South East Wales

A Welsh prepper: 'Crazy' not to prepare for disasters

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Media captionPrepper Victor Gentles tells BBC Wales preparing for disasters is 'common sense'

For British survivalists - or "preppers" - the chance a catastrophe could turn civilization to chaos is too much not to ignore. But what drives someone to plan for doomsday?

Victor Gentles, 60, of Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, runs a YouTube channel called "Welsh Prepper", showing off skills needed to survive after a disaster.

He has stock-piled food, plotted hideouts in the woods and taught himself some bush craft.

And he believes it is "crazy not to prepare".

"I would say being prepared for things is the common sense thing to do. You're crazy not to prepare, really, because so many things in life can be thrown at you," he said.

"If you're not at least sort of prepared for it you haven't got a chance."

Image caption The Welsh prepper keeps a "bug out" box ready in case he needs to leave his home after a disaster

Mr Gentles, an electrician, got into prepping about four years ago.

The disaster he most fears is an ill-timed solar flare - when an intense burst of radiation appears due to magnetic energy suddenly released from the sun.

This could result in charged energy particles colliding with the Earth and disrupting its communication systems and power grids.

"It would mean no cars would work, no electricity, no water, no sanitation, there would be nothing. You'd be right back to zero and you have just got to survive long enough until the government sorts it out and gets some order," he explained.

While these kinds of events appear few and far between, they can cause problems.

In 1994, one such solar storm caused major malfunctions to two communications satellites, disrupting television and radio services throughout Canada.

Experts in the United States have previously said there is a 7% chance of a solar super storm in the next decade.

"Certainly, you'd have to take on the responsibility of looking after yourself, there would be no law and order; if somebody thinks you've got food there's a good chance they are going to try and take it off you.

"So, you've got to be able to defend yourself. Hopefully, your street, your village could all get together and set up some sort of protection and go off together and collect food from different places."

He has built up stores of supplies, including tinned food, military-style food pouches known as "meals ready to eat" (MREs) and bottles of water.

The outdoors enthusiast, who enjoys camping in the elements, is also hoping to learn more survival skills like skinning rabbits and birds.

Find out more

Watch Benjamin Zand's film about British preppers on the Victoria Derbyshire programme website.

Mr Gentles has backpacks filled with sleeping bags, items for making shelter and food ready to go in case he ever needs to "bug out" - or leave quickly - in the event of an attack.

He has marked "bug-out" spots in woods a short walk from his home where he and his wife, Jackie, would go if their home was attacked.

"In probably the worst case, where there would be gangs of people looting your homes, you would have to what they call 'bugging out' where you basically just go off somewhere and hide until the incidents ended," he added.

"For me, we live in the local countryside so I would go into the local woods and there are certain places I would go and stay there for a few days until hopefully things calm down."

Mr Gentles attends regular pepper meetings and events across the UK. He says many of the English preppers he has met see Wales as an ideal place to stay hidden in the event of a catastrophe.

"A lot of people have got places to go up to in the Brecon Beacons," he said.

"There are people in England, that seems to be their plan, but you have to be able to get up there and to survive up there."

'Bit of fun'

But for the most part, Mr Gentles said prepping is a "bit of fun" with normal survival elements all part of the mix.

He said he first had a "light bulb" about prepping when he started watching YouTube videos on the subject and realised he was always already doing much of what was required: camping, hiking and handiwork.

However, he said many people still attach a certain stigma to the term "prepper", thinking those involved are "nutters".

Image copyright Thinkstock

Prepper's vocabulary:

There are a number of terms used by the prepping community to describe their practice. Here are some examples:

Prepper - An individual who prepares for a catastrophic event

When Stuff Hits the Fan - The widespread chaos and panic that sets in after a catastrophic event

Bugging In - Staying at your location until it is safer to bug out

Bugging Out - Leaving your current position and moving to a safer location

Bug Out Bag (Bob) - A bag that contains all the necessities needed to survive after a catastrophe

Zombie - The name for the unprepared and aggressive masses who may want to steal a prepper's resources

"You have house insurance, car insurance and things like that - so it made sense to put a bit of food by to prepare yourself for a disaster that might or might not happen.

"And in the meantime, in case anything didn't happen, you are having fun, doing videoing, and it's a great hobby with a purpose at the end of it."

However, Mr Gentles admits he is probably also attracted to prepping because he is "a worrier".

"But trying to prepare yourself for various events helps you to relax and not worry so much," he said.

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