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Fortitude Ranch, a survival compound in Colorado, sells memberships to disaster preppers

Some people around the world — known as "preppers" — have been stockpiling everything from non-perishables to ammo in case unforeseen trauma hits. Being a "prepper" is now getting a big boost from the coronavirus pandemic, CBS News' Barry Petersen reports.

"All kinds of people who paid no attention to prepping before, or thought it was silly, now understand that if there's a really bad pandemic or the electric system goes out or some comet or asteroid takes out crops across the world and they're starving, you need a place like Fortitude Ranch where you can survive a really bad disaster," said Drew Miller, CEO of Fortitude Ranch.

Nestled in the backwoods of Colorado, Fortitude Ranch is a bunker-filled compound that serves as both a holiday retreat and a safety net to people like Miller, who worry about what to do if the worst case scenario happens. 

He sells memberships to fellow disaster preppers, who believe there are two kinds of people: those who hope nothing truly terrible ever happens, and those who hope they are ready when it does. 

Fortitude Ranch in Colorado Fortitude Ranch

Miller said members of the group come from "all walks of society," and said the pandemic has raised awareness of the ranch and what he calls "the need to join it."

"Bankers, lawyers, small businessmen. A lot of retired people as well," he said, listing the kinds of members he encounters. "We're normal people."

For security, there are special areas where members stand guard on rotation. Miller also keeps a stockpile of guns and ammo in case of an unlikely but not impossible attack.

Miller also has ranches in West Virginia, and maybe soon in Wisconsin and Nevada.   

Fortitude Ranch CEO Drew Miller shows the bunker's emergency firearm stockpile. Reuters

"I think a lot of people associate the preppers with extremism," said Kiki Bandilla, a Fortitude Ranch member who also organizes self-reliance conferences. "I don't think that that's the case at all."

Bandilla said preppers are people who have thought through "what's smart in their life." She compared disaster preparedness to having car insurance.

"We don't expect to get into an accident, but we may," she said. 

Lisa Bedford, author of "Survival Mom," said people hoarding toilet paper during the coronavirus pandemic is an example of the pitfalls of panic buying.

"When you're in a panic, that is the worst time to be making these kinds of decisions that could affect your family's wellbeing, and maybe their survival," Bedford said.

In Bedford's opinion, survival and disaster prep does not entail "bizarre things like eating bugs," but should be as simple as guaranteeing there is always food in the cupboards. 

"Preppers, prepping, survival — It really can just be so ordinary," she said. 

Silicon Valley entrepreneur John Ramey once advised the Obama administration on disaster readiness. He said one of the clips he often used was something his grandparents "used to call daily life." That entailed canning foods, starting a fire and being able to take care of minor injuries without having to call an ambulance or use a cellphone.

"My grandmother was a big canner as well, and knew how to repair clothing and even set bones," Ramey said. "We have lost 100,000 years' worth of human survival skills in the last 100."

As for Drew Miller, he said he thinks it's "so lucky" that the coronavirus pandemic hit with a comparatively "low lethality rate," though he acknowledges the death and heartbreak is has caused. 

"'Cause now we got the wakeup call," he said. 

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