But about a year ago, Bedford's homemaking skills went into overdrive. She began stockpiling canned food, and converted a spare bedroom into a giant storage facility. The trunk of each of her family's cars got its own 72-hour emergency kit – giant Tupperware containers full of iodine, beef jerky, emergency blankets, and even a blood-clotting agent designed for the battle-wounded. Bedford started thinking about an escape plan in case her family needed to leave in a hurry, and she and her husband set aside packed suitcases and cash. Then, for the first time in her life, Bedford went to a gun range and shot a .22 handgun. Now she regularly takes her two young children, 7 and 10, to target practice. "Over the last two years, I started feeling more and more unsettled about everything I was seeing, and I started thinking, 'What if we were in the same boat?'" says Bedford, 49.
Bedford is what you might call a modern-day survivalist – or, as she describes it, a "prepper." Far from the stereotype of survivalists past, she owns no camouflage, and she doesn't believe that 2012 – the final year of the Mayan calendar – will be the end of the world. She likes modern luxuries (makeup, air conditioning, going out to eat), and she's no doomsayer. But like the rest of us, Bedford watched as the housing bubble burst and the economy collapsed. She has friends who've lost their homes, jobs, and 401(k)s. She remembers Hurricane Katrina, and wonders how the government might respond to the next big disaster, or a global pandemic. And though she hopes for the best – the last thing she wants is for something bad to happen – she's decided to prepare her family for the worst. "We never set out to go build a bunker to protect ourselves from nuclear fallout; I have no idea how to camp in the wild," Bedford says, laughing. "But as all of this stuff started hitting closer to home, we [wanted] to take some steps to safeguard ourselves."