SAN FERNANDO VALLEY – Inside a used RV that’s anything but recreational and loaded with survival equipment, rain has leaked through a wooden overhead bin near a light fixture.
A.B. remarks that he’ll have to get that fixed, and time is running short.
It’s now less than one month until his group’s “ready” date – December 21, 2012, when the long-predicted doomsday event based on the Mayan long-form calendar could arrive.
A Los Angeles-area survival group has actively recruited people with specific skills in the past few months, tying its disaster preparedness effort to Dec. 21.
The founder, A.B. (who asked to remain anonymous), doesn’t necessarily believe the prediction, but he’s certain that something will happen eventually.
“There’s so many different scenarios, there’s so many things that could possibly go wrong,” he said.
A member of the U.S. Armed Forces, A.B. and several others in the group have military experience that has taught them survival skills.
Preparing to survive a catastrophe has become its own culture, popularized by the cable show “Doomsday Preppers” and giving rise to the American Preppers Network, which offers tips and contacts to practice self-reliance during disasters.
When it all hits the fan – or SHTF – preppers usually have “bug-out” bags and locations ready to go, with means of survival such as food stores, water access and security measures.
There are numerous doomsday scenarios: powerful earthquakes, a super volcano at Yellowstone National Park, economic and social collapse, nuclear fallout or a solar storm that destroys satellites and electrical grids.
Few preppers rely on the Dec. 21 prediction, however. Experts on Mayan culture say that date, the winter solstice, simply marks the end of a cycle, no different than flipping the calendar to a new year after Dec. 31.
Despite assurances by NASA and others that no threat is imminent, the date has still built up its own mythos.
“I do have some members who believe, come Dec. 21, 2012, all hell is going to break loose,” A.B. said.
A.B. is still willing to take in a few others, but only to fulfill specific functions, such as doctors, engineers and ham radio operators. There’s a job need list on the group website, at www.2012survival-community.org.
Other members of the community declined to be interviewed, and other groups in the Los Angeles area also declined.
Preppers often like to maintain their privacy, out of concern that outsiders might figure out their bug-out locations and overrun them.
A.B.’s group has several places picked out, within California, where there’s enough wildlife to live off the land and water sources that could be used to catch fish.
One location has a swimming pool where fish can be raised, a technique that A.B. saw on “Doomsday Preppers.” Innovation is common among preppers, and others often borrow ideas.
The hope is to survive long enough for government and society to stabilize, and A.B. even cautions members to protect against pregnancies until things return to normal.
“We hope the government will someday replenish the electricity. Once that’s accomplished, then everything else comes back online,” he said. “We all believe that life will continue, just not the way we’re used to.”
In the RV, A.B. holds up an ice cream maker.
It isn’t there for ice cream, but it’s an effective way to complete the pasteurization process for milk, which will come from two pygmy goats.
He also has five hens for eggs, several potted plants, medical supplies and a kitchen full of dry and canned food that he plans to load up before driving out of L.A.
The parts for small wind turbines are stored in the RV, along with two weather stations, a telescope and small game traps. Electricity shouldn’t be a problem, with five gas generators, two hydro-electric generators, 10 solar panels and several inverters.
There are also two 450-gallon water tanks and A.B.’s homemade water heater, plus a U-haul truck loaded with supplies.
And every week, A.B. works to acquire other goods his community might need.
Other preppers have criticized him for assembling such a large group and basing it in Los Angeles, often regarded as one of the worst places to be in a disaster.
But this is where he lives, where his family lives, and he believes there’s safety in numbers, with multiple people capable of providing 24-hour security.
A.B. has five children, three of them young adults who live apart from him, and he wants to have the resources to take care of them.
“It’s a stress on my side, I worry about my family, I worry about people I care about,” he said. “But trying to do it all, it’s an impossibility.”
His father doesn’t believe in the need for extreme disaster preparedness, and A.B. recognizes that a disaster could force him to make some difficult decisions.
“Just leaving my mom behind is something I do not want to think about,” he said.
The community itself is carefully balanced. Some applicants are rejected, with members providing input about who gets to join.
One person, a professional clown, was met with skepticism by the group because no other skills were offered. It was a tough decision, A.B. said, that never had to be made because the person didn’t respond to a questionnaire.
An astrophysicist also came with some question marks because of clashing personalities, and A.B. wound up agreeing to share some provisions as separate groups.
“I think where we’re at is a stable operation right now,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to get anything beyond 150.”