Home Survival in Society What Preppers Can Learn from the Pinkerton Company

What Preppers Can Learn from the Pinkerton Company

by Derrick James

The New York Times had a recent article: Climate Chaos Is Coming – and the Pinkertons are Ready. The piece was brought to my attention by one of our authors. His view was that the article reflects economic class struggle. The New York Times’ angle was on the company seeing the threats of climate change as a business opportunity. While it might be both of those, the article also reflects a growing corporate interest in preparedness, how the Pinkerton company plans to fill that need, and what we as preppers might learn from it.

Wait. You’ve never heard of the Pinkerton company? Let’s start with a brief description of their interesting past.

A Brief History of the Pinkerton Company

Allan Pinkerton during the Civil War.
Allan Pinkerton during the American Civil War.

1850 – The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was founded by Allan Pinkerton, an immigrant and Chicago’s first police detective. The company rose to power working with law enforcement to arrest criminals in the lawless lands west of the Mississippi, a.k.a the Wild West. They infiltrated gangs, established informants, and provided security detail on railroad shipments.

1861-1865 – Mr. Pinkerton claimed to have foiled a plot to assassinate President Lincoln, and was subsequently hired by the President serve as head of the Union Intelligence Service, the forerunner of the U.S. Secret Service.

1870 – Pinkerton and his agents gain additional fame for their relentless pursuit of Jesse James, the Dalton Brothers, and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. They saved newspaper articles and collected stories of criminals, effectively building the nation’s first criminal database.

1884 sketch of Pinkertons escorting workers during a mining strike.

1877-1893 – The Pinkertons were used to break up some 70 labor strikes, either by undercover work or brute force, leading Congress to pass the Anti-Pinkerton Act, limiting government’s ability to hire private investigators or mercenaries. (The company omits this fact from their version of history.)

1890s – The company grows to 2,000 agents and 30,000 reserves, causing the state of Ohio to outlaw the agency on the fear they could be hired as a private army.

1960-1969 – Corporate headquarters is moved to New York City, making a total of 45 offices. They then expand into Asia.

1998-2018 – They evacuate 431 expatriates from Indonesia during the Asian Currency Crisis. They also mobilize 313 agents to help clients in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and Sandy.

2018 – Pinkerton introduces “Applied Risk Science” as an analytical approach using big data to identify and manage client risk.

Sources: Pinkerton’s History, Wiki,and New York Times.

The Pinkerton Company’s New Focus

The company’s most popular new service is one in which agents join a company like any other employee and provide intel on other employees to management, essentially acting as corporate spies within the ranks. According to the New York Times piece, Pinkerton claims to have 80% of the Fortune 1,000 companies as clients.

Beyond that, they are now offering what they call “Applied Risk Science.”

A revolutionary concept we’ve created that combines scientific data associated with risks, along with carefully crafted algorithms that calculate clear and contextual perspectives of more risks, and inform strategies and tactics for managing them.


Corporate mumbo jumbo? Yes. Essentially, it’s using data to assess corporate risk, an idea that grew out of Pinkerton’s frustration with businesses being reactionary to disaster. During the 2017 hurricane season, Pinkerton chartered planes across the Caribbean full of food and armed escorts. The day the hurricane hit Puerto Rico they received more than 30 calls desperate to get Pinkerton agents on the island.

Pinkerton found clients were not prepared. Insurance policies do not cover armed defense, extracting corporate executives, surveillance, helicopters, and armed escorted. They lacked even the most basic safety measures: generators, stored water, and security cameras.

Tactical work by its nature is reactionary, however. Companies were not calling Pinkerton for advice, they were calling for someone to do a job – now. Thus began Pinkerton’s approach selling data-driven information that assesses risk and predicts violence.

The New York Times writes:

The best outcome for these new data-driven Pinkertons is that this century lapses into the kind of lawlessness and disorder that makes it look more like the 19th — which many scientists and economists think it could. Since 1980, a period that includes all 20 of the warmest years in recorded history and 18 of the 20 most intense hurricane seasons in the satellite era, losses in the United States from storms, wildfires and droughts topped $1.6 trillion — nearly a third of which occurred in just the last five years. And this exponential destruction is just the beginning of what David Wallace-Wells, in his book The Uninhabitable Earth, calls the Great Dying: a worldwide economic decline, sharply deteriorated living conditions, disruption to basic government functions and widespread hunger.


Whether it’s climate change or just a more unpredictable world, Pinkerton stands to gain from chaos. They sell safety in a world of growing threats, where governments increasingly demonstrate their incompetence at protecting citizens.

What Can Preppers Learn from Pinkerton’s New Direction?

If you’re new to prepping, what follows might be takeaways. If you’re a more experienced prepper, consider these to be “corporate confirmation” of what you already know.

  1. Despite what many think, preppers are not crazy. Pinkerton is being systematic in their business approach. This is large-scale, data-driven analysis on global threats and the increasingly likelihood that their services will be needed. This is quite different than your average prepper saying, “I’m worried about the future, so I prep.” Pinkerton is making the same case through statistical analysis, not gut feeling.
  2. Normalcy bias remains strong. Interest in prepping has grown over the past ten years, but the people actively taking precautions are still dwarfed by the masses living their daily lives on the naive assumption that tomorrow will forever be like today. Big business exhibits this same bias.
  3. Yes, things are getting worse. There is a tendency among some to dismiss present day threats as being overblown. The Cold War, one might argue, was a far more dangerous time. While that might be true in some regards, Pinkerton’s new business direction confirms the idea that things are getting worse. They are using objective data to chart a course based on business growth in an area of increasing need – safety and security.
  4. The need to prepare is now, not tomorrow. Pinkerton’s experience in catastrophe response confirms the masses are unprepared. If a big business scrambles after a hurricane trying to find immediate help because they lack the very basics (food, water, security), how ready do you think the average person is? These businesses were blindsided by catastrophe. People are too.

If you stumbled upon this post in some random manner, consider it a warning that you too should begin prepping? Not sure where to start? Perhaps some of our nonfiction books can help.

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