“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk!?”
– Dirty Harry Callahan
We all know post-apocalyptic movies and books are designed for high drama and entertainment value, and – despite their title – there’s very little ‘reality’ to most of that brand. So it was only natural the ‘reality prepper shows’ portrayed their cast as flat, one dimensional extremists concerns about single events: terrorist attack, nuclear war, super-volcano eruption, or fiscal collapse. They stare into the camera, and with an exaggerated seriousness proclaim, “I’m preparing for a polar-shift. That’s why I built this doomsday castlebunkermobile.” Specific threats make for good drama, especially with a completely random scoring mechanism to ratchet up the manufactured tension.
The Importance of Planning Your Preps
While these clearly defined events could certainly happen, a logical assessment of how likely they might be will focus your efforts to prepare. Having a clear vision regarding the credible threats you actually face will help define your goals and assist with prioritizing your purchases. Unless you’re made of money, efficiency goes a long way when preparing for a bad day, regardless of your particular concern.
A number of the concerns we fear have come to fruition recently, with pandemics and social unrest flashing around the globe and into our daily lives. Many of us share a foreboding about our near future as well. While we’ve faced uncertainty before, it certainly feels like a tinderbox right now doesn’t it? We have to avoid paranoia, but in the current climate, no one will blame you for looking under your bed at night.
Putting a Face to the Boogeyman
At some point in your life something happened to get your attention, and you realized that things have, can, and will go wrong. Have you taken time to think about that event? To determine your motivations? The reason we started this journey can help – or hurt – our preparedness planning. How has it shaped your plan?
A large number of well-intentioned people are simply looking to do something – anything – to make them feel safe, and don’t have so much as a rudimentary plan, or any idea how to come up with one. We’ll walk through a simple threat assessment, and discuss how that helps us find a starting point and a direction of travel.
How to Develop a Threat Assessment
Developing a threat assessment is not a difficult task. It just takes some creative and critical thinking.
Step 1 – Make a List of Threats
Start by making a list of everything you can imagine going wrong. No event is too small, none too large. This is simple brainstorming – list everything that comes to mind. I imagine very few of you have short lists. Not many will have a single concern, like an invasion of irradiated squids from Mars or a splinter cell of radical Amish terrorists, but it’s OK if you do.
Take into consideration the unique area you live in. I grew up in Maine, so a Nor’Easter could drop a blizzard or cause flooding. In Tennessee where I live now, tornadoes have hit recently and what feels like regularly in the past few years. I’m not terribly worried about a tsunami as I live in a landlocked state, so it doesn’t make the list.
I don’t want to sway or influence you and your own list, but here’s a sample list:
Step 2 – Group the Threats
Now take your list and group the individual threats into rough categories. Nuke/EMP could go together. Blizzards or flooding can all be classified as short-term natural disasters. Super volcanoes, ice ages and the sort would combine as long-term natural disasters. Zombies are in a classification all their own!
Combine as many events as you can into broader categories without stretching your definitions too far. There should be more commonality than less to keep the next step simple.
Step 3 – Order them by Likelihood
Next, list those categories by their odds of happening. Use your own judgment as you determine what threats rate higher than another. A short term natural disaster would seem more likely than a long term natural disaster based on history. A nuclear war is less likely than a local terrorist attack. No one can tell you what to be concerned about, or how concerned to be. Play with your list, moving items up and down until it feels right to you.
Step 4 – Make a Chart
Your list threats then become the ‘Y Axis’ in a chart.
Then start at the bottom, the most likely event(s) on your threat scale, and list what you would need to get through. Short term natural disasters would require what – First aid? Food? Water? Security? Tools?
If you’re stuck, think about the things you use day to day. If a storm prevented you from getting to the store and buying more, what would you miss most? Making note of these items is a good place to start your shopping list. You have to do more decision making when you break that shopping list into more immediate needs versus long term wants.
Yeah, high-end night vision goggles might be on your list, but how high is it on the list? Maybe there are other things you need more, like a good rifle and ammo to practice with it. Do you buy an extra couple months of long-term storage food, or invest towards that solar power system you’ve been researching?
Now move up the list of threats, adding items you’d need to assist you and those you care about to weather a tough situation a wee bit easier. This is just more brainstorming, adding preps to your list as they cross your mind.
Many of you likely found the same thing I did; as the size of the threat increases, it’s probability falls. The worst things are also the least likely. On top of that, the more likely events also – due to their limited scope – require less stuff to get through safely and relatively comfortably. That understanding alone should drive your decision making into focus. What would you need on hand to survive a nuclear war with more than just luck and pluck? Those supplies will take up a lot more space – and wallet – than what you’ll list for a bad winter storm.
My chart looks sort of like this:
As you face decisions on where to leverage your efforts and finds, a well-thought-out threat assessment is a tool that sharpens your focus.
Most prepper’s I’ve spoken with tend to have some sort of focus – communications, guns, bushcraft, etc. Many are well rounded and diverse, and others myopic or worse. But we all started somewhere.
What were your first steps?
What went right?
What did you learn from your failures?
Let me know in the comments section. This isn’t necessarily a one-and-done exercise, but probably a list you’ll want to revisit and revise often. Keeping the list current as instability and unrest rises and subsides, and new diseases wax and wane.
By this point you should have a solid threat assessment, a list of basic preps you need, and some vision for where to start in your preparedness plan. With some consistency, efficiency and a plan, you can be ready to face any concern!