June 24, 2013
The Arizona Survivalist/Prepper Expo is one of the many summer and early fall events geared to advancing the efforts of those concerned about fallout from either a man-made or natural disaster/crisis in America. The off-the-grid movement and prepper community is growing. Most recent statistics estimate there are now more than three million families focused on increasing their self-reliance skills.
In response to questions from readers and social network followers, Off The Grid News is kicking off a prepper expo and training events series. The survival event series is just another example of how we here at Off The Grid News are striving to keep you informed about all the information the main stream media does not see fit to print.
Interview with Arizona Survivalist/Prepper Expo organizer Lance Baker
OTG: What prompted the creation of the Arizona Survivalist/Prepper Expo?
Lance: I used to host car shows and cruises here in Arizona, and grew tired of the hobby after 35 years. With the economy and everything else changing way too fast starting in 2007, I saw a need to get prepared, but was not sure where to get supplies, etc.Realizing that hosting a “survivalist / prepper” event would be no different than a car show, the idea was born. I have always had an excellent working relationship with the Commemorative Air Force Museum here in Mesa, Arizona—home of the famous WWII bomber Sentimental Journey. And since it is where I hosted many car shows, this was the perfect venue, and a great fund raising mechanism for the “all volunteer” museum. They have a huge hanger that we use and the back drop of the planes is phenomenal.
OTG: Your first expo was in May. The expo was a huge success. Did the citizen response and a growing interest in preparedness play a significant role in deciding to hold a second event so soon?
Lance: May 19, 2012 was the date for our first expo. As you stated, it was a huge success with approximately 1600 folks showing up and literally swamping the vendors that came to display and sell their products. No one had ever seen anything like it. We literally saved some small businesses that were struggling to find customers and we were the launching pad for several more. So as you can well see, we are having a huge impact on small Arizona businesses.
As for having a second event, this was at the prompting of the attendees and the vendors. Many of the attendees were asking how soon our next event would be.
OTG: You previously noted that you took a bit of flack for your choice of expo name. Why did you choose to combine survivalism and preparedness in the name?
Lance: I will be brutally honest, I am not fond of the word prepper. It reminds me of “survivalist lite.” Make no bones about it, I consider myself a survivalist because I plan on surviving anything that this world, or our government, or world governments plan on throwing at me and my family. To that end, I make my plans to survive. Also, we used the survivalist term in honor of the godfather of this entire movement, James Wesley Rawles, who runs SurvivalBlog.com. One will note he did not call it “PrepperBlog.com”, although I am sure that is out there somewhere.
When I called our first event the “Arizona Survivalist Show,” the prepping community started complaining and moaning saying things like “Oh, what an unfortunate term” or “Oh my, we cannot attend because it has such a negative name,” etc., etc. So a close associate recommended we call it the “Arizona Survivalist / Prepper Expo” to keep everyone happy, which it only made good business sense and set politics aside for the sake of the greater cause.
Although, I have always said “Preppers be warned, because you can choose whatever name you want to call yourself, and eventually this government and the naysayers will demonize you because you go by that term.” And lo and behold, I was right. Lest we forgot the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and Adam Lanza’s mother was vilified for being a—you guessed it!—prepper! So the prepping community is now as evil as the survivalist community, at least in the eyes of the media.
OTG: How will having more Arizona citizens (as well as those from bordering states) prepared help keep civil unrest to a minimum after a man-made, economic, or natural disaster?
Lance: When everyone has the necessary resources in place to survive an event, no matter what kind of major event it is, then the whole of the community will be better off. Local governments will not have to expend as many resources to get aid to folks (assuming they even have the resources and money) and cities and towns, including business, will be able to get back on their feet faster. Normal life will return again much faster when more folks are prepared with the right equipment.
My only real concern though, is full out civil unrest. Make no mistake, we are living in perilous times and we are seeing change play out on the national and international stage like no time in history. I think that folks really do not understand how quickly our lives can change in the event of a major financial crisis. I’m talking “go to the store and there is nothing there on the shelves” crisis; or one where our good old American dollar is now deemed worthless.
Our society is not mentally, physically, or spiritually ready for any real life changing major event that could come our way. In fact, I am starting to preach more and more that while folks can gather all the food, water, and guns they want, they had better be ready spiritually first, mentally second, and physically third.
OTG: What are some of the primary concerns voiced by the preppers who attended the first expo in May?
Lance: Well, the concerns voiced by our attendees were the same as everyone else. Something’s coming, we just don’t know what it is, and we don’t know how to prepare for it. And if anything, most everyone was talking an economic disaster and still are, for that matter. So I guess one could say the biggest concern that everyone had was, what do we prepare for and how do we survive it?
OTG: The next expo will be held in Prescott. Is the local tea party a supporter of the event?
Lance: The Prescott Tea Party is supporting our event, but more so in simply spreading the word. They will more than likely have a booth at our expo, in order to sign up more members. I always try and support, in an equal manner, groups such as theirs and others. It’s good for our events and it’s good for their organizations.
OTG: Do you feel that the recent political scandals (Benghazi, IRS, AP/James Rosen, NSA cell phones records, and the EPA release of private farmers’ information) have created an enhanced distrust of the federal government?
Lance: Only for those that never trusted it to begin with. Many just don’t care, and it is a disgrace that we as a nation have slouched this much lower towards Gomorrah. I am appalled at the number of folks that simply are clueless that anything is going on—be it the IRS scandal, AP scandal, or worse yet, the NSA scandal. Our government could become a dictatorship overnight and three-fourths of our population would either not know, or not care. We are in a lot of trouble.
OTG: How concerned are expo attendees, and Arizona preppers in general, about the vulnerability of the power grid to a cyber-attack, solar flare, or EMP event?
Lance: A grid down or EMP issue is certainly discussed, but folks in Arizona are more concerned about water, as you can well imagine. Regardless, these other issues are certainly discussed.
OTG: FEMA estimates about the death toll which would result from a downed power grid are extremely low, based upon experts I have interviewed recently and reports generated by scientists—which have been ignored by the mainstream media. Approximately 85 percent of the American population could perish if the power grid was down for only a few weeks to a few months. What preparedness tips do you suggest and/or will be addressed at the expo for folks concerned about our antiquated and over-taxed electrical power system?
Lance: In Arizona, solar is hot!!! No literally. We are seeing a huge spike in solar vendors at our events, and they are all doing very well in regards to sales and interest. More and more Arizona folks are using the term “off the grid.” In fact, that is a very prominent saying in the Prescott Valley area, where our next expo will be. Sure, folks in the metro-Phoenix area talk the same, but they consider it more of something you do in the northern, mountain areas of Arizona. However, our solar vendors are changing that discussion, and now many in the big city are starting to gear up with solar equipment.
OTG: How concerned are Arizona preppers about the potential of a global pandemic from the bird flu or the emerging Middle Eastern virus known as MERS-CoV?
Lance: Arizonians, although aware of these pandemics, are complacent about them as so many others are. Although the metro-Phoenix area is the fifth largest area in the nation, we are so far removed from the perils that a major East Coast city could face, or even a West Coast city for that matter.
OTG: Is the impact of illegal immigration on both local and national security an issue on the minds of Arizona survivalists and preppers?
Lance: Illegal immigration is bone of contention with all Arizona citizens, regardless of survivalist or prepper mindedness. In fact, on an interesting note, one of my Hispanic vendors told me that as a promoter, I am missing a whole segment of the survivalist /prepper community, and that is the Mexican-American side. In fact, he is going to assist in translating my next metro-Phoenix expo flyer into Spanish so we can market into the Mexican-American community to those that are like-minded as well.
OTG: How have reignited gun control efforts impacted the prepper movement in Arizona?
Lance: Arizona is/was experiencing huge shortages and long lines like every other state. However, the guns and magazines are now back in stock as before. But ammo is really scarce. Arizonians love their guns and we are one of the most liberal gun states in the nation, with probably more pro-gun laws than any other. But as for affecting the movement, its effects have been no more of an impact than on society as a whole. What I can say is that the survivalist / prepper community though is buying reloading equipment like never before, so this is a huge plus.
OTG: Governor Jan Brewer recently won a legislative battle over a volunteer state militia. How strong is the support for the Second Amendment and the enhancement and protection of a volunteer state militia in Arizona?
Lance: Militias are very strong in the lower half of this state, although growing in popularity in the northern part as well. However, the metro-Phoenix area is still a bit removed from the concept of a militia, although they are starting to grow. But as for Second Amendment support, Arizona is very much behind it. In fact, we have the Arizona Citizens Defense League, which boasts 6,000 members, and has been a force to be reckoned with at the legislative level. And case in point, Senator Jeff Flake was informed by his constituents in no uncertain terms that he had better be voting against Feinstien’s expanded background checks bill, which he did.
OTG: The California senate recently passed a $50 per purchase ammo permit fee that will require backgrounds check before a citizen can buy bullets. Florida is also considering an ammo tax and the requirement of anger management classes before a single bullet can be sold over the counter. Have any similar laws been suggested in Arizona?
Lance: Ummm…don’t forget, Arizona is the most rebellious state in the Union. We have passed more pro-gun laws than any other state, and we just got a bill passed that stated any guns bought by a city, county, or state agency as part of a gun buy-back scheme, could not be destroyed, but must be resold to a licensed dealer.
OTG: Do you think if the California law passes, it will entice residents to venture across the border to Arizona to purchase ammo? The great ammo shortage of 2013 remains a concern in many parts of the county. Are the shelves still relatively empty in Arizona?
Lance: Yes, we are already getting folks coming to Arizona for ammo. Our guns shows have folks standing at the gates on opening day with two-wheeler hand dollies ready to get in and load up on the ammo. Ammo is rather scarce, as with all areas, but that is because Arizona citizens love to shoot as well. Our shooting ranges are packed on the weekends, standing room only in some cases. But Arizona citizens are also hoarding ammo like everyone. We never know when we will be able to get it again.
OTG: What type of seminars will be offered at the expo?
Lance: Our seminars are varied, but we have the typical gold and silver seminar, water purification, etc. However, I am now leaning towards only bringing in speakers that have a hands-on approach. Tactical defense training for instance, or hands-on medical life-saving training seminars, demonstrating one or two skills in the limited time they have. Since I prefer the term “survivalist” more, I want my expos to have a heavy survival theme to them. Speakers getting up and talking about how bad our government is or the need to protect our Constitution, do little to give our attendees real survival skills. And they can hear any of those lectures on YouTube 24/7. I want our attendees to come away with the desire to go get signed up for some Israeli hand-to-hand combat training, or some serious weapons training. Or even some in-depth medical or cooking skills using a solar oven, such as are offered by one of our many vendors. Our seminars are generally only 45 minutes to an hour long, and we can only introduce folks to the basics. This is good, but we encourage them to go to the next step and sign up for more training with one of our qualified vendors, or find one that is.
OTG: Who are the featured speakers?
Lance: Our list for the Prescott expo is still in-work, and we have not yet got that nailed down. We will in a few weeks and it will be posted on our website. However, we do not invite in big names. Of our 138 Arizona-based small businesses that we are in partnership with, and considering on average that 60 or so of them are on display at any given evening, we prefer to have a select few of them be featured speakers in order to grow their businesses.