Don’t paint Scott Hunt as a doom and gloomer.
For one thing, he expects to be raptured into heaven before the Great Tribulation described in the book of Revelation occurs.
He’s too creative and energetic and cheerful to spend much time dwelling on all the bad things that could happen to knock out our nation’s electrical grid, shut down its water supply or render its computers useless.
But he and his family are ready, on their 55-acre farm near Pickens, to withstand any such calamity.
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He grows his own food, maintains his own water supply, makes his own electricity and powers his machinery with fuel made from his own wood.
And he has made a booming business out of helping others get prepared for whatever may come.
His YouTube channel, Engineer775, has more than 158,000 subscribers. He appeared as the expert reviewer for National Geographic’s reality show, “Doomsday Preppers.”
And he has more business than he can handle as a consultant and installer of solar-powered water systems and other devices for people who want to be prepared in case of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or a coordinated ISIS attack, or any of the other threats to our technologically intertwined way of life that many believe are not only possible, but probable.
“I feel like that’s what my calling is right now – to help many people as possible,” said Hunt, a former pastor, former Michelin engineer and upstate New York native. His business, Practical Preppers, is reaching out to the world with advice, products and services to help customers survive doomsday scenarios he hopes will never come.
Tinkering is in Hunt’s genes. He comes from a family of tradesmen. His father was an auto body man. His grandfather was a carpenter and operated a lumber yard.
“My nickname was College Boy,” he said. “I’m the only one that went to college,”
He got his education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York, the oldest engineering school in the country, receiving a degree in mechanical engineering and a masters in robotics.
Michelin recruited him out of college. So after graduating in 1992, he moved to Greenville, where he spent 10 years as a product development engineer, designing molds for all kinds of tires.
“I was kind of a spoiled brat there,” he said. “They gave me everything I wanted to play with.”
He worked out of the Donaldson Center plant but traveled a lot for the international company. He was happy with his job, and his life.
But then, “a major thing happened: I became a Christian at Michelin.”
It started with his being confronted by what he described as a fundamentalist “Bible thumper” telling him he needed to get saved.
“I felt like, wow, I really have arrived in the South,” he said.
He had never even owned a Bible.
“I wanted to prove the Bible thumpers wrong, so I started studying, like an engineer, analyzing,” Hunt said. “And after two years of studying the Bible, I found out that I was in trouble.
“Like looking in a mirror, I was broken and surrendered to the Lord.”
Because of his analytical approach to Bible study – he did an in-depth expository of each verse of the Bible – people started asking him to teach Bible classes.
He started teaching on his screened-in porch on Monday nights. The class grew to about 25 people, and Hunt started thinking about starting a church.
He had been baptized at Red Hill Baptist Church in Pickens and became a deacon and Sunday school teacher. But when he learned about Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, which used the kind of Bible expository teaching he was interested in, he became ordained as a minister and affiliated with that church.
He decided to quit his job and go into the ministry full-time in Pickens.
“Everybody thought I’d lost my mind – my boss, my friends, my family, the mayor of Pickens,” he said, laughing.
His small congregation moved from one small building to another, with him at one time cleaning the bathrooms at the Seventh Day Adventist church in exchange for use of its fellowship hall.
Eventually, he rented a building from the East Pickens Baptist Church, and continued in the ministry there for 10 years.
Bills to pay
The church was doing fine, Hunt said. “But I couldn’t pay the bills.”
His wife, Lori, is a pharmacist, but with four kids, two of them approaching college age, he decided to take a regular job and preach on the side.
That didn’t work out very well.
“So I said, I’ve got to go to work. And at the same time this whole preparedness movement started,” he recalled.
That was a little over five years ago.
He decided to start his own business, in the basement of the house he had built on the farm outside Pickens. It would be based on the hobby he had nurtured for the previous 25-30 years: growing his own food, generating his own power and pumping water.
He considers it a combination of using his engineering background with his ministry experience, helping people achieve their preparedness goals.
“Some people just want to go off the grid. Some people want something sustainable. Some people are into preparedness big time,” he said. “I just provide solutions that make sense.”
His homestead was ideally suited to become his laboratory for developing self-sufficiency solutions.
It has elevation change, which can be used to provide a gravity-powered water system. He pumps water from a well low in his topography to a high point on his property, and sends it flowing downhill from there to his house with the twist of a faucet.
The tract has ample trees, which he looks at a “solar batteries.” He uses them to fire a 500,000 BTU boiler that provides hot water to his house, and a wood stove that gets used for heat and cooking, and for gasification, using a process developed by the Germans during World War II.
It has plenty of pasture land, where a herd of about 20 Brangus – a cross between Brahman and Angus – beef cattle roam among his solar arrays and pre-electrical age devices.
He uses technology dating back to the 1700’s, as well as the latest energy-saving innovations.
“That’s the closest thing you’ll ever see to a perpetual motion machine,” he said pointing to a hydraulic ram pump, which uses the water hammer effect to push 1,500 gallons a day from a spring up 115 feet in elevation to his chicken house 900 feet away.
“It’s basically like a two-valve heart,” he said, as the device makes a pulsating thump just as it has been doing continually since 1998.
Hunt zips around on his property in a camouflage electric cart, pointing out his well, a pond stocked with bream and foot-long catfish, and a field where he recently harvested a crop of hard red winter wheat.
On the edge of his pasture, two arrays of solar panels, each 10 by 20 feet, provide power for the bulk of the homestead’s electrical needs, plus some excess that he sells to the Blue Ridge Electric Coop.
On a receiver nearby, he picks up his Internet signal from atop Pickens’ Glassy Mountain, which can be seen in the distance.
He uses a solar-powered multi aqua chiller, designed and built by an Easley company, to cool his house without the use of refrigerants.
“It’s the best paradox – the hotter it gets, the colder I can make it with direct drive compressors off of the sun,” Hunt said.
His workshop is a jumble of contraptions, some of them projects under development, some equipment laid aside to be installed for a customer.
Most of his business comes from the Internet. He has a store on his website, www.practicalpreppers.com, from which he sells and dropships items such as solar water pumps, and his book, “The Practical Preppers Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness.”
Soon after he started his business, Hunt organized a prepper conference in Greenville that attracted some 500 people.
“It just kind of took off,” he said.
A reality show production company asked him to let them film a pilot for a preppers program at his place, which National Geographic picked up and called Doomsday Preppers.
His role in the show would be to give a report card to preppers around the country on how well prepared they are.
“It was really good exposure for us,” he said. “So my YouTube channel took off.”
He has hundreds of videos on the channel, many of them reviewing various products or showing projects he’s working on.
YouTube has been a significant source of income, as well as a way of reaching customers. One seven-minute video on a a device that produces endless hot water without electricity has gotten more than 6.9 million views and generated checks from Google totaling nearly $30,000, Hunt said, showing his channel analytics.
He has two employees who help with installation jobs, but he needs more skilled workers.
“My big problem as an entrepreneur is finding help, because I am way over my head right now,” he said. “I am working as hard as I can to get things installed and figure out this technology.”
His advice for would-be entrepreneurs: Be wary of companies that claim they can do things you can’t do, particularly such as managing social media accounts.
He learned after spending $5,000 on a social media campaign that he could do better “just being myself.”
He makes all his own YouTube videos and does 90 percent of his own website management.
Doomsday or not
The prepper movement is driven by fears of events that are not as far-fetched as they may seem, according to Hunt.
Some rogue nation, such as North Korea, could knock out the nation’s electrical grid with one EMP detonation over Kansas at an altitude of 25 miles above the atmosphere, he said.
“It’s pretty much been proven scientifically,” he said. “We hope it never happens.”
Even without an attack of some kind, the constant flow of electricity isn’t something that can be taken for granted, he said.
“Our grid is strained,” he said. “It is not in good shape.”
Or, a coordinated ISIS attack, carried out by second generation home-grown Islamic extremists living among us undetected could wreak widespread disaster, the theory says.
Hackers are another ever-present threat, with the potential for worldwide infrastructure destruction.
Or a natural catastrophe, such as an Ebola pandemic, or earthquakes in strategic locations, could shake civilization to its core.
Then there is the Apocalypse.
“A lot of Christians feel that they’re going through a time of the apocalypse, or the Tribulation period,” he said. “I don’t.”
“People ask me why are you prepping if you believe you’re going to be raptured out of here. I said that’s what I believe theologically, that’s what I believe eschatologically.
“It doesn’t mean that the world isn’t a mess.”
In the meantime, though, Hunt is doing all he can as an evangelist of preparedness, while maintaining a positive attitude.
“I don’t focus on the scenarios,” he said. “I focus on the solutions.”