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Q&A: Prepper Expert Cindy Thompson Previews Florida Preparedness Expo

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life changes be ready expo

Off The Grid News recently sat down with Cindy Thompson of Fortress Management to discuss the upcoming Life Changes, Be Ready! Preparedness and Gun Expo, which will be held Nov. 2-3 in Lakeland, Florida.

The prepping expo is shaping up to be one of the largest of the year, and boasts a whole host of influential survival and preparedness speakers, authors and filmmakers. As a “female prepper” myself, I find it very encouraging and exciting to see yet another woman emerge as a leading preparedness organizer and educator. Thompson, much like Survivor Jane and Melissa Norris, was moved to become active in the prepping movement by the financial uncertainty of our times and to share her self-reliance tips with the masses.

OTG: What prompted the creation of the Life Changes, Be Ready! Expo? Is this the first such preparedness expo presented by the Fortress Management group?

Cindy: This is not our first event; Fortress Management Group has been organizing events since 2004. The November Life Changes Be Ready! Preparedness and Gun Expo will be our second event in the preparedness community. Our initial Life Changes, Be Ready! Preparedness Expo was the first of its kind and size in the Florida market. Prior to our expo, a small community preparedness event was held in October 2012 in a rural area of Seminole County, Florida. The attendance and response to this small event was so overwhelming, we saw the need to organize a larger-scale event. The infrastructure for our first expo was put in place in less than six weeks but nevertheless, the premier Life Changes, Be Ready! Expo was held in DeLand, Florida in January of this year and was deemed a huge success by both attendees and vendors.

The mission of our Expo is to awaken individuals, families and communities to the need for preparedness through education and training while also providing access to premium products that aid in the pursuit of a self-sufficient lifestyle.

OTG: How did you become involved with prepping? 

Cindy: Our journey into prepping has its roots in being raised by parents and grandparents who lived a frugal, self-sustaining lifestyle filled with hunting and fishing, gardening and preserving what you shot, caught and grew in the garden. Their motto was “Eat all You Can and What you Can’t Eat, You Can.” This is the foundation upon which our journey as a family began in the late 80s and early 90s and has carried through to the present. With the financial uncertainty of the near future, being ready for any life changes makes even more sense today.

OTG: Why should Americans be better prepared for both a natural or man-made disaster?

Cindy: Even a cursory glance at the headlines of any newspaper, online news source or the TV news organizations will yield a bevy of stories related to hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes the world over. This holds true for man-made disasters as well, the Boston bombings are a recent attention grabber that yells for preparedness. No part of the USA or the world for that matter is immune from catastrophic events that disrupt normal channels of food, water and shelter. Being prepared insulates citizens from the lingering effects of any type of disruption in these supply lines.

OTG: Do you consider civil unrest after any type of disaster a major threat to both life and property?

Cindy: Certainly, civil unrest can be a threat at any time, especially when precipitated by a disaster. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is a glaring example of how quickly things can unwind in a negative way. Being prepared is the best way to stay out of harm’s way when the flag goes up after a disaster of any kind. If your pantry is stocked, you have fuel reserves or an alternative means of cooking and pumping water, the possibility of harm from being out and about trying to get food, fuel or water is greatly reduced.

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OTG: Approximately three million Americans now identify on some level as preppers. What do you think prompted the increase in preparedness minded activities in the United States?

Cindy: Headlines touting the financial chaos created by the banking collapse of 2008, ongoing terror attacks, and the increase in natural weather events has had the effect of showing those who are in tune of the need to provide water, food and shelter for themselves and their loved ones. More and more, being prepared is the best insurance against loss of power, water and social and municipal services.

OTG: What are some basic “changing the way you live tips” you would suggest to new preppers or families considering focusing more on disaster preparedness?

Cindy: The first basic “change the way you live” tip we would offer up is to slow down. A lifestyle of preparedness is not easily accomplished in fast-paced, hectic schedules. Nor is it accomplished by spending countless hours in front of modern media sources such as TV and Internet. A self-sufficient lifestyle requires prudent time management and strategic planning. It can be a very rewarding time for the entire family as new skills and experiences are shared.

As far as a practical initial “take action” step …. the first and foremost important step is considering how to have fresh, pure water. Having the means to purify water is by far the most necessary in becoming self-sustaining. Having a 30-day store of non-perishable food for everyone in the family would be the next step. Another consideration would be to have the means to protect yourself and your family in the event of a prolonged disaster event. After an event that destabilizes the region, the normal police services may be disrupted or overwhelmed, leaving the area to fend for itself.

OTG: What type of speaker topics or workshops will be highlighted during the expo?

Cindy: Our keynote speaker for the November Expo is David Kobler, aka southernprepper1 on YouTube. David’s highly viewed YouTube videos cover a wide variety of preparedness topics. His YouTube channel is where one can see the vast knowledge that David has. As the event gets closer, we will post David’s presentation title.

As a special treat to Central Floridians, James Wesley Rawles of will be appearing via teleconference and speaking on “Preparedness in Central Florida — How Threats and Preparations will Differ from Other Regions.” Since Rawles’s new book Expatriates: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse takes place, in part, in Central Florida. Rawles will share what he has learned about Florida and will directly address the challenges of living in Florida.

Other speaker topics will include gardening, survival medicine, concealment of firearms, herbal medicine, water, use of essential oils, emergency communications, how to organize retreat groups, politics and the prepper and many more.

At the Life Changes, Be Ready! Expo, we offer premium classes. These are classes offered to our attendees who desire a hands-on experience in some area of preparedness. Some of the classes that will be offered include a suturing class, a small game butchering class, preparing a bug out bag class and many more. Check our website for frequent updates on the classes offered and to reserve your seat.

OTG: Approximately how many exhibitors do you expect at the November prepper expo?  

Cindy: We expect 85-100 exhibitors at our expo.

OTG: What type of exhibitors should patrons expect at the Life Changes, Be Ready! Expo?

Cindy: Our goal is to have premium preparedness products represented on our exhibitor floor. Our exhibitors will carry everything from freeze-dried foods, water purifiers, ammunition, firearms and other self-defense items, heirlooms seeds, gardening supplies , food rotation systems, survival manuals and books, essential oils, firearms training, garden towers, holsters, lighting equipment, solar ovens and a host of other products.

Our goal at the Life Changes, Be Ready! Preparedness and Gun Expo is to have an educational, family-oriented event where everyone involved has the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills in order to further their pursuit of a self-sufficient lifestyle while networking with others of a similar mindset.

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OTG: How do you think most residents and vacationers at the popular getaway spot feel about being inside a Constitution-Free Zone – do you think they even realize?

Cindy: Wake up Floridians!  Do you realize that you live in what has been declared a Constitution-Free Zone (CFZ)? The whole Florida peninsula falls within what the DHS has declared a territory that has no constitutional rights.

The current usurpation of the freedoms guaranteed by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights knows no bounds! The US border has always been an area where authorities, both local and federal, have exercised broad latitude in searching and questioning people moving into and out of the US. However, since 9/11 and the passing of the Patriot Act and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Bill of Rights has been trampled into the dirt. The Constitution Free Zone (CFZ) has been extended and molded into a constantly morphing set of assaults on the Fourth Amendment. This assault seems to know no bounds as the CFZ has been redefined by DHS to extend inward from all borders and coastlines approximately 100 miles. Just like any expansion of the Federal apparatchik, the DHS is using their constant mantra of “Keeping Us Safe From Terrorism” shtick to erode our God-given rights to freedom from unlawful, unconstitutional search and seizure. We must keep up pressure on our members of Congress to rein in this galloping juggernaut of the DHS in the name of border security.

If you find yourself in the grips of an unlawful stop and detainment by authorities, my recommendation is to do the following:

  • Ask why you’re being stopped.
  • Ask if you are suspected of committing a crime.
  • If you are told you are a suspect, ask what crime and ask if you are under arrest.
  • If you are not a suspect, ask if you are free to go.
  • If asked for ID you can refuse if you have been told you are not suspected of committing a crime. Be polite but firm, treat the officer as you want to be treated. If the officer becomes belligerent, belittling or abusive, remind them of how you have treated them and ask for the same courtesy.
  • Always be polite and respectful of the officer’s authority.


  • You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
  • You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
  • If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.
  • You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
  • Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights


  • Do stay calm and be polite.
  • Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.
  • Do not lie or give false documents.
  • Do prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.
  • Do remember the details of the encounter.

Be Ready! Preparedness and Gun Expo Presenters

  • David KoblerKeynote Speaker: David Kobler received specialized training in the field of military tactics, nuclear, biological and chemical protection and survival while in the US Army. David witnessed first-hand the importance of preparedness during his time spent in hazardous environments while in the Army. David’s passion is sharing his knowledge with others. He is a strong advocate for preparing families for any emergency situation whether it is a financial collapse or a natural disaster. He involves clients in hands-on training in preparedness techniques. Throughout the year David has speaking engagements at various conferences and has been featured as a guest on talk radio shows. After being featured on National Geographic, he is now a consultant for the Doomsday Prepper TV series. David has been a prepper at heart ever since he can remember, and is an avid homesteader with experience in raising chickens, rabbits, ducks and goats. Enjoying the produce from his orchard and garden, David has turned preparedness into a lifestyle for himself and his family.
  • Richard DuarteRichard Duarte is the author of Surviving Doomsday – A Guide for Surviving an Urban Disaster.  Richard currently lectures and consults in the areas of urban survival planning and preparation; he is a practicing attorney and an avid firearms enthusiast. As a father of four, a grandfather, a husband and as responsible member of society he refuses to delegate responsibility for his family’s welfare and safety, and passionately promotes self-reliance and preparedness. When he is not writing, speaking, teaching or thinking about urban survival, he is busy practicing law and running his law office in Miami, Florida. Duarte was recently featured in an Off The Grid News article about urban prepping.
  • James RawlesJim Rawles is a survivalist author and former US Army Intelligence officer and technical writer. He now work as a full-time blogger, retreat consultant, and freelance writer. “SurvivalBlog is my creation, but because of SurvivalBlog, I’m part of something bigger: a virtual community of some of the most brilliant people that you could ever meet. Despite our differences, we all have an interest in preparedness,” Rawles said. He is a Christian, and holds to Reformed doctrine. His view of history is of the geographical determinist school and his view of economics is of the Austrian school. Politically, he is a conservative/Constitutionalist libertarian. All of these aspects and mindset have shaped his views on preparedness. Jim is the author of Patriots, a novel depicting fictional characters using authentic survivalist techniques to endure the collapse of the American civilization. Expatriates: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse, will be released in October.
  • Dillard CJ JohnsonSergeant First Class Dillard C.J. Johnson, US Army Retired, earned a Silver Star, Bronze Star, four Purple Hearts, Presidential Unit Citation, Meritorious Service Medal, six Army Commendation Medals, seven Army Achievement Medals, and numerous other awards during his 20 years of service. He is the second-most-decorated soldier of the legendary 3rd Infantry Division, behind only Audie Murphy. SFC Johnson’s uniform and sniper log book are on display at the Fort Stewart Museum in Georgia. He is featured in On Point: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. Army’s exhaustively reported study of the 2003 invasion. Johnson has appeared on Fox News, Good Morning America, and the cover of Soldier of Fortune magazine. Born and raised in rural Kentucky, he lives in Florida with his wife and sons.
  • Dr Bones and Nurse AmyDr. Bones and Nurse Amy: Joseph Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones, is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Ob/Gyn. He is a popular speaker at preparedness conferences throughout the country on the subject of medical readiness in austere times. Dr. Alton’s goal is to help non-medical professionals become an asset to their families in situations where help is not on the way.
  • Amy Alton, A.R.N.P., aka Nurse Amy, is an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner and a Certified Nurse-Midwife. She has had years of experience working in large teaching institutions as well as smaller, family-oriented hospitals. Amy has extensive medicinal herb gardens and works to include natural remedies into her strategies. Dr. and Ms. Alton are the authors of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Survival Skills, Disaster Relief, and Safety/First Aid categories The Doom and Bloom™ Survival Medicine Handbook. Additionally, they have been regular contributors to Backwoods Home, Self-Reliance Illustrated, Survival Quarterly, and Survivalist Magazine. As Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy, they host a website with over 250 articles and a radio program under the Doom and Bloom™ label.
  • Tom MacCubbinTom MacCubbin is known to gardeners in Florida through his radio, television, and newspaper contributions. A retired extension environmental horticulturist with the University of Florida in Orange County, MacCubbin has degrees in Horticulture from the University of Maryland. Readers are familiar with his question-and-answer gardening columns and feature articles for The Orlando Sentinel, while others may recognize him as a co-host of Orange County Gardening on cable television and weekly horticulture reports on Central Florida News 13. His radio program Better Lawns & Gardens is broadcast to over 20 Florida stations.
  • Charley HogwoodCharley Hogwood was born and raised in Florida, Charley is the Be Ready! expo resident Chief Instructor on emergency preparedness and disaster readiness. Hogwood’s Ready Go Prep service (Personal Readiness Education Program) was previously featured by Off The Grid News. Prior to focusing his life to personal emergency preparedness, he served over 15 years in both the US Army and the Florida National Guard. He was an honors student in a class of 436 soldiers at the Leadership Development School in Fort Benning, Georgia, among many other leadership and survival certifications. His experience has been tested on several continents and in many natural disasters. During his time as a Lead Scout with the 11th Armored Cavalry, U.S. Army, he spent years deployed to Europe honing his skills in reconnaissance, first aid and humanitarian missions. In the aftermath of the Chernobyl incident, he was deployed to monitor the radiation dispersal over much of the fresh food system of Eastern and Western Europe. Large areas of agriculture and livestock were contaminated and had to be destroyed as governments rushed to provide safe food to millions of citizens who were used to having easy access to food. As an active member of the US Army, he was charged with border security operations including planning and participating in patrolling and security operations, rapid reaction deployment and security of several international incidents. He also has experience in radiation detection and chemical warfare among many other tactical and leadership skills.
  • Robert HenryRobert Henry is the owner of one of the leading sources for quality preparedness information on the internet. Robert has been actively preparing since 1986 and he and his family have lived full time at their survival retreat since the late 90s where they produce their own power and grow and raise most of their own food. Robert teaches regularly on a number of survival and preparedness topics and is known for The Survival Report newsletter, shortwave radio show and Podcast. Robert brings a down to earth, flexible and thought provoking approach to preparedness.
  • David ChristopherDavid Christopher was raised in the simple ways of natural health. David’s interests grew beyond his university study. In 1974 David Christopher, M.H., took his place by his father’s side at The School of Natural Healing. David’s book entitled An Herbal Legacy of Courage is a loving tribute to his father. In 1979 he became a Master Herbalist and the director of The School of Natural Healing. Today, thousands safely apply the Christopher methodology thanks to his directorship. David is an international lecturer and was instrumental in influencing natural healing principles taught in several European Herbal Colleges. David and his wife Fawn host a weekly radio program, A Healthier You. He has generated new ideas on the management of high blood pressure, diabetes and auto-immune diseases, and was one of the first to discourage the use of Prozac in favor of natural methods. David Christopher’s goal in life is to help others learn to benefit from a healthier lifestyle.
  • Trey DawsonTrey Dawson: “I inherited from my father, a love of history and marksmanship. While I once considered both of these to be hobbies, I now see them as prerequisite for maintaining, as Thomas Paine once called it, that most ‘Celestial Article,’ Liberty. I was born in Clearwater, Florida, and grew up on Indian Rocks Beach. I attended Largo High School and St Pete Junior College. I now own an audio video business in Palm Harbor, where I also live. While I once had many interests, including several forms of diving, paintball, and NRA High Power competition shooting, I now spend most of my spare time working for Project Appleseeds, a 501c3, nonprofit, educational organization, dedicated to maintaining the traditions and ideals of the Founding generation.’
  • Marjory WildcraftMarjory Wildcraft: ‘Homegrown Food On Every Table’ is the mission of Marjory Wildcraft’s organization. Marjory has been called the “Martha Stewart of Self-Reliance” as she is a regular guest on many national radio and television shows. Most recently, Marjory was featured as an expert in sustainable living by National Geographic. She is an author of several books, but is best known for her video series Grow Your Own Groceries which helps you create an organic food producing paradise in your backyard. Grow Your Own Groceries is widely used by homesteaders, survivalists, universities, and missionary organizations around the world. Marjory has an online resource center for backyard food production where you can find inspiration, humor, and practical steps for getting homegrown food on your dinner table.
  • Lucinda BaileyLucinda Bailey, aka The Seed Lady, has had a life-long love affair with gardening and seeds. Her interest began as a teenager in Michigan, where she grew produce in her backyard to sell to her neighbors. By the time she met her business partner, Lucinda’s private collection of vegetable, fruit and herb seeds exceeded 800 varieties; it has since expanded to approximately 1,000! A Texas Master Gardener, the seed lady is happiest when she is tending her garden, or better yet, when she is teaching others how to do the same.
  • Travis FoxTravis Fox is a security consultant, disaster planning specialist, and firearms instructor. After responding to disasters around the globe, Travis formed Reel Equity Funding [a film production company] to create high quality movies that highlight the need for preparedness. Travis feels strongly that the entertainment media can be used as a positive influence, and has secured the rights to produce the blockbuster book Lights Out into a movie series. Travis will lead the effort as Executive Producer, and is dedicated to making the project a reality. Travis resides in Sanibel Island, Florida with his wife and two children.
  • Cindy ThompsonAs co-owner of Fortress Management Group, Inc., Cindy Thompson is a driving force behind the Life Changes. Be Ready! Preparedness and Gun Expo.  With a mission To awaken individuals, families and communities to the need for preparedness through education and training while also providing access to premium products that aid in the pursuit of a self-sufficient lifestyle, the Life Changes. Be Ready!  Preparedness and Gun Expo (LCBR) is a reflection of the calling Cindy feels on her life. Due to the time commitment of managing an expo, Cindy usually does not speak at the LCBR expos.  However, feeling compelled to teach a session for women Cindy will be speaking at the upcoming Lakeland, Florida expo. Two aspects of preparation that Cindy believes a lot of women overlook are self-defense and physical fitness. As an NRA instructor whose shooting career began as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, West Point, Cindy is passionate about teaching women of all ages not only about situational awareness but also about self-defense through the use of firearms. Cindy’s professional training as an Exercise Physiologist explains why she is very adamant that physical fitness is a vital part of every woman’s ability to defend herself.
  • Dawn KightDawn Kight is an IDPA certified Range Safety Officer, and an NRA Certified Instructor in: F.I.R.S.T. Steps Basic Pistol – Firearms, Instruction, Responsibility, and Safety Training, Basic Pistol, Refuse To Be A Victim, and Eddie Eagle. “I have shot off and on all my life, even doing a little training during my two years in Law Enforcement Explores while I was in high school. I really never had a significant interest in shooting until 2009 when I truly needed a firearm. In 2009, we had three attempted home break-ins and I told my husband that for my birthday, I wanted to start learning to shoot. In less than two years, I was an Instructor and shooting matches with some of the top shooters in the area. Due to my reason behind getting started in shooting, I have become a major advocate for educating people – women and children especially – about safely learning to handle firearms. As a firearms instructor with four children I have made sure that all of my children are very proficient with many types of firearms and made sure that they know how to defend themselves even though they are not able to carry a firearm yet. I have become passionate about getting the word out to women, you can conceal and still look good doing it. That is why I have joined with Cindy Thompson in a special session on carrying concealed geared towards women.”

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