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RENO, Nevada—Set against a rocky slope, Fortitude Ranch resembles almost any other desert grange scattered along the barren highway in northwestern Nevada, far from any city or town.
On this 174-acre privately owned spread are free-roaming cattle, pens for raising sheep and chickens, a main house, and other living quarters under construction.
The ranch has good soil for growing crops, fruit-bearing trees, natural springs for gardening and livestock, and austere, rolling mountains on either side of the highway for cover.
Here, the resemblance ends.
Fortitude Ranch is anything but your typical farmstead. Its founder, Drew Miller, said its purpose is to ensure the safety of its inhabitants during a societal disintegration.
“Our design is to survive any collapse,” Miller said. “We define a collapse as no functioning economy and widespread loss of law and order.”
It could take any form: a bird flu pandemic with heavy casualties, an economic depression, a world war, or global famine resulting in civil unrest and death.
A Question of Survival
During such a scenario, Miller said, “some people will just stay at home and starve to death.”
Others won’t go quietly into the twilight of civilization.
“A lot of people will say, ‘You know what? I will go out and steal food from my neighbor and do what I can to keep my family alive.”
Miller said this group poses a significant risk to the prepared.
Today, only some people feel the urgency to stock up against these terrifying scenarios or even think about them, said Miller, who started building survival ranches in 2012 as the need became more apparent.
Back then, the notion of preparing for a collapse of civil society still carried the stigma of tin foil hats and conspiracy theories.
The television series “Doomsday Preppers” further tarnished the image of “preppers” for years.
Miller, a former U.S. Air Force colonel, said a decade ago, people either smirked or turned away whenever he mentioned prepping.
That was then.
After the COVID-19 lockdowns and urban riots of 2020, the power substation attacks of 2022, the possibility of looming war with Russia—and China—and toxic chemical spills in 2023, hardly anyone is smirking now.
“People get it now. There’s much more recognition that you need to prepare for the fragile electric grid. For the avian flu contagion—and bad people,” Miller said.
“We tell our members there’s a chance a collapse could be something they haven’t even considered.”
The company lists 50 known triggers for a societal collapse on its website, taking each one seriously as its likelihood increases with each passing year.
Miller said the probability of an unexpected “black swan” event occurring this year is anywhere from 1 and 21 percent based on current trends and models.
Network of Like-Minded Survivors
The purpose of Fortitude Ranch is to meet the challenge through a network of survival communities with close to 500 members across the United States.
Miller sees it as a work in progress with five discreet corporate locations and a sixth survival ranch franchise.
He envisions as many as 100 nationwide franchises to keep pace with the demand.
From a survival standpoint, Fortitude Ranch is less costly than going alone, Miller said, because “you’ve got a survival community to share the cost.”
“We’ve got the staff. We’ve got the facilities. When our members show up in a collapse, all they have to do is follow directions.”
However, Fortitude Ranch is not geared toward the well-to-do. Its target membership is the middle class.
While yearly dues are low (about $1,000 per person), amenities are substantial and guaranteed to ride out the collapse in comfort and safety, Miller said.
“We are affordable because of large numbers of members and economies of scale. Fortitude Ranch is attractive to join because it is a recreation/vacation facility as well,” according to the company’s website.
Each ranch setup has a basic fortified shelter design that varies by location.
There are log-cabin-style living quarters and below-ground configurations made with corrugated steel, including shared spaces, quarantine buildings, recreational areas, and guard posts.
The simplicity of each location’s design is the key to its efficiency, Miller said.
“That’s why we formed Fortitude Ranch. Our system is for the middle class. We have plywood bunk beds in some of the rooms. It’s not fancy. We’ve got some nice digs, but many of our rooms are called Spartan rooms.”
“We don’t give out our locations because it upsets our members,” Miller told The Epoch Times, but “if you’re alive in a collapse, they will find you. You cannot hide. You’ve got to be able to protect yourself.”
The rule is safety in numbers and armed security around the clock. When it’s time to “bug out,” members will arrive with extra food, guns, and ammunition.
“Hopefully before the collapse occurs—if the collapse occurs—we tell them don’t wait for a warning,” Miller said. “If you can’t contact us—that’s a good clue.”
At Fortitude Ranch in Nevada, Brandon M said the facility has everything an individual or family would need to survive following a general collapse.
“We’ve got over a year’s worth of food for more members than we have,” Brandon said. “That gives us time to have our agriculture and crops in place. We’ve also got our livestock.”
The ranch, built in 2020, is operational with solar and gas-powered generators for off-grid living. Brandon is the full-time manager, and Heather is his new assistant. Jason is a carpenter, helping construct the new Viking Lodge overlooking the ranch.
“I’ve been to some of the ranches. [Fortitude Ranch Nevada] is probably my favorite from a strategic standpoint,” Brandon said. “You have a lot of high points, but you don’t have a lot of trees, which can be a disadvantage as far as not having wood. The advantage is to see who’s coming at you.”
Brandon, now retired from the military, said the political climate in America has become more unstable and divided.
“I was looking to find a place with like-minded [people]. I realized I couldn’t do it alone,” he said.
After a decade serving in the Air Force, Heather said she found Fortitude Ranch online and applied for a job. She’s been out here for about three weeks and has enjoyed her experience.
“I like this because it’s more realistic. I don’t know if you even think about luxuries—water, food, and shelter. Those are the priorities. I think everybody should be concerned [about a societal collapse]. Not like fear—just aware,” Heather said.
The new Viking Lodge features a pair of log cabins joined with a corrugated steel enclosure to provide even more living space when complete. The ranch also has a small medical clinic, a workshop, and a practice firing range.
“We’re still building. We’re always building as we keep adding members,” Brandon told The Epoch Times. “Once we finish the Viking Lodge, we could easily have 200 [people].”
“Like right now, I’m working on rooms for paid members. It was just me out here for a long time, so it was slow. I don’t mind it; I like the isolation. You can’t just run to the store and grab some cough medicine.”
Brandon said Fortitude Ranch offers good protection against thieves and roaming bands of marauders. Given its remote location, finding the ranch wouldn’t be easy for the hungry and desperate following a collapse in the city.
“Being this far out here, nobody will want to waste calories walking and not even knowing what you’ll find,” Brandon said. “North of us, there isn’t anything for 30 miles.”
The ranch currently has more than 50 members, and everyone will have a job to do when they arrive, as determined by their skill set.
Brandon said two members are medical professionals. There are engineers and teachers as well.
One member is a culinary chef. The oldest member is 90.
“We’ve got big families, small families, individuals—all kinds of political backgrounds. Right and left. You’d think it would be all right [leaning]. We do have some [left-leaning] people. We’re getting more and more,” Brandon said.
“It’s like any other community. When civilization started, people had to come together in some way. It comes down to this: are the things that unite you stronger than those that divide you?
The nearest town is about a half-hour drive south. Brandon said some people suspected a nearby survival community whenever he shops for supplies. They’ll spot him at the supermarket, loading 20 bags of beans and 20 bags of rice into a cart.
Sometimes, they’ll ask him questions.
“I’ll make a joke. I don’t talk about what we are or where we are. They think you’re from a restaurant,” Brandon said.
In the main house at Fortitude Ranch are furnished rooms with beds, fresh linen, and other amenities. The ranch guarantees a daily minimum of 2,000 calories for one year for each member.
However, some members prefer to stock their own food for long-term storage.
Brandon said members are serious about their preparations as national and global tensions worsen.
“A lot of them will come out here and store stuff. They’re constantly asking me how we are doing, where are we at.”
Members receive a monthly online newsletter to stay informed. So when the critical moment arrives, they will know what to do.
“It’s just about bringing communities back to what they once were,” Jason told The Epoch Times. “We’re trying to get people to work together in an environment to sustain themselves from anything.
“The template was there back in the day. It’s a winning model that works for everybody.”
Believing “history repeats itself” and collapse is inevitable, Jason said the sooner members work as a community, the sooner they can help to rebuild society.
“We’ve seen this before, and we’ll see it again. The probability of biological attacks is the norm right now,” Jason said.
Brandon said the collapse of society would look different than what people expect or imagine.
“You saw the rioting with [Hurricane] Katrina. This time will be on a much bigger scale.”
“It’s going to suck,” Brandon said, as people long to go back to life before the collapse.
“When we get knocked back into the Stone Age, you’re going to have a lot of unhappy people,” he said.
Jason added, “People will get caught where they don’t want to be. That’s the beauty of being a member [of Fortitude Ranch].”
Living Large Post-Apocalypse
Located in central Kansas, Survival Condos is a former missile silo turned into a luxury survival shelter on the higher end of the affordability spectrum.
Developer Larry Hall considers the project life-affirming in a world gone further off the deep end.
“For me, I took an intercontinental ballistic missile site that used to have a weapon of mass destruction designed to kill hundreds of thousands of people. I turned it into the complete opposite,” Hall said.
“It’s now a green facility, state-of-art technology that protects families.”
He admits the condos are expensive. A 3,600-square-foot Penthouse unit starts at $4.5 million. A full-floor unit measuring 1,840 square feet costs $3 million, and a half-floor condo runs about $1.5 million.
“People buy what they can afford and what they perceive they need protection from,” Hall told The Epoch Times.
“I decided there was a missing niche market in the luxury high-end bunker where people didn’t know how long they’d need a bunker.”
Hall said before COVID-19, people used to scoff at survival shelters as a fringe market demographic.
The question was always, “What are the chances of society collapsing?”
Then came the lockdowns, the urban riots, and the general chaos in 2020.
Hall said the events of the past three years have only vindicated the preparedness mindset. Survival Condo is now considered the “Gold Standard” for survival shelters.
“I never get asked that question [will society collapse] anymore,” Hall said. “You’ve pretty much become mainstream. People realize the value of having a hardened property to go to and that extra degree of safety.”
He said Survival Condo’s purpose is to make sure that clients will survive the collapse and thrive in the process.
To that end, Survival Condo hired a psychologist to aid in the project design for extended off-grid living. The psychologist looked at basic human physical and emotional needs—from the need for optimum lighting and color schemes to foster a positive mood, better food quality to improve personal satisfaction, and recreational activities to keep tenants happy and fit.
“The single thing you need to have to keep people from going stir crazy—what people call cabin fever—is to have a good quality of food,” Hall said.
The original complex held 72 silos. Hall bought two silos with options to purchase another four, built out the first silo, and is working on completing the second.
The finished silo is 15 stories tall and built with a military-grade redundant air filtration system to handle nuclear, chemical, and biological attacks. The facility has redundant power sources and more than 20,000 square feet of floor space under the dome.
Each fully furnished condo unit has a biometric key entry. Other high-end amenities include a custom theater, bar and lounge, a library, indoor swimming pool and spa, workout facility, command and control center, hydroponic gardens, a medical first-aid clinic, a digital weather station, and homeschooling classrooms.
Hall said there’s a long waiting list for units when they become available.
“Ours is way up at the top for a reason—military-grade everything with high engineering,” Hall said. “We went by the book and did everything with very tough standards.”
“We’re constantly keeping the place in a state of readiness. We could scale it up if we needed to be here for an extended time.”
That time now appears close as the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists stands 90 seconds away from midnight.
Whether a natural or man-made disaster is on the horizon—”pick a poison,” Hall said. “All result in one common denominator, and that’s civil unrest.
“People are afraid and trying to get by and survive. So, ultimately, you need something where you can sleep with both eyes closed and don’t have to worry about a gang of MS-13 guys kicking in your door.”
“The whole thing is you have a place designed to protect families,” Hall said. “We’ve got a facility that can do that. We’re not out to muck with anybody. We want to be out of sight and mind, do our best to survive, not burden society, and take care of ourselves.”
Miller, at Fortitude Ranch, said the demand for survival ranch franchises has been growing exponentially.
“We’re going like mad now through franchising. We’ll double our number of locations this year. It could take off even more,” Miller said.
But even with 100 new franchise locations, “that’s still a tiny percentage of the population,” he said. “We’re not even close to handling 1 percent of the population.”
Miller said people owe it to themselves and the future to survive the coming collapse as the opportunities to rebuild will be “phenomenal.”
“I hope the United States will recover and follow the Constitution. We don’t follow it today,” Miller said.
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