If the proverbial you-know-what hit the global fan, would you be prepared? The answer to that question is most likely a big, fat no.

After all, it's hard to develop life skills (e.g., growing/storing your own food, filtering water) while playing myriad video games or scrounging the Internet for funny videos to post on Facebook.

Turns out, though, that while you may not be concerned about mass chaos and world destruction, a growing number of people are.

Meet the Preppers
Asylum readers, there is a posse of self-sufficient men and women out there who make it their goal to be prepared when disaster strikes. They call themselves "preppers."

From natural catastrophes to economic meltdowns to nuclear blowouts, the preppers' collective goal is quite simple: to carry on as usual, even when catastrophe strikes. Think backyard fallout shelters of the 1950s or Y2K shenanigans -- only circa 2010.

The whole prepper movement may seem pretty zany. So zany, in fact, that you'd think only a miniscule amount of people would actually be partaking in it. Wrong.

Over recent years, a huge community of preppers has developed. Perform a simple Google search and you'll turn up plenty of prepper-related stuff, including the Web television portal Prepper TV, survival blogs, podcasts (such as DoctorPrepper and PrepperPodcast), and forums that cover everything from a woman's perspective to recycling to how to handle dead bodies.

There's even a rash of YouTube videos offering tutorials on such topics as how to construct your own nuclear bomb shelter, what firearms you should own, and how to earthquake-proof your stored food.

The Potential for Disaster
"People are waking up to the fact that they cannot always rely on outside sources for their personal safety and survival," Tom Martin, CEO of the American Preppers Network, tells Asylum.

"A 'sh** hit the fan' scenario happens to just about everyone sometime in their life," he says. "Preparing and having a 'prepper' mindset will lessen the impact of whatever disaster it may be that you might experience in your life."

Fair enough. But is it really necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on packaged emergency food -- like this $999, one-year supply of freeze-dried "food" sold at Costco? According to customers who have purchased this product and others like it, it's completely worth all your hard-earned dinero.

"No one can predict the future, but our economy sure isn't what it used to be," explains Stephen Bedford (pictured, above). His wife runs the website The Survival Mom, and both are committed preppers. "We can't afford to live like it's still 2005."

Don't Make an "Unwise Decision"
"Some things like food, we use all the time and then replace them, because it is the lifestyle we choose," Gary Hartley, who runs the United States Prepper Networks, tells Asylum. "I would be extremely happy if some of my preps never got used. I'd pass them on to my son and be even happier if he never had to use them."

"Remember this," he continued. "It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Not prepping is an unwise decision."

The Prepper Mindset
As with any group, the prepper clan is made up a variety of mindsets. While some opt to stock up on pre-packaged products, others, like Martin, invest their time and money other ways.

"I spend more time learning skills, tips and ideas than I do money on equipment," he tells Asylum. "Survival is an instinct; preparedness is not. Preparedness has to be learned."

Hartley agrees. "In my opinion, it is more about taking personal responsibility for yourself and your family and being more self-reliant and less dependent on outside sources in an emergency," he tells us.

And there you have it. Preppers get off on learning life skills, storing away massive amounts of long-lasting food, and talking about the end of the world as we know it.

It all begs this question, loyal readers: To prep or not to prep?