Fortitude Ranch: a no-frills pandemic bunker for preppers on a budget
Coronavirus is a ‘wake-up call’: Doomsday prepper shows off his pandemic-proof compound stocked with guns, surrounded by guard towers and full of food that has seen a surge in membership since the start of the outbreak
- Fortitude Ranch is an affordable doomsday survival camp for preppers to hunker down in the event of a major catastrophe that would result in the breakdown of society and loss of law and order
- Founder Drew Miller, a former Air Force intelligence officer and Ph.D. from Harvard has been a lifelong prepper and says that coronavirus has led to a ‘huge surge in interest’ in membership
- For just $1,000 per year; survivalists can buy into the basic ‘spartan’ membership program that provides for primitive bunk bed accommodations, they call it a ‘life insurance policy’
- There are currently two Fortitude Ranch facilities tucked away in a secret location in southern Colorado and West Virginia but Miller is raising funds to expad; members must enter with a ‘challenging password’
- Miller said: ‘The first rule of prepping is never tell anyone that you’re a prepper’
- The facilities can run ‘off-the-grid’ and stockpiled with enough toilet paper, ammunition canned goods and antibiotics to last for 25 years in the event of a pandemic or nuclear attack
- Miller and assistant camp managers are armed, and members receive training in using AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, he said that that guns are crucial to defending your life during a collapse
- Miller said that COVID-19 was a ‘wake-up’ call but believes that the far more deadly ‘avian flu’ is in inevitable
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Drew Miller is ready for the end of the world.
The former Air Force intelligence officer with a Ph.D. from Harvard in operations research is the founding father of Fortitude Ranch; one of a growing number of heavily armed compounds preparing for the apocalypse.
Somewhere in the mountains of southern Colorado (Miller requires that the exact location remain secret) is a facility with all the fixings one might need to survive a pandemic, a nuclear attack and the collapse of democracy. At first glance, the sprawling 50 acres might look like any other Colorado ranch retreat, but the prison like guard towers and intimidating barb wire fences tell you this is no ordinary resort.
Underground bunkers are built to sustain a nuclear attack with eight inch reinforced concrete, steel plating and three feet of earth overhead. Steven Rene is a former Army chem-bio officer who spent 15 years living in Belarus working in humanitarian aid for the 1986 Chernobyl victims
Fortitude Ranch’s stockpiled food ranging from homemade preserves and pickles to cafeteria-sized cans of beans and buckets of emergency rations. The properties are have a small greenhouse with genetically-modified seeds to withstand long shelf lives
A Fortitude Ranch member poses in the guard tower designed to keep watch of the property in the event of an attack. The locations for Fortitude Ranch are selected for strategic reasons, far from outside threats but close to natural resources for fishing, hunting and logging
Dr. Drew Miller, a former Air Force intelligence officer is the founder of Fortitude Ranch – an affordable self-sustaining survival community created to weather a potential collapse in democracy and law in order. There are currently two locations with more on the horizon. Miller (above) poses with his gun at the Fortitude Ranch facility located in a secret location among the mountains of southern Colorado
Drew Miller and his growing army of preppers are not the tinfoil hat conspiracy kind, nor the Silicon Valley prototype with their $8million bunkers; instead Fortitude Ranch is meant to appeal to the middle class market with a bare bones operation that will ensure survival in the event of a crises.
‘We formed Fortitude Ranch to provide a safe and affordable place for people to survive in bad times and during good times – a place where they can come on vacation,’ said Miller to DailyMail.com.
Dr. Drew Miller has been a prepper for as long as he could remember but it was seven years ago when he realized that solo-prepping ‘just wasn’t very feasible,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘For one, it’s too expensive; but more importantly – it’s just not safe.’
The economics of doomsday prepping has proven to be very costly. Costco recently began selling a $6,000 prepper kit that can feed a family of four for an entire year, though prices can soar into the many millions with companies such as Rising S who specialize in extravagant fortified homes for annihilation-conscious billionaires.
Miller saw the need for a survival community that was professionally run and not merely based on volunteers with a hope that people would band together and do the right thing during a crises.
‘Survival communities tend to fall apart when they’re on volunteer base,’ he said. ‘I think as a military officer, you’re aware of the threats, plus you’re aware of how people react when things get bad and even good people can react badly in times of stress.’
For Miller, the worst case scenario during an apocalypse involves desperate, starving people ‘looting, marauding, stealing food and in some cases, even killing people.’ He added: ‘A prepper without a lot of guns, guards and ammo is not a good idea.’
‘A prepper without a lot of guns, guards and ammo is not a good idea,’ said Miller. In a situation where there is complete anarchy, ‘You absolutely need to have military rifles with clips that can shoot a lot of rounds at once in case you have a group of marauders that can outnumber you,’ explained Miller
A guard tower is pictured at the 100-acre Fortitude Ranch, West Virginia facility located in an undisclosed location just two hours outside of Washington DC. Fortitude Ranch also functions as a recreational resort year round for members to enjoy outdoor activities 10-days/ year, free of charge
Unlike most prepper packages and bunkers which can cost into the millions, Fortitude Ranch’s ‘Spartan’ package guarantees a bed and personal storage locker in the shared bunker rooms for roughly $1,000 per year
Above is considered a ‘mid-level accommodation’ at the Fortitude Ranch in the mountains of West Virginia which can house up to 500 people in its various shelters. Fortitude Ranch also provides arrangements for families, couples and allows for pets to join as well
Both Fortitude Ranch locations have stockpiles of food, masks, toilet paper, cleaning products, medicines, guns and ammunition but will rely on fruit trees, livestock, hunting and fishing for long term nourishment. Once ridiculed for stockpiling supplies, Fortitude Ranch has seen a surge in business amid the coronavirus crises
Staff members like Steven Rene, ranch manager of the West Virginia facility are constantly monitoring potential threats that can trigger a cataclysmic incident such as: a pandemic, a nuclear attack, the collapse of the electrical grid or a bio-weapon that wipes out the food supply. As well as various natural disasters like the eruption of Yellowstone’s mega-volcano, a tsunami or an earthquake
His 40-plus years as an Air Force intelligence officer becomes immediately apparent when asked about potential safety problems a DIY prepper faces at home in the event of a crises. ‘You really need to have enough guards on duty at night so it’s not feasible for a group of marauders to shoot your guards all at once and break in.’
‘If you only had two or three guards on duty, it would potentially only take three gunmen to take you out.’ He continued, ‘Especially if they’re skilled and smart and do it all at the same time while the rest of the group is sleeping inside.’
Security is just one of the complex logistics that Fortitude Ranch has figured out. They also regularly track a diverse laundry list of lethal threats that they refer to as ‘trigger events’ – a phrase they use to define potential cataclysmic incidents that could initiate the total collapse of democracy and law and order.
The index of impending perils runs the gamut from an accidental release of a virus to a bio-warfare attack, nuclear war and a pandemic. But also includes: climate change, a major earthquake, the eruption of Yellowstone’s mega-volcano, a North Korean electromagnetic pulse attack, an earth-shattering meteor shower, the collapse of the country’s electrical grid, artificial intelligence running amok, a tsunami, uncontrollable self-replicating nanotechnology and most recently, the upcoming 2020 election.
‘We added the election because it could be so nasty, you know, Trump supporters, could say ‘no we don’t accept that’ if the election is disputed. That’s just a speculation’ said Miller to DailyMail.com.
While the probability of any one of these events happening remains low, Miller said that it’s also ‘not insignificant’ when you add up all 46 different triggers. ‘There’s reasonable probability, one to two percent – maybe more that we could have a collapse.’
Looking to raise capital for expansion to new locations in Nevada and Wisconsin, Fortitude Ranch created a crypto-currency in 2018 at $100 per coin. Fortitude Tokens allow one to reserve a future place at Fortitude Ranch for a locked in price with priority to join over cash-paying members. ‘That is a big advantage when there is a crises and we have wait lists with hundreds of thousands of people hoping to join,’ said Miller. Currently the coins are trading at $160
Miller stands in the kitchen at the Colorado facility next to the wood fire stove which serves as the primary source of heat and energy with supplemental power provided by solar panels and propane generators
Miller said that the 50-acre Fortitude Ranch facility in southern Colorado is ‘kinda like being in a country club.’ Because Fortitude Ranch also serves as a free recreational getaway for its members, Miller said that the best outcome is that a disaster never happens, ‘but at least you still got great place to vacation that is cheaper than renting a cabin in Colorado or West Virginia’
An exterior shot taken of the Fortitude Ranch survival camp in December 2019 reveals another guard tower. The location of each camp is selected for strategic reasons: ‘We generally locate in forested and mountainous areas as much as possible- pretty remote areas where we’ve got access to firewood, we can hunt for game and have the key supplies we need’
‘I’m not scared, I’m aware of threats like pandemics,’ answered Drew Miller when he was asked what frightened him most. He believes that COVID-19 is just a rehearsal for the far more deadly avian flu. In the event of a serious pandemic, Fortitude Ranch is prepared to treat infected members and keep people spread out. All ‘Spartan’ bunkers are equipped with multiple air supplies, ‘most people when they think of survival facilities, they think of everyone in one underground shelter sharing the same air access. We don’t do that. We never have. We’ve always rejected that because we want to be ready for pandemic’
Fortitude Ranch isn’t in the business of stoking fear but proving peace of mind. For some lifelong preppers, joining is a no-brainer. Miller and his partners have already done all the hard planning that it would require a community to survive long term.
They have stockpiles of food, masks, toilet paper, cleaning products, antibiotics, guns and ammunition. They have fruit trees and livestock to provide long-term options for nourishment. The camps are strategically placed in remote areas near water for fishing and in heavily wooded areas that provide firewood and hunting grounds (elk in West Virginia, deer and turkey in Colorado).
The underground bunkers are built to sustain a nuclear attack with eight inch reinforced concrete, steel plating and three feet of earth overhead. The communal areas are equipped with kitchens, books and board games for entertainment.
In the event of societal collapse, the front gate to Fortitude Ranch will be blocked off and only accessed by members with a password. A different set of protocols that screens members upon entry for illness are already in place during a pandemic.
Every member will be expected to contribute to the shared survival of the community whether its guard duty, collecting firewood, preparing meals or doing chores. The Fortitude Ranch staff (which comprised mostly of former military and law enforcement personnel) are in charge of making the big decisions and assigning tasks.
‘But no one can be voted off the Island,’ assured Miller, ‘It’s a business and we promise everyone that will take care of you, and we will.’
Roughly $1,000 per year will guarantee you a spot in the entry-level ‘Spartan’ membership package which includes a personal storage locker in a shared room full of bunk beds. While the primitive accommodations make good on the ‘Spartan’ name, they more than rise to the occasion in the event of a crises.
Steven Rene is a former Army chem-bio officer who spent 15 years living in Belarus working in humanitarian aid for the 1986 Chernobyl victims. He told DailyMail.com that Fortitude Ranch is ‘really a life insurance policy, unlike what most people have for life insurance – which really only pays to bury you – this is actually a life insurance policy that protects your life’
There are three different membership packages at Fortitude Ranch: Spartan, Economy, and Luxury. Drew Miller showcases an ‘Economy’ room that comes with private space and in-room storage
All bathroom facilities are Fortitude Ranch are communal however, different premiums can afford more personal space in the living quarters such as the ‘Spartan’ room (left) that comes with a small desk and storage area
Steve Rene poses in front of chopped firewood which is the primary source of energy for ‘off-the grid’ crises situations. All Fortitude Ranch locations are carefully selected to ensure that there are enough natural resources to sustain life after a collapse. The West Virginia facility buts up against the 1,800 acre George Washington National Forrest
Dr. Drew Miller sits in the communal living space at Fortitude Ranch’s Colorado facility. He blames television shows like National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers for the negative stigma surrounding the prepper community
‘We use a country club membership model, so you pay a lot up front and then there is quarterly dues for multiyear memberships and an annual food restocking fee,’ said Miller. ‘The biggest payment is the initial fee to join but the more years you sign up for, the less your cost is per year.’
For a premium, potential members can also opt-in to more luxurious lodgings but they are still a far cry from the lavish subterranean mansions built for tech titans with 50,000 gallon swimming pools, bowling alleys, movie theaters and fully equipped hospitals.
Fortitude Ranch is a different product, ‘It’s really a life insurance policy, unlike what most people have for life insurance – which really only pays to bury you – this is actually a life insurance policy that protects your life,’ said Steven Rene, manager at Fortitude Ranch’s West Virginia facility.
Located just ‘two hours east of Washington D.C.’ the 100-acre West Virginia facility has seen a massive spike in interest amid the coronavirus pandemic: ‘We’ve seen probably tenfold the amount of inquiries and a good increase in membership. Colorado is already sold out, but we still have some spots here,’ said Rene to DailyMail.com.
Now Miller and his partners invested in Fortitude Ranch are scrambling to raise capital in order to meet with the demand for expansion with preliminary plans to expand into Nevada and Wisconsin next.
Fortitude Ranch is unique in that it also functions as a recreational resort year round. All members are welcome to stay at the facility for up to ten days per year while enjoying the local outdoor activities: hunting, hiking, fishing and Frisbee golf. ‘Worst case (or best case) you join Fortitude Ranch and a disaster never happens. At least you’ve still got great place to vacation, it’s cheaper than renting a cabin in Colorado or West Virginia,’ said Miller.
‘Our motto is prepare for the worst, enjoy the present,’ said Rene. ‘It’s not like we wake up everyday thinking the world is ending.’
The Fortitude Ranch motto is ‘prepare for the worst, enjoy the present.’ Miller explains that a worst case scenario can result in desperate, starving people ‘looting, marauding, stealing food and in some cases, even killing people’
Milk goats, free range chickens and cattle are some of the important livestock that will allow the Fortitude Ranch survival community to sustain life long-term in the event of a ‘collapse’ which Miller defines as ‘a non-functioning economy and complete loss of law and order’
In the event of a crises or pandemic, the front entrance to the Fortitude Ranch (pictured above is the facility in West Virginia) will be closed off to the public and heavily guarded; members can only enter with a challenging password. A different sent of protocols exist in the event of a pandemic, where members will be tested and isolated before being allowed to join the main community
Fortitude Ranch is constantly adding more to their stockpile. ‘It’s the things you can’t really see coming is what you need to prepare for to a certain degree,’ said Rene. ‘Take 9/11 for instance, nobody saw that coming’
In the event of a nuclear attack or power plant meltdown, Steve Rene is the man for the job. The former Army chem-bio officer spent 15 years living in Belarus where he raised his four children while working in humanitarian aid for the 1986 Chernobyl victims.
Miller believes that guns are crucial for survival in anarchic situations. He told DailyMail.com: ‘I’ve said for a long time that the NRA does really a poor job of defending gun rights’
When pressed for an exact member count, both Miller and Rene are vague. ‘I’m not going to answer that,’ said Miller. ‘For reasons of security, we don’t get very specific, but I’d say a few hundred.’
Anonymity is crucial in the prepping community where the cardinal rule is: ‘don’t ever tell anyone that you’re a prepper.’ Miller explained that it’s because ‘you don’t want your neighbors coming to bug you and saying, ‘hey, give me food’ in a disaster situation. So you should always keep it secret.’
Miller disabuses the common accusation that preppers are ‘anti-government/ anti-establishment’ doomsayers. In fact, he argues that ‘preppers’ are more common than people think, ‘there are millions and millions of them in the U.S. and around the world and they are your neighbors, you just don’t know it.’
He blames television shows like National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers for the ill-conceived notion that preppers are a cluster of conspiracy minded- hysterics with hordes of canned beans in their basement. He concedes that the popular show did film ‘the crazy ones’ but contends that it’s because the vast majority of average preppers obey the central rule of apocalypse planning.
‘So you tend not to see the average prepper on TV because they will never tell you that they are a prepper in the first place!’
The coronavirus pandemic has legitimized an extreme survivalist’s raison d’etre. Once ridiculed for stockpiling supplies, preppers have a reason to feel vindicated. And while COVID-19 pandemonium has translated to a surge in business for Fortitude Ranch, Drew Miller hopes that it’s seen as a ‘wake-up call.’
‘It’s the things you can’t really see coming that you need to prepare for to a certain degree,’ said Rene. ‘Take 9/11 for instance, nobody saw that coming.’
In the meantime, Dr. Drew Miller has set his sight on opening a Fortitude Ranch in Nevada next but is scrambling to raise capital in order to meet with the sudden demand for his brand of no-frills bunkers that are chock full of bullets, beans and band-aids. For Miller, the bottom line is simple: ‘The more locations we have more lives we can save.’
Pictured is a bedroom in the ‘luxury package’ which offers the most space and privacy for members in West Virginia (left) while the kitchen in the former bed and breakfast showcases an assault rifle on the table. Miller prefers to call them ‘defense rifles’
The communal living space in the ‘luxury package’ at the Fortitude Ranch’s West Virginia facility was a former bed and breakfast
Among the many tools and supplies needed to survive the downfall of human civilization at Fortitude Ranch are hand radios and radiation detection equipment in the event of a nuclear attack. Rene said that both ranches have the ability to survive on the grid and off the grid
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