Government dysfunction sparks doomsday fears

October 16, 2013: 3:50 AM ET
doomsday fears preppers
Joe Jacobs, a father of four, is preparing for an economic collapse.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Joe Jacobs, a 34-year old father of four who lives just outside of Denver, views the current dysfunction in the U.S. government as a sign of something much bigger.

"I feel like the American government is collapsing," he said. "The American financial system has too much debt to pay back, and they can only delay the inevitable so long."

A collapse, he believes, could lead to martial law, riots and destruction. Only those who are prepared will remain to rebuild a new government, he said.

Jacobs has been preparing for this societal collapse for years. And he thinks the government shutdown, coupled with the impending debt ceiling deadline could be the final push.

Related: World chastises U.S. as debt ceiling looms

While he doesn't have thousands of dollars to spend on survival gear, like bunkers and stockpiles of guns, he has spent nearly $500 in the past couple of weeks stocking up on bulk food items like rice, tomatoes, tuna and beans. He has also bought silver to hedge against the collapse of the dollar and loaded up on camping gear and portable water purifiers.

He doesn't consider himself a stereotypical "doomsday prepper," however. "I feel like we're an average suburban family who simply wants to be prepared for anything," he said.

When it comes to preparing for disaster, there are several distinct camps. While some believe in a religious apocalypse, others worry the world will end by a natural event like a solar flare or earthquake. And still others anticipate economic, political or societal collapse.

Related: Furloughed workers face unemployment claim mess

Rob Richardson, a 35-year-old who has been prepping for most of his life, feels prepared for any event -- including the chaos he believes will likely consume the country if the government defaults on its debt.

"I believe it will be the perception of default that will push people over the edge," he said. "The monetary system is built on an illusion that we have a strong currency and economy -- when that's shaken, that's when people start getting worried, and panic about getting food and paying bills."

Pain and risks grow as shutdown continues

That could lead to riots and looting, eventually prompting people who are prepared, like Richardson, to take shelter and protect themselves, he said.

Richardson runs the survival advice blog, OffGridSurvival.com, and he has seen a spike in emails and comments from visitors over the last couple weeks.

"A lot of people are definitely worried about what's going on, and people are asking me what they should do if the government shuts down or goes into default," he said. He recommends stocking up on at least three months' worth of food and constructing a safe room as an additional layer of security in case your home is attacked.

Related: Debt ceiling crisis could leave millions in lurch

Another prepper, Matt Wilson, moved to Switzerland from the United States in 2011 because he fears eventual nuclear war between the U.S., Russia and China.

While Wilson believes the United States' failure to attack Syria will be the trigger for the war, he thinks the government shutdown and debt ceiling just further confirms to enemies that the U.S. "is in decline," potentially hastening the war.

To prepare, Wilson is storing additional food and water, and has transferred all of his money from the U.S. to Switzerland -- a move that resulted in a tax hit of more than $100,000. He has also built a nuclear bunker in his basement in Switzerland in case the chaos spreads globally.

Gregory Nemitz, meanwhile, isn't too concerned about the days and weeks ahead. But he does think the country is heading down a path of destruction that will lead it to collapse in a matter of years. He runs a company that sells beef jerky (mainly to other preppers), Beefjerky.com. And in the event of disaster, he plans to survive off of the 200 pounds of beef jerky he has on hand at any given time. He's also shopping for a 45-foot sailing yacht, so he can take refuge at sea.

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