Rodney Dial lives in Ketchikan. The former U.S. Army Ranger appeared on National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers last season and has spent most of the profits from his tattoo parlor to protect his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Megan, from a potentially massive earthquake and tsunami (most of Southeast Alaska sits on the Ring of Fire). Dial, an experienced diver, has a tankless, solarpowered scuba system and has hidden many of his emergency supplies underwater, in part to prevent possible looting.
He also has a customized but street-legal tank he calls the “WarMachine.” We caught up with Dial and got a detailed look at his operation:
Chris Cocoles Was there an event in your life that prompted you to decide to do this?
Rodney Dial I am a life long Alaskan and remember being told at a young age of how my family was involved in the (Anchorage) Good Friday Earthquake in 1964. My grandmother was working in the downtown JC Penney Building that collapsed. It was a memorable moment for my family that stressed the importance of being self-sufficient in an emergency situation. Growing up,my family learned how to harvest local resources, prepare for disasters and become familiar with the Alaskan environment.
CC Would you call prepping a passion or obsession?
RD Some would probably see our level of prepping an obsession, but for us it is just good family planning.We are concerned that too many Americans and even some Alaskans are becoming too“soft.”(They’re) relying on someone to save them in an emergency, expecting water to always flow out of the tap or electricity to always be on. Many people have never experienced any real hardships in life and, for some reason, believe they never will. We find that method of thinking dangerous and potentially a life endangering gamble. In essence we see prepping as the duty of every good American/Alaskan.
CC Has your Army Ranger career and diving background been a big aid in your prepping ability?
RD My Ranger training and subsequent Jungle Expert Certification pushed my boundaries as a young man and made me realize that with proper planning and the right mindset, I could survive in any environment. Tobe certified as a U.S.Army Jungle Expert I received training in the jungles of Panama and had to survive for three weeks with the supplies I carried on my back. My 24 years of diving experience have given me a unique ability to obtain significant resources in an area most people are unable to access. This allows a constant ability to provide food and other resources for my family.
CC You spent a lot of time in Central American jungles. Can you share some of that experience?
RD In 1985 I joined the U.S Army and became an Army Ranger. I did several deployments in Central America, including Honduras and Panama. As a Ranger, we were expected to jump in (parachute) into remote locations with only the supplies on our back,be able to complete missions, survive and return. In Honduras and Panama the focus was preparation for a guerilla style war in a jungle environment.
CC Does it take a creative mind to figure out the best ways to protect your family from a major catastrophe?
RD To some degree a creative mind is important to identify risks that a family may face in an emergency and unique ways to prepare. Of more importance however, is knowledge; the knowledge of how to prepare and provide the basics to support life. For example, the woods and ocean around Ketchikan are filled with plants and animals that can be harvested to provide food. Without that knowledge a person could starve in an emergency or eat something poisonous.
CC Your “WarMachine” is insane. Do you take pride in that vehicle like an owner of a classic car would?
RD War Machine is like a member of our family – we take care of it and know that someday it may take care of us. We look at it this way: in any protracted emergency, no matter how well a person has prepared, there will ultimately be a need to obtain some critical item or resupply; perhaps it’s something as simple as antibiotics. In that moment, you can expect that many other individuals will also have resupply needs, some far more desperate than you. People in a life-or-death survival situation can become dangerous and unpredictable. War Machine will help assure that when we have the need to resupply we will not be an easy target for those who would contemplate violence towards us as a means of their own survival. War Machine is a constant work in progress. In the near future we will be repainting the vehicle in an urban camouflage pattern, adding communication devices and other protective upgrades.
cc Do you and your family travel much or do you stay mostly around Ketchikan, just in case?
RD We do not travel much and use nearly all available discretionary funds to improve our self-sufficiency.
CC Iwould guess a nAlaska earthquake similar to the 1964 Anchorage quake your family lived through, would be more worried about an ensuing tsunami than the actual quake given what those waves have done in other parts of the world?
RD We agree.Our current home is located over 200 feet above sea level and the home foundation is anchored to bedrock. Since Ketchikanis a coastal community, the concern is that a tsunami could damage our ports and ability to receive supplies from the outside world. For the show we proved a “proof of concept” that we could store and recover supplies cached underwater. We have refined that process and now store supplies in bays and protected waterways largely protected from the areas a tsunami would likely affect. We use GPS coordinates to mark the supply cashes in case a tsunami were to obliterate terrain features used to identify drop locations. We also assure that our supplies are deep enough to be protected from the surge of a tsunami.
CC In watching the show, is your daughter, Megan, who seemed a little unimpressed with your planning, coming around to what you are trying to accomplish?
RD Megan, like most children, has lived a comfortable life and it is difficult to convince her of the need to prepare. She has however, been exposed to far more survival information than the average child her age. We feel confident that she has the knowledge necessary to identify local resources she could obtain in an emergency situation. As she grows older we hope to involve her more in the prepping process.
CC Talk about the four P’s you have targeted in terms of prepping:plan,prepare,position and provide. What are the challenges each of those variables throw at you when trying to prep for something catastrophic?
RD The greatest challenge for most people who are new to prepping is knowledge and money. Knowledge is the most important and only takes effort. We were able to obtain significant knowledge on the natural food sources by just asking local native elders. Our current efforts harvesting and processing devils club are a prime example. Knowledge is free in most cases and just takes effort to seek it out. Knowledge will allow you to plan and prepare. “Position and providing” requires money inmost cases and can present difficulties for some in reaching an acceptable level of security in a short amount of time. When money is tight, I recommend that people take small,but constant steps to improve their survival abilities, such as saving one can of food per week or one other action item as funds allow.
CC What was your experience like on Doomsday Preppers?
RD Our experience on Doomsday Preppers was challenging, but very rewarding. In a way it was a full-scale drill for our family, putting to use the skills we have learned and, at the same time, identifying areas we needed to improve. After the filming we reevaluated our family disaster plan and identified several areas for improvement. We have worked on improving our family skills and supplies ever since.
CC Do you hope the show has opened people’s eyes about the idea that you should be prepared for whatever curve balls are thrown your way?
RD One of the great things about Doomsday Preppers is that it is forcing people to think about thewhat if’s and realizing that some level of family preparedness is a good thing. Not all of the potential disasters prepared for on the show will apply to all people; however, something positive can be learned from every episode.
CC Is it important for anyone, even if they don’t go the measures you’ve taken to be prepared, to just have some kind of plan in place, even if it’s a simple plan?
RD We really feel that it is the duty of every American to have at least a minimum capacity to survive some unknown(incident), for at least 72 hours. A person’s failure to plan will likely endanger others who may be tasked with risking their lives to save them.
CC You’ve mentioned Alaskans are always preppers of some degree. Is that a case of you have to be hearty and resourceful to make it in your state? And you can’t afford to not be prepared for the unexpected?
RD The Alaskan mindset seems more independent than our fellow Americans in the Lower 48. The high cost of living has also helped spur Alaskans to become more self-sufficient, from something as simple as knowing how to hunt/fish or even harvest wood to heat their home. Most of my friends and neighbors have enough supplies to survive for several weeks and the ability to defend their homes if needed.
CC You seem like a level-headed guy. Do your friends and neighbors think you’re a little eccentric?
RD Probably, although we have always felt that most Alaskans are preppers by Lower 48 standards. Most Alaskans I know have enough food and water to survive for at least a month or two and have some knowledge of the local environment. War Machine probably is seen as a little intense by some; however, you know you live in a great state when your community doesn’t have a problem with you owning and driving a tank down Main Street. Only in Alaska!
In the video below prepper Rodney Dial briefly explains his method of hiding his survival cache underwater, obviously locations are marked only he knows where its at.
Rodney: “I’ve a plan to hide caches my preps in a place no-one would ever think to look.”
Rodney:”I’m building underwater caches for my preps, so when the *bleep* hits [the] fan, no-one will ever find ’em.”
Rodney:”We wanna keep caches under the water because it’s ultra-secure location Best place to put something you don’t want others to find.”
Rodney: “Alright, here we go, moment of truth, huh?.”
Man: “Yup. So far so good” “Seems to be holding”
Rodney: “Yeah look at that! Good job!”
Woman: “So we’re at fifteen so far.”
Woman:”We’re at fifteen.”
Rodney: “That’s perfect, here we go!”
Rodney: “ok this is perfect, no-one’s going to be able to come out and get a hundred-fifty pound tube a minimum of thirteen-fourteen feet underwater.”
Rodney: “So basically, if we find that and walk straight out, we’re gonna be able to find this tube.”
Rodney: “Ok help me lift it up.”
Megan: “How much does this thing weigh?”
Rodney: “It’s about a hundred and fifty pounds right now. Ok, ok there we go. Alright! Ok here we go Megan!”
Rodney:”That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!”
Rodney: “I’m not a quitter, this family doesn’t give up. So if that makes this weird, well then we’re weird. But you know what? We’re gonna be the people that are gonna come to when the *bleep* hits the fan, or when things get really bad.”
Story by Chris Cocoles – AmSJ Photos from National Geographic
Video Transcribed by Sam Morstan