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  • Calamity Janet Interview with The Blue Collar Prepper

    image property of National Geographic, 2012 from "Doomsday Preppers"


    Janet Spencer, also known as “Calamity Janet” , lives in Helena, Montana and has been prepping since 2004. In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers” (s01e09). A copy of the episode has been uploaded to YouTube, and can be watched here.

    Her home, affectionately known as the “Armageddon Inn” by her friends and family, is the center of her prepping endeavors, and Janet specializes in finding covert and unobtrusive places to stash her food stockpiles, utilizing every empty space available, from behind the bookshelf, to a large enclosed space under her bed. This serves the dual purpose of both keeping the house free from prepping clutter (and out of her non-prepper, but understanding husband Jerry’s way), and concealing her food stores in the event looters in a SHTF situation invade her home. She feels safe in knowing that she can walk away and come back to find most, if not all, her supply cache intact.

    Janet’s purpose for prepping is to be able to provide not only herself and her husband, but her family, friends, and her community with food and supplies in a disaster. At the time of the show, she estimated she had enough supplies to feed over 1,000 people for a short time.

    Calamity Janet graciously agreed to an interview with The Blue Collar Prepper, where she answered a few questions about the show, her prep, and gave some helpful tips for beginning preppers:



    BCP:                                       The TV show highlighted your focus on preparing for a nuclear attack and the resulting EMP and fallout. Are there other scenarios which you include in your preparations?


    Calamity Janet:                 I’m really not overly concerned with nuclear war; that was a scenario the Doomsday Prepper producers pressed upon me when my “real” reasons for prepping were dismissed as either too boring or “we’ve already done that.” Locally speaking, I’m most concerned about earthquake and wildfire, and these are truly the primary things I prep for. Nationally speaking, my main concern is economic collapse. Globally speaking, my top worry would be EMP, either from the sun or from a high altitude nuke. I also think that peak oil is going to ruin a lot of lives in the not-too-distant future, as well as climate change, although these scenarios might be decades away.



    BCP:                                   Terms such as “Prepper” and “Survivalist” often carry certain connotations, both negative and positive, in society. Do you consider yourself a “prepper”?


    Calamity Janet:              I do consider myself a “prepper” and I use the term proudly: I am “one who prepares”. “Survivalist” doesn’t describe me,  because I can’t catch squirrels or butcher a moose or build a shelter out of dried grass and branches. My grandparents raised their families during the Great Depression, when a high percentage of people grew their own food and stored it in root cellars. Back then, people would think it strange not to have a winter’s supply of food stashed away. In the space of just two generations, we’ve gotten completely away from that mind-set of being able to provide for yourselves. My grandparents would be considered to be “preppers” in today’s society, although back then, they were just doing sensible things required to survive under the circumstances.



    BCP:                                       One of the focuses of your preparations is providing for other survivors and your community. How do you see your approach as different from the “everyone-for –themselves” mentality common to some in the prepper community?


    Calamity Janet:                 I think the “everyone-for-themselves” mind-set is a very grave mistake a lot of people are making. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are; if things fall apart, you’re going to need something you haven’t got: a doctor, or a dentist, or a farrier, or a veterinarian, or someone who knows how to make clothing out of flax. If your mind-set is, “I’m going to shoot anybody who comes near me” you are isolating yourself in a very dangerous way. I think the most successful post-collapse communities will be those who work together in peaceful, cooperative coalitions. It’s likely to be a case of “Those with the best support system win” rather than “Those with the most guns win.” Subsequently, in a truly catastrophic collapse scenario, I feel that people living in small communities – where everyone knows everyone else – will have the greatest rates of survival. Conversely, people living in densely populated areas would be most likely to die at the hands of people who have no interest in cooperative coalitions. My prepping is therefore geared towards being able to make the most of the fact that I’ve lived in my community for 30 years, where I’ve made many key connections with my fellow citizens. This increases the chance of forming the cooperative coalition, and decreases the chance of being gunned down.



    BCP:                                       What do you feel about the term “zombie” used by some peppers for the unprepared?


    Calamity Janet:                 Whenever a disaster strikes, people become overloaded and they have a striking tendency to just sit down or wander aimlessly in circles. This is a common reaction, so common that the Red Cross trains their volunteers to recognize the symptoms. Studies have shown that the people least likely to die in any given disaster are people who have imagined themselves in such a scenario (whether it be plane crash, house fire, earthquake or whatever) and thought through the steps they would take to survive it. Therefore, people who never prepared because they never imagined they would ever be caught up in such a situation are the most likely to be the people who become overwhelmed and do nothing at all until someone comes and takes them by the hand. In these instances, I think “zombies” is a fair assessment of the condition, though I doubt any brain-eating will be involved. I think the most affected people following a disaster are alcoholics, smokers, and drug addicts who have to cope with sudden withdrawal on top of dealing with the disaster. In that case, some brain-eating might be expected.



    BCP:                                       What is your plan for dealing with a hostile situation? Do you have a backup plan for defense if evasion impossible?


    Calamity Janet:                 I have two basic plans for handling hostilities: 1) Leave and 2) Ask for protection from my friends and neighbors. Regarding leaving, I have a variety of RVs and campers that provide mobile bug-out options, and there’s plenty of national forest land to hide in all around my town. Regarding asking friends for help, well, Montana has the 2nd highest per capita rate of gun ownership, (after Alaska) and many/most of my friends and neighbors would come to my rescue if required.



    BCP:                                       How do you handle food rotation with your stashes? For food which has a shorter shelf life, does that affect your storage choices?


    Calamity Janet:                 People are actually shocked when I explain that I don’t rotate my food. Supplies that go into my stash are there permanently. It will be there until it is used, or until I die – whichever comes first. My goal is not to have a small amount of constantly fresh food; my goal is to have the greatest amount of edible food on hand, period. I buy things that I consider to be non-perishable and then I store them under the best possible circumstances. I constantly add to my supply and never take anything away from it. When disaster strikes, first we will eat the fresh food; then we will eat the stale food; next we will eat the rancid food; and by the time we are done with that, we will hope one of three things has happened: Either the event has ended, or the cavalry has arrived, or the first harvest is in. For people who want to have a year’s supply of food on hand for their family, and who are content with this amount of preparation, rotation is easy to do, because it’s a manageable amount of food. When I first started prepping, that’s all I intended to do: enough food for my husband and myself for a year. Then when I started encouraging other people to do the same, they all started telling me: “I’m not going to prep because I’m just going to come over to YOUR house if anything ever happens.” I think this is a stupid, selfish attitude – and I’m not shy about telling people that – but I’m still never going to be able to turn any of my friends away if they come to me for help. Therefore, I am under tremendous (imaginary) pressure to make sure I have enough on hand to feed all who may come to me for help. So, I don’t rotate my food. I just continue to stockpile.



    BCP:                                       The show highlighted your canned and dry food stockpiles. Are you taking any other measures for food sustainability such as a garden, etc?


    Calamity Janet:                 Unfortunately I live smack in the middle of a city on a very small plot of land, far too small (and heavily shaded) to realistically do any meaningful gardening. If push came to shove, I could grow some food, and could re-vamp my small yard to house chickens and rabbits, and maybe a goat. At this time, however, I am so busy with other projects that gardening is not a high priority, though there are few things I enjoy more than gardening.



    BCP:                                       Do you have a plan for collecting water from other sources, such as a renewable water source nearby (well, lake, river, etc)?


    Calamity Janet:                 I have a new metal roof and a variety of methods to catch rainwater. I’m two blocks from a natural spring, three blocks from a creek, half a mile from a second creek, and three miles from a large spring-fed lake. Water would be more difficult to obtain in the winter.



    BCP:                                       Do you have a retreat location/ plan in place to go to if you are forced to evacuate your home?


    Calamity Janet:                 I own three campers (large, medium, and small) which offer a variety of instant bug-out opportunities. For long term bugging out, I have a friend who lives seven miles out of town on a ranch that would be the absolutely perfect bug-out location. We have an understanding that I will show up with food and supplies and that he will take me in. It’s a large piece of property with a lot of housing, abundant water, lots of great garden plots, trained draft horses, firewood galore, and a lot of privacy.



    BCP:                                       Are there other parts of your prep which the show left out?


    Calamity Janet:                 It was a three-day shoot, 4 hours the first day, 12 hours the second day, and 16 hours the third day. We covered an immense amount of material, and they chose their favorite 14 minutes worth, over which I had absolutely no control. So yeah, there was tons of material they left out. I started my website to cover some of what ended up on the cutting room floor. I wanted my segment to demonstrate ways to prep that don’t take up much time, money, or space. That part got shunted to the side, because they chose to have my segment demonstrate the difficulties between a wife who preps and a husband who does not — which really isn’t a big deal in my marriage at all, any more than it would be if the wife is a quilter and the husband is not interested in quilting, or if the husband is a football fanatic and the wife is not interested in football.



    BCP:                                       How have your friends and family adjusted to the publicity brought by the show to your prepping?


    Calamity Janet:                 It was my  15 minutes of fame. It comes, it goes. A few of my friends finally got off their butts and started prepping after the show. Others just teased me a little more than usual.



    BCP:                                       Do you have advice for other people, who like you, have a spouse or significant other that does not share your views?


    Calamity Janet:                 I learned early on just to go about my prepping in a quiet manner. I don’t discuss my prepping with my husband much, and I try not to bother him with prepping-related chores. If a wife is a quilting fanatic, and her husband is not interested in quilting, is she going to talk to him about quilting all the time? If the husband is a football fanatic and the wife it not interested in sports, is he going to talk to her about football all the time? It’s my hobby; it’s not my husband’s hobby. He allows me the space to pursue my interest in the hobby and does not interfere with it, and that’s as much as I can ask. He’ll never be a prepper, any more than he’ll ever be a quilter, and so I do not try to convert him. I just go about my business without involving him.



    BCP:                                       Do you have any tips for people with disabilities or health concerns, such as diabetes, in prepping?


    Calamity Janet:                 These people need to realize that they are at greatest risk of harm in a disaster scenario, and that they can’t depend on someone else to come rescue them. They need to do everything in their power to be as prepared as possible rather than assume someone is going to bail them out. Have extra meds on hand; have a generator if you’re dependent on electricity, and know how to operate it.



    BCP:                                       What would you recommend for families or older people with fixed incomes who want to start prepping, but have limited money to do so?


    Calamity Janet:                 I am one of the people who has limited money to prep, but I prep anyway. Any time I’m in a store I always say to myself: “If I can afford to buy food for today, then I can afford to buy food for tomorrow too.” It doesn’t have to be a lot of food all at one time. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your stockpile increases if you only buy a single item every time you’re in a store: a box of mac & cheese, or a pound of white rice, or a bag of dried beans. You just have to be consistent about it. A pound of pasta, rice, or beans costs only $1, and will provide the basis for eight meals. That’s 12 cents for a full belly. Isn’t that a wise investment?  I consider it a form of tithing. If people give ten percent to their church, why not give the same to your own future? It’s a form of insurance, just like health insurance, car insurance, or home insurance. It’s food insurance. Also, a lot of my provisions come to me dirt cheap through couponing, which is a fabulous way to stock up for very little money.


    Calamity Janet runs a prepping website and blog, , where she dispenses a lot of valuable information for preppers, especially those with low budgets. She is also the author of the book “Montana Trivia”, as well as other books.

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  • Comments

    1. It’s nice to get a more well rounded view of you Jane.

    2. april says:

      Is her blog still up?
      I love it and have learned a lot from it, but it is saying unavailable.

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