speaker Jay Blevins shared this story Saturday as he autographed books for fans at the first Mid-Atlantic Emergency Preparedness and Survival Expo at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

Blevins, who has appeared on many TV shows, including National Geographic Channel’s series “Doomsday Preppers,” said that scenario is just one example of why individuals should be knowledgeable and prepared. He became serious about emergency preparedness — known as “prepping” — after Sept. 11 and after the birth of his first child, he said.

“There were tsnumais, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy. I know these things have always happened. But they are real events. And there are political and economic factors,” Blevins said. “I have three kids to provide for. If the power goes out, if there is no drinking water, I need to know what to do.”

Richard Tydings, owner of Hagerstown-based contracting business Reliable Craftsmanship & Associates, sponsored the event. Expo coordinator Robin Bleesz said Tydings attended a gun show in Frederick, Md., last year and was fascinated by some of the exhibitors.

The two began to research survival expos, attending one in Nashville, Tenn., and another in Arlington, Texas. After speaking with organizers and exhibitors, Tydings and Bleesz decided to organize a local show.

The inaugural expo, which continues Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., features 35 exhibitors from places including Georgia, Florida, Utah and Canada. There are 14 speaking sessions each day, addressing topics from survival nutrition and medicine, accessing water and backyard poultry-keeping to “prepper” firearms and nuclear protection.

Triton Shelter Technologies provided tours of an underground bunker. Bleesz said organizers hoped to attract more than 3,000 visitors. She estimated that around 1,500 people had attended by late afternoon Saturday.

Besides Blevins, another big draw for the survival expo crowd was a Weston, Fla., couple known as Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy. Dr. Joseph Alton and his wife, Amy Alton, a registered nurse practitioner and certified midwife, have co-authored several books, including the Amazon best-seller “The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is NOT on the Way.”

Joseph Alton said the “prepper” crowd encompasses people across a wide political spectrum.

“Those on the far left are concerned about climate change and natural disaster. Those on the far right have concerns about the government and the economy. It really goes across boundaries,” he said.

Will Hemingway, a survival training mentor from New Jersey, attended the expo with his son. Hemingway said a convenience-based society has stripped many people of survival know-how.

“Our grandparents ‘prepped.’ They had a vegetable cellar. They canned food and stored it away,” he said. “A lot of people are looking at storms like Sandy and realizing they don’t know how to protect and provide for their families, and they want to get back to being more self-sufficient.”

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