Feb. 6, 2012— -- The never-ending hysteria over a Doomsday cometh has sparked a growing movement of people called "preppers," who prepare for the end of the world as we know it -- and in some cases, make a profit.
Tim Ralston, a married father of two from Arizona, is one such "prepper."
"There's a lot of different things that could happen," Ralston said. "For me, I look at prepping as kind of like insurance. You have car insurance, health insurance, life insurance."
Call it Apocalypse insurance. Ralston turned his family's two-car garage into a staging area. Inside is a trailer, which he keeps packed and ready to go at all times, stockpiles of freeze-dried food, including cartons of canned chicken with a shelf life of 15 years, survival gear, such as a system for purifying polluted water, first aid kits and lots of weapons and ammunition. His son has his own AK-47.
"In the beginning, my wife really wasn't on the same page as I was," Ralston said. "But in reality, the more information I started to give to her, it opened up her eyes to the other potential threats that are out there."
Once a week, Ralston takes his two sons out into the Arizona desert about 30 minutes away from their Scottsdale home for a Doomsday dress rehearsal. Eventually, Ralston said he plans to use a converted shipping container to build an underground shelter in the desert, filled with everything they would need to survive.
"You just never know," he said. "I have a lot of other religious friends that say, 'I don't want to prepare, I'll just go to heaven.' And I say, 'Well, do you know what it's like to starve to death?' It's not a pleasant thing. God put you on this Earth for certain things, and for me it's to make sure my family lives and I can help other people."
Ralston is just one of several people featured on National Geographic's upcoming series, "Doomsday Preppers," which premieres on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 9 p.m. ET. Other participants include a couple from Texas who live off the grid, filter their own water, have a stockpile of canned goods to feed 22 people for years and have converted school buses into getaway vehicles.
There's also a New England mom, Kathy Harrison, who calls herself the Doris Day of Doom.
"I'm preparing for a black swan event like a catastrophic new Madrid earthquake," she said.
Harrison and her husband Bruce don't fit the survivalist stereotypes. They aren't stockpiling weapons. Instead, she keeps bees.
"In a grid down situation those bees become not just food for us, but they become honey that we can barter for," Harrison said. "Those bees are the essence of resilience for us."
Paranoia over the world coming to an end is part of the zeitgeist now. Chevrolet ran an ad during the Super Bowl, about a post- apocalyptic world in which only people who owned the Chevy Silverado pick-up truck survived. Even TV comedies like "Parks and Recreation," have had fun with the Doomsday frenzy.
Some people fear that humanity's downfall will come from our dependence on technology and fossil fuels, which could fail us or run dry and we will be forced back into the Stone Age, "Mad Max" style.
Others are convinced the Mayans had it right and that our day of reckoning will come on Dec. 21, 2012, and we'll simply run out of time.
Of course, we've been here before. Harold Camping, the president of Family Radio, a California-based Christian radio broadcast, proclaimed that Doomsday was upon us first back in 1988, then in 1994 and then most recently for May 21, 2011, all of which came and when without so much as a frog falling from the sky.
But there are enough people believing the end is nigh that few have been able to turn Doomsday into an entrepreneurial business opportunity. Last year, "Nightline" profiled Robert Vicino, a real estate agent in the process of converting a Cold War bunker in the Mojave desert into a luxury modern shelter with several condo units for sale.
"It's Noah's Ark," Vicino said at the time. "It just happens to be underground."
It will be fortified against the unthinkable, he said, complete with a hospital and a movie theater. At $50,000 per person, and long before it's even done, the shelter is already almost sold out.Vicino is nearing completion on another shelter in Indiana that will be big enough to house 80 people. It too is almost sold out.
"We hope to have 20 facilities done by 2012," he said. "But beyond that, we're looking at doing 20 in China, three in Taiwan, Romania, Russia, everywhere. People are coming at us from everywhere."
Tim Ralston also has made a small business venture out of his disaster-preparedness. He doesn't just stockpile his stuff, he sells it through his online outdoor and survival store.
Geared up for anything, and making a profit off it too.