Are you prepared for a disaster? Many people aren’t, and that can lead to serious problems if an emergency or crisis hits.
If you have ever seen footage of the aftermath of a major disaster or just a small-scale emergency you’ve probably noticed that masses of people are just standing around, sort of staring into the middle distance in shock.
This is perhaps an understandable reaction to something that is so sudden and seemingly unexplainable that it takes away the ability of a person to reason or act, but more likely it is because the poor victims and bystanders had never truly considered that such a thing could happen at all, much less happened to them or to someone known to them.
That’s why it’s important to have a survival plan in place. It is only by diligent and realistic planning that we can avoid being one of these victims.
In this guide, we will walk you through the steps of creating short-term or long-term survival plans. This information is essential for anyone who wants to be prepared for bad days.
Table of Contents
Planning is Fundamental to Survival
One of the most important things you can do when it comes to survival is to plan ahead. As the saying says if you fail to plan you plan to fail.
As some in the comments are no doubt already furiously typing out, life has a funny way of ensuring that your plans won’t survive contact with whatever disaster or emergency is heading your way.
That part might be true, but there’s an equally funny thing about people who put in the time and effort to plan in the first place.
When the event occurs and turns life upside down, they have a way of picking up the pieces of that plan and putting them back together in a new shape that will help them get themselves and their loved ones out of harm’s way.
For this reason, you might say that even though your plan may in the end prove useless the planning itself is indispensable.
This means creating short-term plans for dealing with emergencies and localized incidents, and long-term plans for dealing with major disasters and society toppling events. Both will help you deal with crises big and small!
The key is to be as prepared as possible, within reason, so that you know exactly what to do when something happens.
Short-Term Survival Planning
Your short-term survival plan should include everything you need to do in the event of an emergency.
It should be tailored to your specific needs and should take into account your location, climate and other factors.
Short-term survival plans fall into the category of immediate action, where dealing with breaking emergencies and surviving the aftermath of more significant events for a short period of time, anywhere from 3 days to one week.
Short-term survival planning is usually the first stop on the road to greater personal readiness because it is comparatively simple and usually proves more than adequate for handling the vast majority of events that might befall a person.
Short-term survival planning is what you will rely on whenever the situation is not so bad that you could expect things to get back to normal within about 1 week.
Here are some things to consider when creating your short-term survival plan:
Generally not a major factor for emergencies close to home, but if you are in any environment where you do not have a shelter you might be at risk of exposure.
Outdoor emergencies usually entail creating a shelter from natural materials or carried supplies like a tarp, tent, bivy, or vehicle.
Food and Water
Most emergencies will not last long enough where food or water will be a pressing survival consideration, but any emergency that sees you trapped, stranded or otherwise removed from civilization may prove otherwise.
If you are stranded in a remote part of the wilderness after a vehicle breakdown or after getting lost, you’ll need emergency rations and water enough to last you until you are rescued or able to self-rescue. A 3-day Supply is usually adequate.
A 3-day supply of general-purpose survival gear is usually adequate for negotiating most emergencies. A well-equipped first aid kit is usually foremost among these supplies, but you should also have provisions for spare clothing, navigational aids, and more.
How will you communicate with loved ones in the event you are affected by an emergency?
What is your plan for reaching loved ones in the event that they do not check-in or you are unable to reach them?
This might be something as simple as an alternate contact at their workplace or circle of friends, or something like a handheld radio.
Long-Term Survival Planning
Your long-term survival plan should outline how you will survive in the event of a major disaster or emergency, and particularly how you will sustain yourself in the aftermath when all of the systems and functions of society that you have come to rely on for life support are either significantly degraded or absent entirely.
long-term survival planning assumes that you will no longer be able to run down to the grocery store in order to get food or medicine, that electricity will be sporadic if you have it at all for months on end, and even utilities like household water will be offline or badly contaminated.
Sustainment is the name of the game and should include everything from food and water supplies to substantial shelter and redundant communication plans.
Here are some things to consider when creating your long-term survival plan:
Do you have a safe place to go if a disaster hits and badly damages or destroys your town? If not, you may need to find one. Consider moving to an area that is less likely to be affected by disasters.
What will you do if your home is destroyed or becomes uninhabitable? Do you know of anywhere you can reasonably expect to be taken in? You must be able to provide shelter immediately for yourself and your loved ones in the aftermath of a major disaster.
Food and Water
You’ll need enough stored food to provide about 2,000 calories a day per adult for the duration of the event. Being able to grow or source your own food should be considered mandatory.
Do you have enough water stored up for long-term hydration, washing and cooking concerns?
Do you have a way to filter or treat scavenged or natural water supplies? You’ll need to have a plan for both of these things if you find yourself in a long-term survival situation.
There will be significantly more emphasis on being well equipped in a long-term survival situation compared to a short-term one.
You’ll need an abundance of tools, additional clothing, luggage and more that will allow you to take care of the tasks required to survive and continue providing the survival necessities for you and your loved ones.
Major disasters that entail long-term survival situations will usually permanently offline many common methods of communication, including the internet and cell phones.
Smart survivors will have immediate access to handheld or fixed radios that will allow them to communicate with others over a significant distance.
A comprehensive family communications plan is essential for rallying your family and the event you are separated at the onset of the disaster.
Now that you understand what is required for short and long-term survival, it is time to start nailing down the specific threats and vulnerabilities that might imperil you and yours.
Identifying Risk Factors
Survival planning is mostly a matter of accurately and dispassionately examining your circumstances for all the things that might hurt you or go wrong, things that might lead to a bad outcome.
This includes things like environmental threats where you live (climate, temperature, weather events, etc.) social factors (crime, unrest) and entirely personal ones (age, health, fitness, activity, job, hobbies) and incidental factors (special cases).
This is not a fun process, but it is essential if you want to be as prepared as possible. And remember, you can’t prepare for absolutely everything!
But by taking an honest look at your life and what could go wrong and what could happen to you, you’ll be in a much better position to face whatever comes your way.
Answer the following questions to establish the foundational threats you’ll be preparing for:
1. What natural disasters are most common in my area? How do you stay safe against them, avoid them or mitigate their effects?
Pretty much every place on Earth has its own set of natural disasters it can be expected to occur regularly, if not often. For instance, coastal areas constantly suffer from hurricanes.
The northern reaches experience paralyzing blizzards. The Midwest and Southwest of North America are regularly hammered by tornadoes. Maybe you just live smack in the middle of a major floodplain.
Whatever the case, you must assess these big-ticket weather events, understand their effects, when they are most likely to occur and how best to protect yourself and your family from them.
2. If I didn’t have heat or AC, or didn’t have shelter, what threats would the local climate pose? How can I defend against the loss of habitation?
Severe weather is only one way that Mother Nature can kill you. Simple exposure is the other, and far more likely, way.
Extreme heat can result in heat exhaustion and subsequently heat stroke, making putting in any strenuous work in the middle of the day a dicey proposition. A far greater concern is its cold temperatures, particularly in a wet environment.
Providing shelter is very high up on the list of survival priorities, and disasters and emergencies alike can put you and your loved ones at risk of exposure.
This will be a much bigger concern if you live in a place with an extreme climate, and less of a concern if you live in an idyllic, temperate place.
3. What is the crime rate like in my area? What are the most common crimes? Where do they take place? What does the typical victim look like?
Human on human violence is a sad and tragic but unavoidable part of our reality. Even worse is that this violence is far more common in some areas than others.
If you live in an urban area or near a conflict zone you’ll be far more vulnerable to direct injury or even death at the hands of other humans.
You want to know what the typical violent crimes are in your area, where they take place, what a victim typically looks like, and more, and only then will you be able to plan on avoiding these areas and minimizing your risk of being victimized.
4. Are there any major political action groups or resistance movements active in my area? When was the last riot or breakdown of law and order?
Organized and semi-organized groups of agitators are becoming an increasingly common issue in the America today.
Particularly where law enforcement is weak or the rule of law breaks down entirely, entire sectors of communities can be embroiled in flames and violence.
Ideally, you don’t even want to live in such a place, but assuming you have to you’ll want to know what groups are active and where they usually congregate.
Being prepared to survive mobs of violent people is mostly a matter of avoidance and, if required, evacuation before they reach your part of town.
You definitely don’t want to get surprised, so learn what you need to know early!
5. What are my biggest health concerns? What could go wrong if I were unable to get medical attention?
You are far more likely to be waylaid by personal health concerns than any disaster or emergency.
If you are stricken by disease or the effects of a long-term ailment, do you have a plan and the means for getting treatment?
If it is a persistent injury or ailment, how will you deal with it in the context of an event where society has broken down?
If you require ongoing medication, have you made provision for stockpiling your medicine in case of emergency?
If you or a family member requires special treatment, and that treatment is unavailable, what are the consequences and how will you mitigate them?
6. Am I fit and able to take care of myself for an extended period of time? If not, what are my fitness concerns and how do I address them?
The importance of fitness cannot be overestimated in the context of an emergency or disaster.
People who are fit are generally more durable and more reliable in a crisis situation, and stand a better chance of weathering whatever is happening.
If you are particularly fit, you’ll be able to do more with a higher probability of success than someone is not, and most especially in a time is life scenario.
If you are badly out of shape, understand that this will have consequences of its own.
7. Do I live in a remote area or a city center? What would be the consequences of being stranded away from home or civilization?
If you live in a major metropolitan area, you’ll generally have people nearby at pretty much all times of night and day.
This might prove beneficial during many emergencies, but conversely could be problematic during major disasters when supplies and relief efforts are stretched very thin.
On the other hand, living or traveling in remote areas means you won’t have nearly as much to worry about from people who might be hostile, but if no one knows where you are or how to get to you, getting stranded or injured in and out of the way place could be a death sentence.
8. Do I have any hobbies or regular activities that could put me in danger if there was no one to help me?
It is worth considering your lifestyle in total when conducting survival planning.
A person who is a homebody with low impact, low-risk hobbies, and a mundane office job will not endure the same set of risk factors as a firefighting smokejumper that enjoys rock climbing with no safety rope on the weekends.
This is not to cast any aspersions on your hobbies or lifestyle, but it is worth mentioning because these activities should be planned for and planned around just like any disaster or other event that might befall you.
9. Are there any nearby industries, installations, or organizations that could be a threat? Nuclear power plant? Chemical refinery? Major dam?
Lastly, consider any special or endemic threats that might be of particular concern to you in your town or region.
Nuclear power plants can suffer accidents that could scatter deadly radioactive material across a wide area.
Chemical refineries and other industrial processing installations can suffer accidents of their own that could spill hazardous chemicals into the air or water supply.
Even something like a major dam braking could result in a catastrophe for communities downstream.
Take the time to think through the specific features of your town and your region to better prepare for these types of events.
Bugging out is simply a self-starting evacuation, as it’s defined plainly. It implies you intend to leave your home or shelter location and usually go to one of several pre-determined backup sites.
This is all done in reaction to a danger of some sort, whether it’s emerging or current. Depending on the situation, you may choose to bug out by foot, in a vehicle of some sort, or both.
Some preppers believe that “bugging out” is a distinct form of departure, one in response to a scenario or danger where you would never return home, but I think this perspective is overly restricted.
There are plenty of events that can reasonably be expected to conclude and enable you to return home, yet they are bad enough and hazardous enough that you will want to get the hell out of their path!
Bug-outs can be relatively short-term escapes- perhaps a long weekend to a week, until the danger has passed- or much longer in duration, maybe as long as several months or more.
Some preppers like to define a bug-out as a definitively limited-time event, something that is done temporarily, whereas the kind of bug-out where you walk away with no thought of return is something else entirely.
Regardless of length, any time you decide to grab your supplies and head for safer places, you’re “bugging out”.
If you are bugging out, you’ll need a BOB!
What is a BOB? Taking the items you’ll need for the basic sustainment of life with you while you hit the road is another fundamental aspect of bugging out.
To do this, you’ll utilize the one piece of kit that all preppers love: the bug-out bag, otherwise known by the aforementioned name BOB. Get used to BOB, you’ll be seeing him around a lot!
BOB’s are defined as being designed for use during and packed in advance preparation for a bug-out scenario.
BOB’s should always be kept ready to go at a moment’s notice with everything you may need or believe you’ll need in order to get to your destination.
Don’t leave your BOB half-packed, pilfered or, even worse, empty in the hopes of having time to “purpose pack” it when you need to leave.
Chances are you won’t have that much time, and even if you do you don’t want to waste it packing!
Always keep your BOB loaded, checked, and set in a location where you have planned to retrieve it when needed and make sure this area is clear and accessible so you aren’t rushing around or digging frantically while the world is going to pieces around you.
Treat your BOB like the piece of emergency equipment it is and not a sort of survival junk drawer or convenient toolbox. Don’t rummage through it for a needed item just because it is convenient.
However, given that your BOB is undoubtedly filled with things that have a shelf life- foods, medicines, water, water treatment chems, etc.- it will require regular rotation so that you don’t wind up depending on items that are spoiled or have lost potency.
You should establish alerts and maintain a timetable for checking on or replacing anything that may or could expire so you aren’t put in a jam with old food, useless medicines and the like!
Bugging in is, as you might expect, the exact opposite of bugging out. Instead of trying to run away from a bad situation or perceived danger, you will settle in where you are to maximize what advantages you have while minimizing variables.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of bugging in, it will be beneficial to draw a line under things so that we may compare and contrast why someone would want to bug in rather than bug out.
It’s the critical context that is frequently neglected while talks about personal preparedness and disaster response take place.
Simply put, your initial crisis response should be to bug in rather than bug out under most circumstances.
How can I say that when so much prepping literature and how-to guides emphasize on getting well away from danger by hitting the road?
In my opinion, bugging out is a case of missing the forest for the trees.
Bugging out should be a response of last resort or “no other option”, or rather it should be your first choice only if an incident is so horrible and catastrophic that you can see it coming and fully comprehend what it implies for your chances of survival, and those chances are no good at all!
When compared to bugging out, there are several distinct differences. Whatever you want to call it, homefield advantage or going with the known, it is almost always the better option, and much safer. We’ll look at a few examples below.
The first and most important advantage of bugging in is that it gives you a home-field advantage, which fleeing will seldom if ever, provide you.
Even when you’re running to an area with which you are familiar, you won’t have spent as much time there as you have at home in the city.
When things get serious, you will want to know the terrain, good or bad, and all of the factors attendant with being there.
Also, if you’ve planned ahead of time, using this method makes sustainment much easier.
When you bug out, you’ll be monitoring your water supply carefully and considering how to acquire more and then make it safe to drink at all times.
You’ll also be rationing your packaged, ready-to-eat food supply carefully. You won’t have to carry around a heavy but dwindling supply across half the nation if you bug in instead!
Bugging in makes security considerably easier and more straightforward. Even if your house or structure is damaged, you’ll have better and more defensible terrain to work with.
You’ll worry about exposure less, and only in the most desperate and deranged situations will criminals, even organized ones, be willing to take on a group of armed individuals in a defensible location.
Why do you think there are so many bad stories about good people getting taken out when they go into remote or isolated territory..?
We’ll talk much more about security in just a minute. Let’s stay on track for now.
Survival Supplies are an Integral Part of Planning
The amount of supplies you have on hand determines how long you can bug-in properly, as in stay put, safe and sound, without leaving your dwelling or shelter on any lengthy excursion.
And beyond the basic items like food and water, you’ll also need to make room and budget for medical supplies, housewares like trash bags, cleaners, and so on. Everything you need to genuinely go on living!
When it comes to food stores, you may determine your survival time by adding up how many total calories you have on hand and dividing that number by the minimal nutritional requirements of your family’s adults: you’ll need 2,000 to 2,300 calories each day for maximum energy.
Children require less, only 1,500 to 1,700 calories every day. If people are working hard or being pushed, all will need additional nourishment.
The resulting figure represents how long you can survive while providing for all nutritional needs.
It does not necessarily imply full stomachs, however. It’s doable in a pinch or as an abundance of precaution to extend this period by rationing.
Water, too, is essentially the same. The typical person requires at least a couple of liters of water each day for hydration and general cleanliness and sanitation.
But water is quite heavy and if kept on hand takes up a lot of room around your home.
If you don’t have access to a sustainable and renewable supply of water nearby, you should design a method to store substantial quantities of it, such as barrels or even just a bathtub basin bag.
In any case, a high-performance water filter is a mandatory component in a survival stash: it will let you purify water found or questionable water for safety.
You must also consider medications, especially prescription drugs that are needed for survival or just a decent quality of life.
You can’t assume you’ll be able to get your hands on these medicines after an incident occurs. If you scavenge and search for them, you may not be able to find them at all.
It is critical that you maintain a large reserve of any necessary prescription medicines on hand and rotate them as needed so that everyone in your group has a fresh, viable backup supply.
This ties in with my previous argument about the size of your family or group. A big number will devour a small or sparse supply rapidly.
One or two people sitting on a significant reserve can go for an extended period without resupplying.
Take into account additional factors, such as climate (hot environments will necessitate extra water consumption), anticipated workload (hard labor schedules may mean you need more food) and so forth.
Survival Skills are an Essential part of Your Planning
No matter what kind of survival plan you put together, the most important investment you can make is in yourself.
When seconds count in an emergency, help will be only minutes or hours away. In the aftermath of a major disaster, you might not be able to get help from anyone else anyway.
First responders will be spread thin or dealing with their own problems. Aid will likely flow into the area from outside the bounds of the event, but this will take a considerable amount of time.
One bit of advice that I always like to give people who are making survival plans is that they must become their own First responders.
This means being a sort of Jack of all trades capable of dealing with whatever problems occur.
You should know how to deal with minor injuries and serious ones. How to repair your home or your vehicle in order to either get meaningful shelter or keep yourself from becoming stranded.
You should be able to defend yourself with fists and feet and with firearms. You should know how to navigate, how to procure food and how to treat natural water sources in order to make them safe to drink.
You should know how to respond at a moment’s notice to everything from a tornado warning to an accidental fire.
Many of these skills are not difficult to learn, but you must put in the time and effort to learn and then practice them so that your skills will be sharp when you call on them.
Keep in mind that the life you save with these skills could be your own or someone you love.
Take it seriously and make sure you budget enough time and money to improve your survival skills.
Make sure you are physically fit, know how to handle yourself in a crisis, and have the skills to provide for your family’s needs.
The more prepared you are, the better chance you have of making it through any disaster unscathed.
If you fail to skill up, then it is likely that all the gear in the world is not going to make much difference in a crisis!
You Must Provide Security
It’s terrible to think about, but if there’s one thing you can predict in the aftermath of a calamity, it’s that your fellow man will become more criminal and predatory.
Depending on where you live and what happens, you may be dealing with limited or no conventional police protection at the local, state, and even federal levels.
The psychos, sadists, and scumbags who infest society’s underbelly will emerge in profusion as soon as they are confident there is a reduced likelihood of being arrested for their deeds.
Prepare to deal with them ahead of time because the longer things continue without any organized policing (or at least organized community protection) in place, the more likely you are to encounter bands of robbers looking to have a good time at your expense.
Clearly, not every location will be as safe as another. Your surveillance location might be in an undesirable position close to places of major interest to the criminal element, or it may just appear like a tempting target in a wealthy or isolated area of town.
If you have little ability to detect danger approaching and even less time to respond, you must be prepared to fend off attackers at a moment’s notice.
This is something that you must pay close attention to in order to arrive at the correct solution.
You could have a strong structure or surrounding terrain that makes it easy to defend the place where you are, but do you have the capable manpower to cover all approaches at all times?
Your chosen shelter may not be particularly strong, but it may have other advantages in being easy to flee from, enter, or depart discretely. Serious advantages when the chips are down!
Security is more or less going to be a major problem in the aftermath of a catastrophe depending on the sort of region where you reside and other demographic factors.
Those living in tight-knit small towns or rural communities will have less to worry about compared to those who dwell among countless strangers in a big and diverse city.
Note, too, that some severe natural disasters will generally mean that security concerns take a backseat to safety overall; if everyone is struggling to keep on living you might not see much trouble.
But if you are surviving through serious man-made problems like major civil unrest or prolonged rioting, watch out!
Plan to Survive, or Expect to Fail!
So there you have it – a basic guide to disaster preparedness.
Now that you know how to determine the threat, create a plan for a short or long-term situation, and how to properly assess the various risk factors attendant on the circumstances and with your lifestyle you’ll be able to put together insightful, useful survival plans without racking your brain.
Follow these tips and you’ll be ready for anything that comes your way!
Tom Marlowe grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, He has the experience in helping civilian shooters figure out what firearms work best for them.