An Interview with Survivor Jane
Jane Austin, or Survivor Jane as she is known in the prepper community, is a city-girl turned prepper/homesteader – moving to the Appalachian Mountains from Central Florida. She is the creator and editor of the survival preparedness website www.SurvivorJane.com with a sole mission to educate women on how to better be prepared for any disaster, by sharing her experiences and her research, in an easy to understand conversational format on various preparedness topics.
As an additional social media outreach, Jane created the hashtag #PrepperTalk resulting in the “Largest Prepper Community” forum on Twitter; bringing people from all over the world together to share “all things preparedness” by simply performing a search for #PrepperTalk. Since its beginning in 2011, #PrepperTalk has become one of the most used hashtags by preppers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Linkedin.
After noticing what seemed to be a lack of focus on personal hygiene and cleanliness in preppers preparedness plans, Jane authored the book “Where There is No Cosmetic Counter” and, a first revision, “Survivor Jane’s Guide to Emergency/Survival Hygiene – A Prepper Cookbook on Making Survival Hygiene Products.
Her next book, “What Could Possibly Go Wrong??? – How to Go From Completely Clueless to Totally Prepared” was written after Jane noticed a sort of normalcy bias of women in today’s society. In her book, she shares how anyone can overcome this bias and be better prepared.
Then in an attempt to steer away from the doom and gloom and fear-mongering approach that a lot of preppers use these days, Jane created a more fun approach, with her book, Puzzling Over Preparedness – Survivor Jane’s Word Search Puzzle (Vol. One), to help both those just starting their journey into preparedness and the more seasoned prepper, by using the word search puzzles lists as pre-made preparedness lists for things to do and items needed to better prepare themselves, and to help mentally strength the brain!
Jane is a past contributor to National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers BlogTV and currently for numerous preparedness periodicals such as Prepper and Shooter Magazine, and Prepare Magazine to name a few. She was featured in Season 4 of the hit Reality TV series Doomsday Preppers receiving the 2nd highest score in the show’s history, and also in the 2015 Special Newsweek Edition – OFF-GRID, and on Galileo German TV and PBS.
When Jane isn’t writing, you will find her on any number of social media networks discussing preparedness with others, or performing various homesteading tasks at her mountain top retreat. She is a public speaker at various preparedness conventions and expos; as well as the co-host of Prepper Camp™; the largest three-day outdoor preparedness event in the country, featuring hands-on classes and training on preparedness, survival, and homesteading skills.
Jane was kind enough to answer some questions for us and this is what she had to say.
WHAT MADE YOU START PREPPING?
I think for a lot of us here in the U.S, the 2008-09 Stock Market Crash, along with the bursting of the housing market’s bubble really got us to think. For me, at that time, I was losing almost seven thousand dollars a month in my 401k (my retirement fund.) Now, let me preface this by saying that I had doubled up on my contributions throughout the years to assure I would be able to live the same consumer lifestyle I was used to when I retired. Also, during this time, our beautifully gated community, with manicured lawns and strict homeowners policies was becoming a renters haven; due to some of the homeowners not being able to pay the hefty mortgage on their homes. To avoid defaulting on these loans, they rented out their homes to anyone and everyone who could pay the mortgage. The result? Multi-families moving into single homes with vehicles parked on the street, stacked in the driveways and on the lawns. This also brought crime to our otherwise quiet and safe community. It was no longer safe to go out at night, as law enforcement helicopters hovered overhead, a few nights a week, looking for yet another bad guy.
But the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak, was when I was involved in an attempted carjacking at gunpoint in broad daylight by two armed men who had just pistol-whipped and robbed someone at an ATM machine, and we’re looking for a get-away car – my car – with me driving – with cash and guns in hand. Thankfully, the police were heavy in pursuit, and it all came to a safe resolution … for me, the bad guys not so much. But, that’s when I knew the world I had living in was not so rosy anymore. My hubby and I knew we had to make some hard fast decisions for our future.
We sold our home and extra vehicle, packed up our belongings, cashed out our 401ks, and move to a rural site in the Appalachian Mountains.
TELL US ABOUT PREPPER CAMP
Prepper Camp is the largest 3-day outdoor preparedness event in the U.S. After speaking at preparedness expos and conventions around the country for years, my husband, Rick Austin, and I were always disheartened at the lack of education at these five-thousand plus butt-to-butt events. To us, it seemed like the main objective of these events, was to cram as many people as they could into a convention hall, and then watch as they vied for an opportunity to look at, and if they were lucky, talk to a merchandise vendor, before making a purchase. We called them “tire-kicker” attendees because most seemed to come out as a curiosity of “what all this prepper stuff was about” more than anything. No one was learning. It was bought, buy, buy. Just reinforcing the consumer mentality of “why learn it when you can buy it”.
We decided to quit the speaker circuit and create an event we would like to attend. We wanted something outdoors so attendees could practice their skills, and with their gear. We also wanted to have some of the top instructors in their respective fields teaching the attendees how to do preparedness skills. We wanted hands-on instruction. And, a place where other preppers could actually sit down and talk with one another. We secured a camping facility and now hold Prepper Camp every September in honor of National Preparedness Month. There are 64 classes a day; eight classes an hour, for eight hours a day. People come from all across the U.S to attend. In fact, a third of our tickets are usually sold by February of the following year. Proudly, 2018 will be the fifth year for our event.
YOU WERE FEATURED ON THE TV SHOW DOOMSDAY PREPPERS. WHY DID YOU FEEL IT WAS THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU? WHAT MESSAGE WERE YOU TRYING TO CONVEY?
Ah, yes the National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers reality TV show. I was actually involved with the TV show way before my appearance on it. I was a social media ambassador, performing live chats during their shows on social media platforms. After witnessing how some of the “preppers” were portrayed on the show, more like tin-hat nuts then people who were taking responsibility for themselves and not relying on the government for help should a disaster strike, I declined their every offer to appear. That is, until the last season of the show, they once again asked, and I agreed, but with provisions, lots of provisions. Provisions in the form of an iron-clad contract of what we would and would not be willing to do or say. This took months of back-and-forth negotiations. Finally, at the eleventh hour, literally; (they were flying out the next morning to shoot), we signed the contract.
My husband and I felt we had valuable information that could help people better prepare, by sharing our journey from city-dwellers to homesteaders. We weren’t interested in the “fame” aspect of the show, which by the way was the downfall of most preppers who appeared on the show. The producers would suggest that these preppers do some absurd thing – that would make sensational TV – but would make the preppers look like complete nut jobs, and they would do it! And, what do you think was showcased on the show? The preppers’ expertise on a certain subject? Nope, they showed that wacky stunt the producers had them do! Unfortunately, that is what most TV viewers were left with. Preppers are completely nuts.
On our episode, however, due to that iron-clad contract, we were able to show how we not only survive but thrive on our homestead. That is, with the exception of the moment while shooting the “make your own animal deterrent” segment, that a tiny piece of a Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper; at the time the hottest chili in the world, land on the stovetop and began burning and smoked up the kitchen. “That” was the moment the producers had been waiting for! Sensational TV at its finest! What initially was a 2-second cough was put on a loop and turned into a life or death situation, where none of us could breathe. Gotta love the editing room!
But overall, it was a good experience. We were ranked the second-highest score for the entire series, losing out to the man that spent seven million dollars for a fortress. Now, “that’s” reality TV for you!
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST RISK TO THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT RIGHT NOW?
Wow, that’s a toughy. There are so many things that could happen at any time and anywhere. But I think the biggest risk to any of us, is not being prepared personally. The government is not going to be able to come and save us all from a disaster. We’ve seen this time and time again. Long lines for water. Long lines for gas. Long lines for food. It’s a huge strain on first-responders. After a disaster, people will be exhausted and desperate – not a good mix. There will be a lot of chaos. A father, or mother for that matter, will do what they need to protect and care for their family, even if it means hurting or stealing from another. By having your own food, water and provisions, and laying low for a while; depending on the type of disaster of course, you could stay out of the chaos until things get back to some semblance of order.
IF YOU HAD TO PICK ONE ITEM FROM YOUR SURVIVAL KIT AS THE MOST VALUABLE/IMPORTANT TO YOU – WHAT WOULD YOU PICK AND WHY?
Now I know that the knife is the number one survival tool, but without a doubt, my one item from my survival kit that is most valuable would be my military-style poncho. That thing is huge, covers all the way down to my feet, and can be used to not only keep the rain or inclement weather off me, but also serves as a shelter, a water catchment system, a float, a makeshift carrier for someone injured, a makeshift raft, a ground cover, and a basket. The list could go on and on for the uses of a poncho. I have one in my go-bag and one in my vehicle.
YOU MUST GET ASKED FOR PREPAREDNESS ADVICE A LOT BUT WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF PREPAREDNESS ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
Hmmm. That’s a good question too. I’m going to have to say “trust your instincts”. We get so caught up in gear and consumer products that we forget we might not have access to these things and will have to go it alone. The human mind and body are powerful tools.
PREPAREDNESS SEEMS TO BE QUITE MALE ORIENTATED. DO WOMEN HAVE ADDITIONAL DIFFICULTIES/CONSIDERATIONS WHEN IT COMES TO PREPPING? WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE WOMEN WANTING TO START PREPPING?
Women’s Preparedness is my passion and mission. A lot of focus for men seems to be on firearms, bullet calibers, armor-piercing whatnots; you know, boy toys. The rough and tumble stuff. To be honest, I haven’t a clue about most of that stuff, but I don’t have to, to be prepared. I have a firearm, its black, it holds this type of bullet, and I won’t hesitate to use it. There, that’s all I need to know.
I’m a girlie-girl, I like to wear make-up, do my nails and hair, and have pretty things, like most women, the only difference between then and now, is I have learned to do this all myself as opposed to going to a salon.
What stops most women, is thinking they have to give up something to be prepared. They have this “little house on the prairie” image conjured up in their minds, where all their girlie-ness will be exchanged for a long dress and bonnet.
My message to women is this; you can still be who you are. Preparedness is about being prepared not giving up. It is about having enough water, food, shelter, warmth, protection and first-aid supplies to get you through any disaster that may come your way; whether it be man-made or natural.
Many women have families and that means that they are the glue that holds that family together. I mean, when have you ever heard, “Dad where is my sweater?” Never, right? That’s because it’s always Mom. Mom is the go-to. And that is why it is so important that all Moms prepare for their families.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A PART OF THE SURVIVAL AND PREPAREDNESS COMMUNITY?
I’d have to say, the people. I am a people person. I love talking and sharing with others. There are so many skilled people in this community. And most, thankfully, aren’t selfish with their knowledge. You’re not going to find a true prepper, that is not willing or eager to share their knowledge with you.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU? DO YOU HAVE ANY PREPPER PROJECTS IN THE PIPELINE?
Actually, I’m working on my fourth book. I have written “Survivor Jane’s Guide to Emergency/Survival Hygiene”, “What Could Possibly Go Wrong? How to Go from Completely Clueless to Totally Prepared” and a gamebook “Puzzling Over Preparedness – Survivor Jane’s Word Search Puzzles” This next book will be on recipes I use here on the homestead using our garden harvests, dairy and livestock
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PREPAREDNESS QUOTE OR MOTTO?
“We’re All In This Together”. It’s true. We are all trying to garner more knowledge and skills to survive. By sharing, caring and preparing with one another, it makes us all more prepared by learning knowledge and skills from one another.