Preparations for the end of the world have been going on for years. Survivalists and so-called “preparers” arose independently and in groups during the Cold War, largely out of fear of nuclear catastrophe. But since then survivalism has evolved to encompass different fears, philosophies and visions of the future. Sure, but the sources of the potential apocalypse vary, including war (foreign and domestic), environmental catastrophe, societal collapse, old-fashioned zombies, and more.

But now, in the face of a deadly health pandemic, it seems we’ve all had a taste for expecting (and getting) the worst. For preparers, COVID-19 may (or may not) be a time to adjust plans and sharpen the vision on how to do it when the ultimate disaster arrives.

Becoming “primitive” in Quebec: Survivalism isn’t about stockpiling toilet paper when the government declares a nationwide lockdown. “The real preppers of the first hour already had theirs,” said director Christian Lalumière The Journal of Montreal. He recently filmed an eight-episode series titled “The Last Humans” which follows a survivalist tribe, The Primitives (The Primitives), and aims to demystify the survivalist cliché of the old loner living in the woods, living on his food and his weapons.

• Emphasis is placed on what has been dubbed “new survivalism”, a branch of the movement whose main aim is to reconnect with nature as a response to all kinds of crises, from health to ecology to economy. Building community is a big part of the philosophy.

• A very different type of survivalist interviewed by Radio Canada says the pandemic has exacerbated the fear of becoming targets for non-preparers, and that people are buying weapons typically used for hunting self defense.

It’s the economy, silly: Italian survivalists say they saw the health crisis coming and were ready for it. Their Rambo skills and stockpiles of masks and food could come in handy for the economic crash, unemployment, and political chaos to come. The Italian newspaper online Linkiesta reports that more people identify as preparers among those financially affected by COVID-19, as well as those who fear the collapse of the government.

• More people are contacting survivalist groups looking to learn how to produce their own resources, become self-sufficient and other basic survival skills so they can spend less and have less to worry about while looking for a new employment and a new source of income.

Surviving Brexit, then COVID-19: Long before the health crisis, another lingering threat had awakened the survival instincts of some Britons: the specter of chaos and food shortages induced by the Brexit trade closures. As separation from the European Union approached last December, The Guardian nicknamed those who store food as “Brexit Hoarders.” The arrival of COVID has only amplified the new wave of concern.

• Emergency Food Storage UK quickly began selling its “Brexit box”, which contains a month’s worth of freeze-dried food plus a water filter and fire kit. According to the UK outlet, demand has multiplied with COVID.

United States – Exile from national unrest and natural disasters

In the cradle of survivalism, the preparation of equipment is an increasingly fruitful activity. According to Business Insider Today, demand for gas masks, hazmat suits and other survival gear has skyrocketed due to a mix of COVID fear and other national unrest like the West Coast wildfires and the Black Lives Matter protests. Preparation has simply become mainstream.

The United States has long been at the forefront in terms of different forms of survivalism. For the the richest souls of silicon valley, preparing for the apocalypse means actions such as laser eye surgery to increase the chances of survival, the purchase of multimillion-dollar remote properties in New Zealand, a helicopter fully loaded and ready to fly and well safe, firearm and ammunition storage. Survive by any (financial) means necessary.

SARS awakening and daily survival in Singapore: Any good survivalist will tell you that preparedness applies to all kinds of crises, including a pandemic. But no trainer is better prepared than one who has actually gone through a health crisis. In his disaster-ready home, a Singaporean preparer who gave his name as Samuel told Channel News Asia how the 2003 SARS outbreak convinced him to be ready to do anything to save his family. He knew exactly what he needed when the nature of the coronavirus became clearer, adding to his impressive survival kit as he resides in a dengue red zone.

As explained on the Singapore News Channel, being prepared is about being ready for anything from natural disaster to kidnapping to heart attack. He is a way of living it must happen before hell breaks out, and it is about saving yourself as well as helping your fellow man.

Last takeaway: Skills and knowledge are at least as important as equipment. Still, it’s never too early to stock up — masks and all.

Tanya J. Hill