The following article has been contributed by Phil Burns, co-founder of the American Preppers Network.
(You can view the full pilot episode of Meet the Preppers below this article)
It has been an interesting 48 hours for all of us who were in Meet the Preppers, namely my family, watching the responses has been educational and enlightening – and frustrating and unsettling.
Phil Burns Intro
But let’s start with an introduction – I’m Phil Burns, the father of 8 on Meet the Preppers. I’m a co-owner of The American Preppers Network and one of the original founders of Utah Preppers in 2008, which was started before the APN. I’ve been involved with the American Preppers Network since it was founded, I have a weekly podcast on Prepping, and have around 80 youtube videos on Prepping and related topics. I’ve also had several articles published, most recently in Survivalist magazine.
And I’ve seen people stating that I know nothing about Prepping and that I’m a fake. I’ll let you decide, you can read all the specific details about me here. Meanwhile, I’d like to give you a bit of history about how the show came to be.
Meet the Preppers Background
I was contacted by a production company who represented Animal Planet over a year ago. They had been commissioned by Animal Planet to put together a show on Emergency Preparedness because Animal Planet is working on adjusting their brand to feature humans as animals – hence their new slogan “Surprisingly Human”. They had some crazy ideas about how to portray Preppers and I began educating them.
After we had put together a couple treatments with some reasonable ideas, we selected one and filmed our first demo. It was about this time that I began receiving calls from Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic asking me if I was interested in being in their pilot. I really didn’t like the Doomsday Preppers production company’s ideas and tried to help guide them to a better format. What they have now is much better than what they originally had in mind, but I’m still not a fan of it.
Animal Planet watched our first demo and asked us to make some changes, they did the same thing after we showed them the second demo. They liked the third demo much better and asked for some adjustments for the pilot. What aired as “Meet the Preppers” on Saturday took over a year to put together and required a lot of hard work and back and forth.
Phil’s Objective with “Meet the Preppers”
As I helped with the creative work and moved forward with this project, I had one goal in mind for the show: to bring Prepping into mainstream homes and help open their minds to the possibilities of getting prepared.
This show is not about teaching you more about survival if you’re a survivalist. It’s not even about teaching you about hardcore Prepping if you’re a Prepper (although I do believe you’ll get some things out of each episode). The show is geared towards the non-Prepper and non-Survivalist with the intent of showing them some things that mainstream people are at risk for every single day – and show them some new ideas and possibilities that could serve them in those areas – and hopefully lead them towards more of a Prepper mindset.
(please note, this is Phil’s objective – NOT Animal Planet’s, but this is where I’ve been exerting whatever influence I have on the creative process)
Overview of “My Pink Pistol”
The pilot that aired is called “Meet the Preppers: My Pink Pistol” and we cover a lot of topics. The primary theme in this episode was to introduce Gibson, my 10 year old daughter and show “prepping” from her perspective. NONE of her lines were scripted or fed to her, everything she said was said in interviews on her own, my wife and I were not in the house during the kids taping. Gibson approaches us in the beginning of the show and makes a potential deal with us about a cell phone versus a gun – specifically a pink .22.
For the first half of the show, we’re introducing the family, introducing some of the ideas behind Prepping and setting up some of the activities for the rest of the episode. I suggest to my wife that due to some recent kidnappings in our area that it might be useful to freshen up the kids anti-kidnapping skills and put them through a drill. She disagrees with me and we move on to some other things at the house. Later we take the kids to the water park and run a situational awareness drill on them – they fail, disguised (poorly) as a stranger, I’m able to separate the kids from their mom. This helps convince my wife that putting the kids through a kidnapping field exercise isn’t such a bad idea. So we do.
Feedback about Meet the Preppers and Phil’s Viewpoint
So I’ve seen LOTS of different responses all over the internet, some of them have been good feedback and have given me ideas to help improve the show. Others have been snarky, arrogant and very close-minded while others have just been libs complaining about guns.
“Phil puts his kids through a traumatic kidnapping experience which is stupid”
Seriously, you think it was traumatic? Let’s just get that part out of the way. By the time we filmed that part, the kids had been on set for 3 weeks filming every day. During that time we filmed multiple drills, events, hikes, outings, cooking, family meetings, you name it. They only used less than 1/10th of what we filmed in this episode.
So, look at the kidnapping scene. If YOU see the girls on camera, at the least there is a cameraman, likely a sound person, at night a lighting person, probably a producer at a bare minimum. In this case, there were 3 cameramen, 2 sound guys, a producer and a production assistant with the girls. They are suddenly grabbed from behind and someone starts running – they thought is was a GAME. They thought one of their uncles, me, or someone in production was playing with them. When they were grabbed “this is a drill” was whispered into their ear. They know how training works, they know how field exercises work and they went for it. Especially Gibson. She knows that field exercises are an opportunity to practice what you’ve been taught.
So, how traumatic do you think it really was? Did you not see their interview about it? They LOVED it!
“Why the focus on handcuffs? Why not duct tape or zip ties?”
First of all, the producers felt handcuffs represented the more difficult scenario – which they do. Getting out of duct tape, zip ties and wire is easy if you know how to do it, a lot easier than handcuffs. Another comment was “what kidnapper uses handcuffs” – well, they’re actually a lot more efficient and easier than trying to tape or zip someones hands together – A LOT easier.
The most commonly used restraint in kidnapping is phone cord. It’s easy to get out of if you know what you’re doing – which all of my kids do. It’s also pretty boring on camera.
Refer to my bio that I linked to in the first paragraph, I teach Urban Escape and Evasion along with Kelly Alwood – my buddy that kidnaps them. We teach executives, Military, LEO and regulars civilians how to escape illegal custody. I actually know what I’m talking about when it comes to kidnapping – these commentors don’t have the first clue beyond what they’re imagining.
“Phil’s a fanatic, kidnapping is a stupid thing to prep for, what moron would try to help his kids not get kidnapped”
Ok, look people – Phoenix, AZ is the NUMBER 2 KIDNAP CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. I live within 12 hours of that capital. Since we filmed that episode, there have been 3 kidnappings/attempts in my area – 2 of them within a mile of my house. The 2 kidnappings I’m discussing with my wife in the show were 2 real kidnappings that happened in my area in the previous month to filming.
The only reason ANYONE would think that kidnapping is not a risk is because they keep themselves blissfully ignorant of the facts. Your child is at risk. If your child was taken – it would be THE END OF YOUR WORLD AS YOU KNOW IT. It would shatter on you. I’m simply suggesting you do something to mitigate the risk – that you PREPARE.
“Phil show his guns on a wall – that’s stupid. What idiot would show where he keeps his guns. What moron would keep his guns on the wall in a garage?”
You are all 100% correct. I would not show you where I keep my guns. I did show you a location with a lot of guns that was a stupid one. The producers wanted to show a ‘gun wall’.
You figure it out. If you think you know where I keep my guns you’re wrong.
“I didn’t learn anything new about Prepping”
Yes you did. You just either aren’t willing to acknowledge it or you didn’t pay attention. At the very least, you learned a little bit about kidnapping and that you don’t know much about it.
If you feel like you’re such an advanced Prepper that it offered you nothing – then it really wasn’t made for you. Remember, the goal with the show is to get people thinking about preparedness – not about doomsday.
“This idiot is letting little kids handle guns”
And the idiot that said that keeps his kids ignorant and in fear of guns.
My guns are kept SAFELY. I’m a certified firearm instructor, range master and have years of experience with them. There were 2 other certified range masters on the set every time there was a gun out. My kids have been shooting since they were all little and safety is DRILLED into their brains. If my kid and your kid walked into a room where a gun was sitting around – your kid is the one that would end up accidentally shooting themselves or someone else – not mine.
“This guy is showing the world his Preps and his “OpSec” is shot”
I can’t stand this ignorant statement. Please look at the masthead (big graphic) at the top of this site! It says: “Freedom Through Teaching Others Self-Reliance”. That’s not just a pretty sentence – it is my creed in life. My mission in life is to teach others Preparedness. I’ve been doing it for years. I refer you again to my bio linked at the top, I teach and show preps publicly everyday of the week. I emphatically deny the theory that a Prepper should “hide”. That’s a chicken-sh*t attitude that helps nobody. If you have a light, God tells us to hold that light on the hilltop and share it with others. If you have talents, God tells us to invest those talents heavily, not hide them under a rock.
Two final thoughts; 1)If you think I showed you “all my preps” on tv, think again. 2)If you didn’t catch on, we just demonstrated on the show that if you try to come after us, the entire family will be shooting at you – and there’s quite a few of us.
Take your chicken opsec and go read somewhere else – that is NOT what we teach here.
Several people have asked what’s next. Depending on how the pilot tested, we may be signed right away. We have 5 more episodes written and ready to film. If Animal Planet decides it is not for them – we have 3 other networks that are interested in picking it up. Soon, there will be another episode – it will likely discuss home fire safety (with a drill!) and will help teach families how to prepare their homes for a fire.
To all those many, many people who have told me they loved the show – THANK YOU! It is absolutely nerve wracking to put your heart and soul into something and make it the best you possibly can and then throw it out there for the world to see! It has been a fun process and a great learning experience. I hope to be able to do a lot more!
View Full Episode: Animal Planet’s Meet the Preppers (Episode 1)
Update: Meet the Preppers review by East Tennessee Prepper
Update: Phil Burns interviewed by Doctor Bones about Meet the Preppers