Too many preppers go into prepping blindly. They stock up on firearms and bulk ammo, grab some freeze-dried food, and then stuff a bug out backpack. Few preppers actually develop and follow an organized, prioritized SHTF plan.
This article will teach you how to:
- Prepare a personal profile that accounts for your situation,
- Define the threats you face,
- Realistically budget for your preps,
- Prioritize the items you should buy and the skills you should learn, and
- Create a personalized SHTF plan to address the threats on your list.
The Typical Prepper’s Path
New preppers are often prompted by fear first – and rightfully so. Modern society is exceptionally fragile despite, or more accurately because of, modern innovations. It’s an understandable mistake, diving in without a plan. They see what’s happening and think “this could happen here” and then look around the home and realize how unprepared they are. They rush out to buy some gear that might make them feel more secure.
I saw it after Y2K, Hurricane Katrina, Covid-19 pandemic, and most recently, the war in Ukraine. I’ve seen it play out countless times. Each big disaster-like event brings droves of people into prepping.
Retailers love it when this happens as they sell their products on fear. “Is your family safe? Buy this!” is the idea – and it works! People can’t open their wallets fast enough, rarely asking themselves whether they actually need the product, or if there might be a more practical approach to prepping.
Following the plan I lay out here, you will evaluate your current situation, the possible threats you face, the items you might need, and the skills you should build to create a safety net specific to you. Do this and at no point will you be manipulated with fear mongering to max out credit cards on wild, panicked purchases.
Practical prepping is different from how the media portrays prepping.
“Reality” prepper shows like Doomsday Preppers don’t help anyone prepare. They portray their cast as flat, one-dimensional extremists concerned 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 converted my home into a doomsday castle.” Specific threats make for good drama, especially with a completely random scoring mechanism to ratchet up the manufactured tension. Single-event planning is a lousy approach to prepping.
Practical prepping is a lifestyle. It embraces preparedness in a much simpler way than building a fallout shelter or buying cabin deep in the woods – as appealing as those options may sound!
Practical prepping follows a plan that accounts for your specific needs. It is done consistently over time and yields the most reward for your time and money. Buying 2,000 for each of your favorite firearms all at once would be great but buying 100 rounds a month as you build a garden, learn how to purify water, and take a medical class will make you better able to survive a catastrophe.
The long-term result of methodically prioritizing your efforts will be a stronger position in both scope and depth. A bulk ammo deal may be worth grabbing, but you will need the reference point of a well-thought-out plan to make those decisions when those opportunities arise.
Practical prepping is realistic. Prepping for tough times is best viewed as a marathon not a sprint. Marathons require training, and training entails planning. Planning maximizes your time and money, avoiding waste from bad decisions made in haste.
Fear clouds vision and warps perspective. What if you spend all that time and all that money and it’s all for nothing? Practical prepping reduces the odds of that happening by focusing on products, skills, and knowledge that can benefit you and your family regardless of what happens.
Practical prepping saves money. Consistent execution of your practical SHTF plan will leave you safe in your home while the world around you tears itself to shreds over rolls of toilet paper.
When COVID-19 hit, practical preppers already had a healthy supply of everyday household items. They could shop for a few last-minute items without sweating the fact that X, Y, or Z products were out of stock.
Practical prepping is efficient. You build a resilient, flexible plan where each decision or purchase you make supports the one before it. The Stacking Principle that I will explain will help add layers of protection. Each new product or skill builds on the last.
How to Build a SHTF Plan
Everyone should prepare, but everyone should first prepare to prepare. Let’s put pencil to paper and define your current situation, clarify the possible threats you’ll face, list a few of the things you’ll want to keep on hand, and come up with a roadmap to a successful, personalized prepping plan.
Grab a pencil and notepad. The process is going to yield a much more robust plan than what you’ll find at Ready.gov. As you progress through this planning, you’ll want a few three ring binders or file folders to properly organize your plan and adjust it over time. Using Microsoft Word, Excel, or some other software will also work. I like to use Excel for this.
Planning is an ongoing, evolving process, and the right tools make it easier. But if you prefer electronic devices for writing and editing, keep plenty of paper and ink cartridges on hand. I find printing plans on paper makes the process feel more formal, adding to the commitment.
Step 1 – Develop a Personal Profile
The ancient Greeks coined the maxim, “Know thyself.” Self-awareness is a foundation enabling you to build on your strengths while mindful of your weaknesses, thus able to mitigate or even eliminate them. Creating a simple personal profile will outline basic assets and potential weaknesses.
Age. How old are you? What can you contribute to the physical work that will need to be accomplished? What health considerations do you face? With age, supposedly, comes wisdom; what have you learned?
Finances. Financial stability invariably lays into your preparations. Are you drowning in debt? Recently won the lottery? A little savings and a decent job? Prepping involves spending money – planning and practical prepping allows you make the best use of what you have. There will be more on finances and planning.
Skills. The abilities you’ve already developed are strongpoints to build on. Are you a cook, experienced in storage, prep, serving, and cleaning up food? Were you military or law enforcement, disciplined in security procedures? Are you a mechanic, welder, electrician, or carpenter, able to produce products from various components? Have you had medical training, be it as a doctor, paramedic, or CNA? Do you know how to hunt, farm, or fish? Everyone has skills – account for them as strengths.
Family. How many people do you have in your immediate household? Is there extended family you’re close to? Who do you care about enough to feel responsible for if SHTF? Do others you would take in have others they would want you to take in? While an unflattering term, this has been called the baggage list – the extended group you’re agreeing to include in your plans and everything that entails.
Community. What’s the general community around you like? Is your home nestled in a snug suburban neighborhood? Do you live on a sprawling rural spread surrounded by well-known families? Or are you in close quarters urban apartments? Has the neighborhood been seeing more crime recently or has there been an influx of out-of-staters? Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your community.
Geography. Is your part of the world prone to hurricanes or tornadoes? Are blizzards a threat? What about flooding? Do you live near a desert or in the forest? Close to mountains or backed up against the ocean? The landscape surrounding you will dictate many aspects of your plan.
Complete Profiles for Family as Well
Once you have a personal profile built, expand by adding profiles for the rest of your household as well as the others you listed when considering those outside your own home you would want to care for. Completing this information for the others on your list will bring to light information you might not otherwise consider: Will you need daycare, entertainment, or education for children? Are there medical or other conditions that require special attention? What hurdles will there be gathering the group together due to communication, distance, or terrain?
There’s also the issue of commitment: who wants to help with the plan, and who will show up when things go wrong? What can – and realistically what would, each additional person contribute? In what ways are each person able to contribute? How do you balance one person who’s broke but highly committed, and another who can spend plenty on their preps but is unwilling to work?
You can see how intricately intertwined these issues can quickly become. We’ll talk more about groups later, for now understand that you can’t do it alone, but the more people involved the higher the quotient for conflict. Group dynamics is a complex subject, and pointless until you have our own house in order.
Track Daily Life
Understanding what you do and what you use today will point the way in your planning for tomorrow. Jot down a list of the events and items done or used regularly. Keep it handy and update it throughout the day. There are obvious, practical things: you wake up, get dressed, drink water, eat food, and sleep. List these events, as well as the items they require. There are other regular habits and events you will want to take into account as well.
Coffee drinker? Having coffee beans properly stored with a hand crank grinder might be a welcome dose of normalcy in a stressful situation. If you’re a voracious reader, you might prioritize spare reading glasses and extra books instead. The electricity being off doesn’t stop laundry from needing to be done. Do you have a way to wash laundry off-grid?
A generator might be a first step, but “stacked” on top of that (or in place of that depending on your situation), you may have a washtub, detergent, hand agitator, and clothesline on your list. Entertainment, especially with children, means having board games, card games, coloring books and crayons on hand.
Food and water are the most important aspects of personal preparedness. Putting some thought into the meals you eat frequently enables you to stock up on food you actually want to eat. Food you are accustomed to eating. Good food inevitably makes a bad day a little better.
Imagine preparing a meal when a storm has caused a power outage, the roads are impassable, and the food in the fridge has gone bad. Would comfort food make that situation slightly more bearable? Sure, it might be fun for the family to dive into that freeze-dried food storage for novelty’s sake, but what about day 2 or 3? There is something to be said for normalcy, which is why our mind’s tend toward normalcy bias in the first place.
This counts for water, too. Track your use of it. How much do you drink in a day? How much water do you use to cook your meals? How many showers does your family take? You need to get your head wrapped around personal consumption to assess your true water needs. Yes, you may not need to shower every day in a collapse situation, but you can account for that once you have established baseline, and that involves tracking what you use.
When it comes time to start buying supplies, it will be invaluable to have a list of items you use frequently and the quantity.
Step 2 – Develop a Threat Assessment
Developing a threat assessment takes into account your history, community, geography, current events, and bit of event forecasting. Many of us share a foreboding about our near future, including anything from raging seasonal storms to outright civil war. Even the ultra-rich feel it. That’s why they’re buying compounds in New Zealand. Account for the many different SHTF scenarios you could face.
A logical assessment of the likelihood these threats are to materialize will focus your efforts. Having a clear vision regarding the credible threats you actually face will define goals and prioritize purchases. Unless you’re made of money, efficiency goes a long way when preparing for a bad day. As you face decisions on where to leverage your efforts and funds, a well-thought-out threat assessment will sharpen your focus.
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. By the end of it you should have a sizable list.
Remember your personal profile. Take into consideration the unique area in which you live. Living in Maine, a Nor’Easter blizzard could easily cut power for weeks (it’s happened before). However, if you live in Nevada, drought might be a bigger concern. If you live in California, it might be wildfires or earthquakes. Those are just a few natural disasters, however. Other events could have more severe consequences.
Download my SHTF Plan Example Spreadsheet if you find it useful for following along.
Without any intention to sway or influence your catastrophe catalog, here’s a screenshot of the list I made:
Group by probability. Once your brain has hit a wall and your list is complete, take everything you wrote down and group the threats by likelihood into three categories:
- Level I – Most probable
- Level II – Somewhat probable
- Level III – Least probable
Use your judgment as you determine which threats rate higher than others. It’s easy to imagine a power outage or job loss happening, but harder to envision a super volcano eruption. Historically, a burglary or short-term natural disaster is more probable than full economic collapse, and a nuclear war is less probable than a terrorist attack.
Remember, this is a threat assessment for your situation. Do not look at global probabilities of a war if you don’t think it’s coming to your area of the world. For me, living in rural Maine, I’m not too worried about a tornado. Snowstorms that cause power outages happen multiple times a year, however.
No one can dictate what concerns should weigh heaviest for you, however, or how apprehensive to be about specific events. Move items up and down until the list feels right to you. You can always adjust it later; in fact, you should as time goes on and circumstances change.
Consider scope versus probability. You likely found an inverse correlation between event size and probability. As the size of the threat increases its probability falls. The worst things are also the least likely.
The good thing is that the more likely events – due to their limited scope – require fewer necessities to weather safely and in relative comfort. 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?
Those supplies will take up a lot more space – and money – than what you’ll list for a bad winter storm. However, most of those winter storm supplies would also serve you during a different crisis. And with the Stacking Principle, once fully prepped for a winter storm, you can begin to prepare for an event that is less likely but more deadly.
We still need to get to the Stacking Principle, but first let’s discuss those supplies.
Step 3 – Make a Supplies List
Now it’s time to start thinking about what it is you need to survive the events in each threat level. Knowing what you and your family’s situation is and the threats you face, you’re positioned to identify gaps in readiness.
Starting with the most likely events on your list, what you would need to get through them? Job loss or a short-term natural disaster would require what – food and water? Cash on hand? Security? First aid? Hand tools?
If you get stuck, go back to the list of things you use every day. If a storm prevented you from getting to the store and buying supplies, what would you miss the most? Those items used most frequently represent a good place to start a shopping list.
Break these items into separate lists by category:
- Water: Purification and Storage
- Food: Storage, Preparation, and (possibly) Production
Move up the list of threats, adding additional items you would need to assist you and your family. This is more brainstorming, adding preps to your list as they cross your mind, stacking them on top of one another, and thus building your overall level of preparedness.
Levels of Preparedness
Another way of looking at threat levels is by time to recovery. By that I mean, how long will it take to return to normal? I look at the different levels this way:
- Level I: the ability to live on your own for 1 month.
- Level II: the ability to live on your own for 3 months.
- Level III: the ability to live on your own for 12 months.
Anything beyond that and you are looking at a higher level of personal preparedness that few achieve or even aim to achieve. That is just fine as the ability to live without outside help for a full year will almost guarantee your survival under almost any situation.
Level I Prep List
Level I threats are the most common, and thus most likely. Good news – they also require the least amount of supplies. This is the perfect place to start because it makes the most logical sense, is the most economical, and creates a sense of accomplishment. Even if you only get Level One threats covered you will still be lightyears ahead of most people.
Start listing what supplies and skills you need. Work through each of the categories I just listed.
- Security may not be an immediate concern in the aftermath of many short-term emergencies, but it’s not a stretch to imagine situations where your immediate survival requires the ability to defend yourself, your family, and the supplies you’ve worked hard to acquire. Are you ready for that?
- Shelter may only mean a tarp and rope to cover a damaged roof at Level 1. However, a more purpose-driven survival tarp might be needed at Level 2.
- Having the most basic water purification methods more than doubles your chances of long-term survival in the worst circumstances.
- Five-gallon buckets are extraordinary practical for storing water and many other necessities.
- Most American families have less than three days’ worth of food on hand at any time. Building a prepper’s pantry would sustain you until roads are passable and stores are open – and stocked.
- Having food requires the ability to prepare it, so have can openers, heating options, and stored spices on hand as well.
- The most essential gear may be a solid trauma kit to keep you alive when the worst has happened and you’re injured. Paramedics are minutes away when seconds count. Do you have what it takes to save your own life or those of your friends and family?
- When the sun sets, your ability to function is decimated unless you have artificial illumination or the ability to start and maintain a fire. Flashlights, lighters, waterproof matches and fire starters will be critical.
- The ability to start a fire is pointless without a decent saw or axe to prepare wood to feed the flames. Do you have the tools you would need?
- Soap and hand sanitizer fight germs and prevent many illnesses and disease.
- A change of clothing, especially sturdy and/or warm clothing can make all the difference.
The screenshot below I created as a random example of how a well-designed SHTF plan should begin to take shape. These are ideas needed to address each category on a Level I threat. Separate tabs are created for Level II and Level III.
In the example above, I struck through anything that was already accomplished. You can, of course, delete anything you accomplish, but striking it through may help you see how far you’re coming along and that builds a sense of accomplishment. You can color code different cells, add hyperlinks to stores or articles, whatever. This is your list. Customize it.
3-Day Emergency Kit
A 3-day kit is also known as a “bug out bag.” This is a kit that will help you to evacuate and survive should you be forced to for a period of roughly 3 days. This is a short-term kit that will sustain you long enough to find shelter or travel to a pre-planned safe location.
You may plan to stay home and shelter in place, but the ability to go mobile at a moment’s notice is a critical Plan B, so the kit is built around a backpack on the premise that bugging out may involve going on foot. Starting with whatever bag you have is fine, however you’ll want to ensure it’s good quality and you may eventually want to step up to a designated bug out backpack.
Do you have a first-aid kit with Band-Aids, Neosporin, an ace wrap, Benadryl, and an ice pack? Every household needs a basic first aid kit. Add a tourniquet, pressure dressing, and chest-seal to build a basic trauma kit. With enough basic medical supplies, you’ll be ready to handle most simple emergencies.
Augment the jack and jumper cables in your vehicle with a flashlight, wool blanket, small toolkit, and a fire-extinguisher. You’ve started a vehicle kit.
Take what you already have on hand and supplement it with a few key items to round out your initial kit. You are now “stacking” on top of what you already have, adding layers of personal preparedness. It’s easier than you might think!
Whether you add items you already have, or are purchasing everything new, be certain that everything works properly and that you know how to use it. Open your gear, read the instructions, and try out every item. Opening your new portable water filter only when you actually need it could mean learning a part is missing. Know how to use all your gear and inspect your gear bags every 6 months.
A simple inventory sheet clarifies what you have, and what items are still needed to round out your list. Tracking expiration dates is easier with a proper inventory sheet. You just cross out dates as you use a product, add dates as you add items. Make sure you are rotating perishables using the oldest first.
Level II Prep List
Level II threats are bigger than the everyday worries of Level 1, thus the effects last longer and require more planning and supplies to survive. You are now moving beyond a one-month level of preparedness to something that will keep you and your loved ones safe for up to 3 months. This is a big jump and will increase the odds of your surviving any event!
You will want redundancy in the essentials from Level 1, following the “two is one and none is one” method of prepping. Expect failure. Additional resources improve the reliability of your preps. If one tool fails, you have a backup. Again, this is “stacking.”
Revisit your threat assessment and make any required updates. Compare that threat list against your supply list by category. Work through each category and itemize everything needed. As the perceived threat becomes more severe, the supply list grows. Patience and consistency pay off when you start looking at the amounts and scope of items needed.
Level III Prep List
Any crisis with effects lasting longer than 3 months will fall into Level 3. Level 3 represents a serious level of preparedness that only a small fraction of preppers ever achieves or even hopes to achieve! There are reasons for this.
Prepping of this nature means preparing for far less likely tragedies, but they are tragedies that – if they happened – would be far more severe. At Level 3 you are most likely preparing for an EMP, World War III on home soil, or some other long-term TEOTWAWKI event.
Should a major event of this nature occur, you would need a much larger cushion of essential supplies, and more than a few additional items that haven’t made it onto previous lists. This means larger quantities of what you already have stored, and new items that have been on the list to buy ‘one day.’ Level 3 preparedness would likely mean a more significant change in your daily life. You could find yourself now maintaining a larger garden, saving seeds, buying more freeze-dried foods, etc.
Prioritize. Once again, compare your threat list to your inventory list and evaluate which purchases will yield the greatest benefit. Prioritize them over other purchases, regardless of how sexy those may be. Building a fallout shelter and buying night-vision gear may end up being “stacked” on top of hand crank radios, knives, shovels, and firearms.
Day-to-day functionality means the basic tools are more important. There’s significant decision making to be done when organizing the shopping list. A solid SHTF plan gives perspective into your more immediate needs versus wants.
Plan for resilience. Long-term, worst-case scenarios inevitably include widespread shortages. If retail establishments manage to stay open, their inventory will be sparse at best. Tools and parts become precious as the work you can perform and equipment you can repair is more valuable than gold.
How long will your solar array function, and can you overhaul it when its capabilities degrade? Has your fuel storage been adequately stabilized so your machinery continues to run? Rechargeable batteries wear out, and much more quickly if not properly cycled. Will your flashlights be working in a year?
Step 4 – Make a Skills List
Repeat Step 3 with a focus not on products but on skills. Buying a water purifier is as easy as clicking a few buttons online. Learning how to collect water in the wild, that’s something quite different. You might have an all-weather lighter, but do you actually know how to scavenge wood in the rain and start a fire to cook dinner?
Every bit as necessary as the materials you purchase are the skills you learn. Purchasing, inventorying, and stacking goods in your larder, clinic, and other essential blocks requires discipline. Learning and practicing skills demand the same. If you did a crash course in ham radio and now have your Technician License, study for the General License.
Knowledge is power.
People that have more money than time will fine this step the hardest. In fact, it’s hard for almost everyone. Learning a new skill is not difficult unto itself. Making the time and actually sitting down to learn it is easier said than done. Life’s everyday priorities get in the way. You need to go buy groceries, you worked late, the kids need to get to soccer practice. Who has spare time for prepping!?
Make prepping activities fun. That’s my advice. I can keep prepper skills sharp, and pass them on to others, by going hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. I can get fresh air and eat fresh, organic vegetables by teaching myself how to garden. Whenever possible, include family and friends.
Your skills list should coincide with your priority list and threat levels. The most common threats can be overcome with the simplest skills. More advanced threats require more training. Everyone should learn CPR and basic first aid to cover threat Level 1. Becoming a Wilderness First Responder might be what you want at Level 2. Level 3 might mean becoming an EMT. These are just examples. You get the idea – skills stack, too!
Step 5 – Implement a Stacking Principle
You probably understand the idea of stacking now. Building a fortification begins with blueprints. Materials are collected, and construction begins with a foundation. Block is laid row by row, each level resting confidently on the solid block layer below.
Practical prepping utilizes this building block approach: Build each segment of preparedness evenly to maintain balance. Add some water, then food, then medical supplies, then security, then communications. Then add more water, more food, and so on. Once you have your initial kit put together, take the categorized list of supplies you created and determine the next task you want to accomplish in each section.
Again, practical prepping will save you money as you focus on covering essentials first, then building depth evenly across all categories and threat levels. You can only accomplish further goals if you’re wise with your initial investments and follow the plan you carefully crafted.
Level I Example: Water
The basics. A practical prepper understands that water is critical to survival. You purchase a bottle of water purification tablets. You stick them in a backpack with an old, beat-up military surplus canteen and toss it in the bug out bag you’re building. You have just improved your odds of survival.
Consistency and redundancy. After addressing other areas of concern, you turn your attention back to water. Those tablets will be perfect in the right situation, but they will not (practically) carry you and your family through a month’s worth of water needs. So, you “stack” on top of that with a basic portable water filter.
In order to make the best choice you do some research and order a portable hiking filter. When your order arrives, you put the new gear in your pack, and move the water purification tabs and canteen to one of your vehicles. You’ve multiplied your resources and increased your ability to safely supply water for yourself and your loved ones.
Adding depth. You stack additional supplies in your other categories and come back to water, now focusing on your home. Maybe you lack the space needed for serious amounts of water storage, but have enough room to add a mid-sized water storage container, etc. until you have met what you calculated as your family’s H2O needs to get through a month without outside assistance.
Level II Example: Water
It’s been a year since you implemented your SHTF plan, and you celebrate by ordering a 6-gallon Crown Berkey Water Filter, a dozen black filters, and a half dozen fluoride filters. Your home and vehicles are now outfitted with layers of water purification and storage options. You feel confident that between your various stacked measure you can keep your family successfully hydrated for up to 3 months.
Level III Example: Water
After making more passes through the different preparedness needs, you reevaluate your threat assessment and decide to bump water back up the priority list and commit some time and money. You don’t only want to drink water, you want the ability to clean clothes, dishes, and your body – as well as water the garden.
A little studying shows you how to install rain barrels under each gutter. You ensure the system will guard against mosquitoes laying eggs in the stagnant water and build the means to both use the water for irrigating your garden and filter it for personal use.
Your prior water preps focused first on purification and storage. Now that you have those areas secured you can focus on collection. The rain barrels will help. You may also decide to hand drill a well. Whatever you decide, your focus is now on surviving events over a longer period of time – up to 12 months!
Example of Stacking Skills: Gardening
As stated before, prepping is not just the accumulation of things. Here is an example how gardening skills can stack over time.
Learning through trial and error. Growing up in the suburbs, you weren’t exposed to a lot of gardening, but you want to learn. While you’re at the big box hardware store you snag small basil and rosemary plants, and two tomato plants. The herbs you start indoors, and the tomato plants sit on the porch in large planters.
You overwater the herbs, resulting in a fungal infection and they die quickly. The tomatoes do great though, and deliver a delicious, fresh crop all summer. As the summer ends however, a sudden plague of pests descends and devours your precious fruit on the vine, cutting your harvest short.
Staying consistent. Through the fall you watch YouTube videos by The Gardening Channel with James Prigioni, Self Sufficient Me, and Huw Richards. You look up the local gardening Cooperative Extension Office and research which varieties will grow best in your specific climate.
Being realistic. You manage to curb your enthusiasm and reign in the impulse to attempt a large plot. Instead, two 4’x10’ raised beds accompany an 8’x10’ ground plot. You also plant a few flowers around the edge of the garden bed to attract bees. A beehive will wait for next year.
For now, you try to replicate your success with the tomatoes, and have an organic insecticidal soap on hand should the pests reappear. On a whim you build a potato tower and alternate layers of straw, dirt, a few seed potatoes, more dirt and more straw. A hearty variety of apple tree is planted with a mind towards more fruit trees and a grape vine and trellis for it to grow on.
Learning lessons. After a strong start, work and home life get busy and you don’t stay consistent with weeding. A few plants get smothered with weeds and die; others thrive despite the competition. The raised beds do better as they’re easier to weed, and less prone to lawn creep.
Late summer you take another swing, weeding the garden, cleaning out the dead plants into a compost pile, and plant a fall crop in the open space you create. You add a few potato towers for the fall since the summer tower yielded a strong harvest.
Next year you’re going to plan better for succession crops, adding new plants as older ones stop producing. You’ll also take better notes on which seeds and plants do better than others, what issues you face with pests and disease, and the weather. You also jot a few notes on sprinkler system ideas for next year.
Advancing. As the weather cools, you start researching indoor UV grow lights to let you start your seeds earlier and look into hoop houses and maybe even a greenhouse to give you a jump on the spring planting. It will take a while until your garden produces enough to sustain your food needs, but the ability to supplement your grocery shopping offers options and satisfaction.
For now, it’s been a successful year, and the family has enjoyed the fresh vegetables, health benefits, and the satisfaction of knowing you can bring food from the earth.
Step 6 – Develop a Survival Strategy for Each Event
More important than a full stockroom are the steps you take after a crisis strikes. Now that you have a picture of your personal situation, the threats you face, the gear you need to buy, and the skills you have to learn, you’re in a position to begin looking at the steps you’ll take to assure survival in a disaster.
The first question most people will ask themselves when debating a particular threat is should I bug in or bug out? The answer is always going to be “it depends.” It depends on the location of the event, the severity of the event, and how it is developing. The only clear answer comes in retrospect.
These are some of the kinds of questions you’ll have to ask to yourself:
- Should you bug out, and if so, under what circumstances. Do you even have a place to go?
- Will you take in your sister-in-law and her family if they need help? What are your expectations of them if you do?
- Does everyone know where to meet up if cellphones go down? What if someone doesn’t arrive? Is there a backup location?
- Do kids know what to do if they hear a window break in the middle of the night?
Meet with Your Group
Make sure everyone knows the designated assembly spots in each situation. Consider a neighbor’s covered porch if your own home isn’t an option but give them a heads-up you’ll be coming – don’t startle the neighbors if you can avoid it!
Favorite restaurants or nearby religious buildings are solid rally point options even if they’re closed. When deciding on places out of town to gather, identify landmarks or buildings common to every city. If communications fail, does everyone know to reunite at the First Baptist Church of whatever city you bug out to?
Plan for contingencies. Consider that situations are often dynamic. Step one might simply be to meet in the basement of your house if anything goes wrong. Partway home the situation takes a turn, and you end up an hour from the house as emergency personnel block streets and detour traffic. Do you have a Plan B?
There needs to be enough flexibility built into the plan to adapt to the inevitable changes. A concrete foundation is imperative, however significant adaptability makes for a stronger overall plan.
Develop initial steps. After meeting plans are set, define necessary tasks for each contingency. If a major storm hits, would the first-person home know what to do? Should your oldest child be home alone when a crisis hit, would the plan direct them to fill the tub and sinks with water first or close all the windows, blinds, and curtains? Would your spouse know what to pack first if it came time to bug out? Does the plan detail which events would force you to abandon your home?
Written Strategy Example
Depending on your family situation, it may make sense to put your plan down in writing and sorted in a three-ring binder. A basic survival strategy might look like this:
- Meet in the basement of the house.
- Locate appropriate binder in third drawer of file cabinet, pull binder, follow steps as outlined to the best of your ability and understanding.
- PRIMARY: Secure yourself and the residence as outlined in Security Binder A, page 1
- SECONDARY: Secure water sources as outlined in Water Binder A, page 1
- THIRD: Contact all family members immediately as outlined in Communications Binder A, page 1
- Acquire a means to defend yourself.
- Firearms are located in the following locations:
- Magazines, and ammunition are in the basement safe
- Combination 12, 0, 17
- Magazines, and ammunition are in the basement safe
- Additional ammunition in basement safe room to right of stairs, on shelves to left of door, in cans marked by caliber
- Firearms are located in the following locations:
- Fill all sinks with cold water.
- Locate Water Bob x2 in safe room on shelves to left of door, far right shelving unit, front right corner, above toilet paper.
- Place in both bathtubs
- Fill with cold water
- Locate Big Berkey water filter in safe room, on shelves to left of door, far right shelving unit, far left corner, above toilet paper.
- Place on kitchen counter
- Insure 3x filters installed
- Fill with cold water
- Send text message “The Bills are All Due Today” to following phones numbers:
- (123) 456-7890
- (234) 567-8901
- (345) 678-9012
- (456) 789-0123
- (567) 890-1234
- Turn on Baofeng radio, mounted to wall on right of doorway inside safe room:
- Ensure Frequency tuned to 520.980
- Monitor frequency on the hour and every 20-minute interval: 20 past, 40 past
Your first draft may only have 5 pages in a single binder, and that’s great – you have a plan and it’s written down. If you have a plan in place, no matter how primitive, you’ve already done well!
Step 7 – Match Finances to Your Plan
Finances are among the top reasons people quit prepping. Start with getting a handle on your finances. This is not intended as financial advice, only considerations to enable extended endeavors.
Unless you’re independently wealthy, a large portion of your SHTF plan will revolve around what to get when and which skills to develop in what order. This is easier when you’re not stressing about finances. If you have a significant other, you discuss this together and come to an agreement on a household budget.
Track your spending. You must know where your money is going to make wise decisions about prepper purchases. Keep receipts for cash purchases for one month. At the end of the month, group your spending into categories such as food, utilities, transportation, entertainment, etc.
Do some forecasting. Now that you can see where your funds are going, it’s decision time. Create a budget and forecast where you want discretionary money to go. If you want to spend money on projects and supplies, you’ll need adequate finances. This means making more money or spending less on other items or events.
Is your family’s safety worth a few hours overtime? A part time job? Fewer meals out? Spending less on a vacation? Wise decisions include the opinions of those who you respect and care about. The answers will differ for everyone.
Pay down debt. If you have debt, you have less options. Your instinct may be to take out another loan or spend more on a credit card. Do the exact opposite. Rather than taking on more debt, pay debt off. Once more of your money is available, you’ll have more options, and options are strength.
Next Steps and Strategies
If you took all the steps I outlined above, you now have a practical SHTF plan. Congratulations!
You’re not magically out of the woods yet, however. In fact, if you keep stacking preps and skills, you’ll never be out of the woods. This is okay. Remember, I said practical prepping is a lifestyle. Following are some ways to stay on the path to personal preparedness.
Execute your plan. Now that you have a direction of travel, take the first step. Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. There will never be a perfect situation to make the changes you have outlined. Carve out the time and money now and do what needs to be done. If you only do one thing to improve your situation, you have invested wisely.
Consistency is king. Buy two Mountain House long term storage meals every single payday and toss them in a tote. When you can afford to do more, pick up a third pouch or even order a case, but set a goal for steady purchases. Over the course of time, you’ll lay back a healthy larder of tasty meals.
Stay sharp. More important than your deep larder or arsenal are skills; the know-how and abilities you have. These need to be practiced and improved. Read books, blogs, and magazines. Watch prepper movies, shows, and videos. If it’s been a while since last First-Aid or CPR class, get re-certified. Take your gear out of the bag and review its functions and features.
Review your plan regularly. This isn’t a ‘one and done’ exercise, but a plan you have to visit and revise often. Keep the plan current as instability and unrest rises and subsides, as your life situation changes. Reviewing your threat assessment, budget, and plan regularly ensures relevance, balance, and continuity.
Update your inventory often. Know what you have, where it is, when it expires, and check batteries. Don’t rest on previous purchases that have been lost, spoiled, or gone dead. Maintain what you have as you add to it.
You won’t be able to make smart decisions on what to do next if you are unclear where you stand now.
Make prepping fun. Go camping and practice your skills and try out the new techniques you’ve learned. Start a fire, purify water, use a map and compass when you go hiking. Even reluctant family members will enjoy a day trip and learn skills if you start small and stay consistent.
Don’t get burned out. Trust me, it’s easy to get burned out if you go too much too fast. It happened to me early on. I had to take a break from prepping.
Keep the big picture clear in the forefront of your mind. You’re building a safety net for yourself and the ones you care about most. This will take time to complete, so plan for the long hall. Following a well thought out plan prevents burnout, paralysis, and panic. Regular steps toward a realistic goal will achieve long term success. There is no end to learning skills, practicing techniques, or filling gaps and adding depth to essential supplies – take the time to set a reasonable pace.
With a plan and consistency, you can be ready to face any concern. Good luck!