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Gauging how prepared you are for a man-made or natural disaster is not an easy task. Many of us believe that having backup for your backup is a must, but knowing when our food shelves are full enough is an important question to have answered. Food and water are obviously a top priority, but without basic survival skills, an off-grid energy system, shelter, medical supplies (and knowledge), and copious amounts of ammunition, a warehouse full of MREs will not keep you and your family alive for very long.
A textbook full of directions and diagrams to teach Americans how to prepare for every disaster scenario for specific regions of the country would be nice, but until such a thick reference manual becomes available, preppers continue rely on a host of literature and workshops to guide their efforts. The reasons more and more of our neighbors are choosing to prepare are as varied as the individuals themselves, making a cohesive and specialized prepping guide even more difficult to create.
Some of those who do not see the need to keep more than a box or two of macaroni and cheese on the shelf often cast rather nasty dispersions at the homesteading, prepping, and survival community. Unfortunately, a fear of ridicule may prevent some preppers from sharing potentially life-saving tips with others. Dr. Peter Behrens of Penn State University deemed preppers a group of selfish people who may actually be part of a cult. The way the liberal mind works is rather baffling to me. Self-reliant, sustainable, and Earth-friendly behavior should be heralded and not chastised.
Dr. Behrens appears rather confused about the popularity of the Doomsday Preppers series and the growing prepping community in America. He recently had this to say on the topic:
“From a psychological perspective [doomsday prepping] is bizarre. Members spend so much time and energy readying for the end of the world. Prepping is just people trying to control what is beyond their control. I think this is just a modern iteration of the phenomenon of people believing that the end is coming in their lifetime. That idea is so selfish, so self-centered, so narcissistic. It’s mind control.”
Despite Dr. Behrens conclusions, prepping has gone a bit more mainstream during the past year. Headlines about a plethora of medium-to-large natural disasters, cyber hacking, terrorism, solar flares, EMP threats by North Korea, and a still struggling economy have prompted more people to adopt the self-reliant lifestyle of our ancestors. The prepper, homesteading, and survival community has grown to include at least three million families, according to the latest estimates.
Solar generators  are often the go-to off-grid energy system choice and are an extremely reliable source for power during a disaster. Once you have a doomsday-ready power source and a stockpile of food and water, you are set to ride out the end of the world as we know it, right? Not hardly. Off The Grid News recently sat down with female prepping expert Nicole Sundine to find out more about the specific prepping and self-defense skills women need to learn to remain safe in dangerous situations. Women need far more than big plastic bins full of tampons to be truly prepared for the civil unrest which will surely follow a man-made or natural disaster.
OTG: How did your background as a law enforcement officer and victim’s advocate influence your decision to create personal safety and “prepper” products geared specifically to women?
NS: As a law enforcement officer and victim advocate, I conducted countless of investigations and provided crisis intervention to hundreds of girls and women who have been victims of harassment, abuse, and violence. This life experience has given me unique insight into the true dynamics of violence and victimization, and inspired me to dedicate my future to focusing on prevention.
Since I’ve been blessed with the gift of possessing the knowledge and skills that will keep me safe in this ever-changing and uncertain world, I feel like the best way I can pay it forward is to teach other women how to prepare for the unexpected and protect themselves and their families.
OTG: Are you preparing yourself and other women for a specific disaster scenario or focused more on an overall approach to self-reliant behavior?
NS: The skills and strategies I teach women should be used every day to increase self-reliance, foster freedom, and enhance personal and family safety. But they will become critically important in the event of any kind of emergency, disaster, or catastrophe that immobilizes the societal systems that help keep us safe and has the potential to separate us from the people we have come to rely on for protection.
In these scenarios, protection skills and strategies will come into play on two levels. Yes, we need to be able to protect ourselves and our families from direct threats, but we also need to be able to protect the supplies that will keep us alive.
I’ve found that collecting and storing supplies is the focus of preparedness for many women and, while I don’t want to minimize the importance of this undertaking, I think it’s important to remember that supplies are of no use if they are taken or destroyed because we don’t have the ability to protect them.
OTG: An attractive and very feminine-looking woman is not the image typically conjured up when the average American hears the term “prepper.” Prominent personal safety and preparedness experts such as yourself, Survivor Jane , and The Survival Mom are successfully debunking the stereotype. Moms in general are natural preppers. Our purses bulge with bandages, mini first-aid kits, and snacks. We make sure the refrigerator is fully stocked and always teach our children about standard safety practices. Did you face any gender-specific obstacles when first roaming the nation as a preparedness speaker, and how have you gotten more women to embrace self-defense concepts?
NS: You’re right, when people look at me, I’m pretty sure they would never imagine I possess the protective skills I do, but that actually works to my advantage. I’m a big believer in quiet confidence. A major myth perpetuated by traditional self-defense instructors is that you have to act tough and be loud to intimidate anyone who threatens you. In reality, these behaviors are usually read as glaring signs of insecurity. When you possess the skills and believe in your ability, you don’t have to broadcast it to the world. It shows.
So far, I haven’t faced many obstacles as a preparedness speaker. In fact, I’ve been welcomed into a world where there are few female speakers, particularly in the area of personal protection, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many women—from single moms to business women to elderly widows—who don’t fit the stereotype either. I believe I’ve been able to get them to embrace preparedness and protection concepts because I use modern methods that resonate with women to teach these skills and strategies in an entirely new way.
OTG: What realistic safety strategies do you focus upon when working with girls and women? Is the training you offer entirely physical, or does it touch upon the psychological aspects of preparedness and self-defense as well?
NS: Although I teach physical techniques and weapon systems, I believe the interpersonal and psychological elements of personal protection are more important. The psychological and interpersonal strategies I teach are designed to help women communicate clearly, enforce boundaries, project power, detect threats, connect with their instinct, overcome the freeze response, and tame their fears.
OTG: Do you offer any training or advice specific to an elder or physically disabled audience?
NS: My strategies are designed for people of all ages and abilities, but it’s important to remember that each of us has our own unique vulnerabilities. Recently, a teenage girl approached me during class and told me she was worried because she has severe asthma and she knew it would be triggered if she ever had to physically fight back. We talked about the ways she has controlled it during other stressful or physically demanding situations in the past and worked on a specific plan to help her overcome her limitations. What’s important is that we identify our vulnerabilities and find ways to compensate for them with our strengths, and I take the time help people do that.
OTG: What is the Lacy Jo Miller Foundation and the 2 Hearts 4 Lacy project?
NS: In 2003, Lacy Jo Miller, a 20-year-old University of Northern Colorado student, was murdered by a police impersonator in Fort Collins, CO. When I learned the story of Lacy Jo Miller, I was profoundly saddened by the story of her senseless murder, so I joined forces with her mother, Wendy Cohen, to educate law enforcement officials and the public about the profound impact of police impersonation and the dangers associated with it. We speak together regularly and are currently working on several projects including initiatives to prevent crimes committed by police impersonators. If your readers would like to learn how to protect themselves from police impersonators there are safety strategies listed on my website.
It is our belief that education is the key to preventing victimization and it is our hope that this initiative will prevent what happened to Lacy from ever happening to anyone else.
OTG: Your “Protect-Her System” is quite an amazing little tool, and one that should be in every purse or backpack. How did the system come about and how does it work?
NS: My Protect-Her System is based on a power triad of physical, psychological, and emotional components. The Protect-Her batons and Pepper batons are available in coordinating colors to mix or match with my Protect-Her key rings and Protect-Her charms which serve as protective inspiration. These options allow women to create a defensive device that reflects their own unique personality and lifestyle.
When women have to protect themselves from someone bigger and stronger than they are, the Protect-Her System can help give them the edge they need to come out on top. It can be used to strike, rake, flail, or stabilize their fist. And it’s designed to work with a broad margin of error, so it doesn’t require a lot of training and women can deploy it in the way that feels most natural to them.
Although I own and carry a variety of weapon systems, the slim shape of the Protect-Her System fits easily into a purse or pocket making it convenient and readily accessible, so I always have this simple defensive device with me.
OTG: What is the Realistic Safety Coaching  program?
NS: I created the Realistic Safety Coaching program for individuals or families who choose private or advanced instruction in Realistic Safety Strategies.
Coaching offers a flexible and personalized training option that’s open to everyone but works especially well for people who are faced with specific safety challenges, feel shy or sensitive about interacting in groups, need more “practice” time, or have developmental or physical disabilities. Coaching is also a great option for families who want to learn strategies they can use together.
OTG: Can women who do not live in Virginia still take advantage of your Realistic Safety Strategies program?
NS: Absolutely. I travel all over the nation to conduct seminars for businesses, non-profit agencies, government entities, schools, clubs and organizations. From youth to seniors and individuals to professionals, I can adapt the seminar content to fit the needs of any audience.
Women can also learn my strategies by reading my new book, Realistic Safety Strategies for Women, and reading the articles on my blog. I’m also currently working on a series of training videos that I plan to release in June at the Doomsday Expo in Denver Colorado.
Off The Grid News: The Doomsday Expo  is being billed as the largest gathering of preparedness experts in the country. The kickoff expo will be held in Denver June 27-29. Plans for up to 18 more such expos at various locations around the country are currently in the works. The next scheduled expo will be held at the Colorado Convention Center December 19-21. Possible locations for future Doomsday Expos include the Chicago, Lexington, Cleveland, Phoenix, Seattle, Portland, Little Rock, Austin, Orlando, Virginia Beach, and Atlanta areas.