Prepping

Levels of Preparedness

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When it comes to preparation, you will hardly find any two practitioners who are on the same level of readiness, or heck, even agree on what a given level looks like. Differences in methodology, values, perception and other things can mean that ready-ready looks very, very different to any given individuals.

One person’s Doomsday may be another’s pleasure cruise. Skill-building and material preparation are two vitally important facets, but often treated as differing doctrines.

What’s more, there is no real governing body of preparation to publish bonafide standards: aside from repeated and codified information put out by government agencies (FEMA first among them) and proffered by what survival and readiness instructors as maintain a media presence or published content, it is largely a catch-as-catch-can process.

In an effort to help organize and direct the efforts of prepper’s I am compiling a list in this article that broadly classifies the various evolutions of preparation one may ascend on their path of progression.

It is nothing too academic, and I do not hope nor intend to set the world of survival on fire with this missive, but I trust that adherents new and veteran alike will find it useful and entertaining.

Foreword

I do not have even the faintest hope that this list will be anything more than informative and, hopefully, a little illuminating. There are simply too many possible scenarios, unique situations and Catch-22’s to make a properly scientific declaration that a given person is “ready.”

One reader could have all the provision and tech in the world, but be woefully unfit and ill-prepared in the hard-skills department. Is she ready? Maybe, maybe not.

Another may be The One True Man of the Woods reborn, but his asceticism and strict minimalist lifestyle has seen him shun all modern tools and technology so he does not lose his “edge.” Is he ready? Hard to say.

Still another person may be the very best person on earth for dealing with the devastating and cataclysmic consequences of reversal of Earth’s gravitational field, no matter how mind-blowing small the chances of that happening are, but are so inured, so enthralled with this cosmically terrible scenario that they have failed to prepare for a car wreck, home invasion or indefinite term blackout. Is this person ready? Well, in their way, but I’d argue no.

The bottom line is that readiness is always in a state of flux. It’s holistic. You may be ready for anything, except that one thing. Want of a nail, and all. You may be supremely well-equipped, fit and trained, but simple, stupid, dumb luck could see you laid low or all your hard work in preparation go up in, literally, smoke. Now what?

I can tell you this, though, is that Heinlein was right on this front: specialization will usually give way to generalization, at least when the chips are down in a survival scenario. Maybe not in “normal” society, where everyone that is truly successful is as specialized as any insect, but it surely holds true in matters of readiness.

Think of it this way: you are and will be your own first responder. Not just “later.” Not just “then.” Now. You are your medic, firefighter, tracker, mechanic, cook, gunslinger, carpenter, plumber guide and more.

It is all up to you to get stuff done. Sure, right now you can opt to pay someone to do something for you, but even then it is up to you to see that happen. You are responsible. You. No one else.

The difference between now and later is that you will not have the luxury of being able to pay someone else to scratch your back and solve your problem. At least, not at the click of a mouse or tap on a phone. So when that day arrives, all those skills we have outsourced, from navigation to wound care, will be put to a definite and severe test.

Priorities of Preparation

When that day arrives will you be able to handle it yourself, for your own best outcome, or for someone you love and are responsible for? Or will you falter, bobble, stumble and fail the test?

Experience may be the best teacher, but what that old adage fails to explain is that experience gives you the test first then the lesson. You have to be alive to get the lesson.

That test need not be spectacular to kill you, or maim you or a loved one horribly. Mundane, common occurrences can take on terrible and life-threatening implications with shocking and horrifying rapidity. From illness to accident to acts of God, there is no shortage of ways to die, and many of them seem at first unbelievably unlikely, silly, or borderline comedic.

You may be right, but that does not change what is, and it is the everyday affair gone wrong that, statistically, has the single greatest chance of killing you. So with that in mind, my personal hierarchy of readiness is based on countering the most likely threats to my person, whatever they may be.

No instance is too small or too boring for me to account for. I am sharing the following so you have some context for my thought-processes.

Since funds, energy and training time are all limited, you will not see me frippering away my time on small-unit CQB tactics, growing my own penicillin, hang-gliding for bugging out or other things which I classify as anywhere from “low-yield” skills to “fantasy hobby.”

I will instead focus on everyday first-aid and essential trauma skills, defensive and offensive driving, fast and accurate shooting of a pistol from concealment, and keeping in good shape so as to be more useful in any given emergency, and much harder to kill by violence.

My way is not “the” way, only a way, and other’s philosophies may be more palatable. I don’t care if someone uses the dead rising from their graves as the pretense for an all-around and comprehensive readiness plan with appropriate material and skill acquisition so long as those acquisitions are prioritized around the most likely and common threats first.

For instance, if you are buying a battle-grade long sword or training in use of medieval weapons before you buy yourself a pistol or take first-aid training, you are wrong, and simply pursuing your hobby with the worthy goal of preparedness as a pretense.

The Levels of Preparedness

So, with all that in mind, the following section will present my general ladder of readiness, from hopelessly-lost-in-condition-white neophyte to impossibly-prepared-salty-uberprepper.

While just a little humorous, these gradients represent very real strata when it comes to preparation for various disasters, crises and meltdowns.

As I alluded to in the beginning of the article, some folks think that being able to survive three days with no power equates to “prepared” while others consider anything less than 3 whole months of provisions and sustainment supplies for a true grid-down disaster “inadequate.”

Note that every level builds on the preceding one; I won’t be listing food every single time in an effort to make the list a little easier to read, for instance.

Additionally, I will add notes where appropriate to clarify what I think constitutes ready at a given level, as well as approximately how long you should be able to survive without aid with everyone getting full rations and basic care needs met.

One last thing, I am not deep-diving into any one element that you’ll see appear in the following categories, not in this article. The reason being there are already reams of literature, discussion and exposition pertaining to all of it found here on this site and elsewhere. Definitely feel free to run a search or click a link to anything you need more education or exposition on.

Level 0 – Unprepared, Unaware, Uninvolved

Survival Time: N/A – Dependent on Charity or Rescue

This is the default mode of most of the population, be it from ignorance, a sheltered existence or crushing naiveté. For these poor, smiling sods, bad things only ever happen to other people, other people being the rest of the population, i.e. all of us.

They spare no thought that help will not arrive instantaneously when summoned, and that is only in the unlikely event that an “emergency,” really more of a serious inconvenience, does occur, which it won’t because they never do. Not to them!

As far as supplies go, they have enough food to last until the next time they go to the grocery and with some stroke of providence might actually have a working flashlight and a spare pair of batteries. Guns or weapons are out of the question because “things like that don’t happen around here” and problems can always be resolved with sincere understanding.

For those of us who left this phase behind a long time ago, or mercifully were never here at all past childhood, because life, these folks are the equivalent of NPCs in a video game: they are there, but they don’t do anything except get in the way, need rescuing or serve as potential collateral damage numbers. What’s worse is we all know people like this, hell, may even have relatives like this.

In any group, they are The Load: a millstone that consumes considerable effort, resources and sanity simply keeping alive.No matter how much we fuss, cuss, cajole or extort, we cannot extricate their head from the titanic suction of the sand they have stuck it in.

All we can do is hope for the best and keep an eye on them until something happens to them which might snap them out of their ironclad delusion. If that does occur, and they survive, there is a modest chance they will level up into another category on this list.

Level 0 Equipage and Planning List:

  • Smartphone
  • Flashlight, maybe
  • Whatever food and water is in pantry and fridge

Level 1 – Basic Preparation

Survival Time: 3 Days to 1 Week

This level of preparation is common among many adults, though they don’t know it, or have not cohesively worked to attain a proper level of readiness.

This is the level of equipage and rudimentary skills you will see advocated by government agencies to be prepared for a common, short duration natural disaster or other modest emergency. The other preppers that fit into this category are simply the lazy and unmotivated.

Most folks in this category will have enough stable food on had to last 2 or 3 days, and might even have some set aside with a case of water for the purpose.

A small kit of equipment with lights, batteries, matches and a few tools is set somewhere for the occasion, but is maintained intermittently or in a lackluster fashion. In a pinch, they will be able to come up with tarps, cordage, some assorted meds and other rudimentary supplies for a short duration event.

Skills-wise, they will have a smattering of disparate skills, often related to their job or hobby, but nothing that could be considered a coherent set of survival-centric abilities.

They will not be particular keen on any major threat except the most common disasters in the area and the imminent arrival of their sister-in-law’s abysmal chicken casserole on holidays.

A person at this level in a group setting is The Average Joe: not as hopelessly dependent as our lost souls above, but they cannot be tasked with anything involved without supervision..

Level 1 Equipage and Planning List

  • Food, 2,000 cals./day for each adult, 3 day to 1 week supply
  • Disposable Cutlery, Plates, Cups
  • Alternate Heating Solution for Cooking: Propane Grill, Camp Stove, etc.
  • Water, sealed, 1 Gal./day for each adult for hygiene and drinking 3 day to 1 week supply
  • First Aid Kit, small, for treatment of minor illness and injury (band-aids, bandages, antiseptic, compression wrap, various medicines for sickness, etc.)
  • Hygiene Supplies: TP, Wipes, Soap, Shampoo, Hand Sanitizer
  • Spare “Just in Case” clothing and footwear
  • Blankets, Pillows, Perhaps Sleeping Bags
  • Basic Fire Starting Supplies: Matches, Lighters
  • Flashlights and spare batteries

Notes: The important thing is that folks in this level will not need rescuing immediately. Note that most people in this level will not be prepared for bugging out or truly going mobile. They are counting on proper evacuation or weathering whatever crisis happens to befall them in place at home for a short duration until normality returns.

Level 2 – Ready and Able

Survival Time: 1 week to 2 weeks+/-

Folks in this bracket have either been through an event before or take to the idea of self-sufficiency like a duck to water. They are aware of prepping as a lifestyle and believe in its practical and ethical merits.

People in this level will read up on best practices, procedures, techniques and overall strategies, and most importantly will set goals and plans for growth and obtaining desirable outcomes in an emergency.

At this level, preppers will have no less than a week of food and water for their group or family, a stash of lights, candles, spare batteries, chargers, clothes, some bedding, protective equipment and first-aid supplies. Most will have a weapon of some kind, and have practiced with it.

A BOB or Go-Bag will appear here, and they will care about keeping it packed and ready, though it might be very generalist in nature. They will be acutely aware of major threats in their area, and will start to practice and train for the “biggest” scariest outcome of those events.

Defensive and soft-skills are important to them or at least on their radar. Many will have a basic-first aid cert or equivalent skills. Most importantly, they are very aware of how much they don’t know, and are keen to learn more.

In our party, these folks are The Preppers Nextdoor: capable, motivated and prepared. We can expect them to come out OK so long as the trial is not too severe or too complex. Those who stay at this level do so out of mild ignorance of just how bad things can get, or they simply lack the commitment, time or resources to take their game to the next level.

Level 2 Equipage and Planning List

• Food, 2,000 cals./day for each adult, 1 to 2 week supply
• Water, sealed, 1 Gal./day for each adult for hygiene and drinking 1 to 2 week supply
• Supplemental Water Storage: BPA Free Potable Water Barrel, Bathtub Liner, Clean 5 Gal Buckets, etc.
• Tools: Plywood, Hammer, Nails, Screws, Saw, etc. for hasty repairs or extrication
• Tarps and Cordage
• NOAA Emergency Radio, Crank operated
• Defensive: gun with ammunition, 250rds min., or contact weapon, knife, bat, ax etc.
• Bug-Out Bag, Get-Home Bag or both, packed and maintained
• Headlamps w/ spare batteries
• Power Bank for cell phones with chargers
• Enhanced First Aid Kit
• Supply of All Prescription Medications
• Stash of Cash
• Back-up of All Important Documents: on flashdrive or in sealed, weatherized container.

Notes: People occupying this level are a definite step up from Level 1, and are taking their preparations seriously. Most importantly, they have identified a weakness in that a disaster may not kick off when they are at home with their stockpile, or even allow them to stay in their homes.

The presence of the BOB and the GHB is essential here, as these folks have begun to understand that when the SHTF, it will rarely if ever do so in a tidy manner. Also note the emphasis beginning to appear on redundant and backup items.

Level 3 – Serious About Surviving

Survival Time: 2 weeks to 1 month

Most of the readership will fall here. Level 3 readiness is broadly organized but intensely focused. Folks in this category will essentially be waiting on the starting gun to take off; they have considered all potential major threats they face on a daily basis as well as long-term potential ones and have committed to dedicated action in defense against it. Continual improvement, assessment and stress-testing are the hallmarks of this category.

Several weeks of food, a sizeable stash of water along with multiple redundant methods of collecting and purifying it, medicine, clothing, shelter equipment, tools of all kinds, guns, ammo and stored fuel for vehicles and generators will be de rigueur provision and with cause.

Preppers at this level will be serious about contingency planning in all aspects of their lives and will have prepared themselves and group/family members accordingly.

BOBs, vehicle kits, bug-out routes, rendezvous points and other such plans and practices will be implemented rigorously and practiced until they cannot be gotten wrong.

At holidays, these folks are the Cool Aunts and Uncles. They have the skills that make people think they were a soldier, cop or some other “exciting” profession: self-defense, navigation, austere living, driving, medical, hygiene and sanitation, threat avoidance, the works.

You will also usually see some more esoteric or intricate skills pop up here, even if only passingly; chemical or biological threat mitigation, nuclear threat defense, crisis management, etc. Anything from dog bites and car crashes to massive riots and severe weather they can handle.

In our survival posse, the people making up this category are The Tough Guys and Gals: determined, gritty, trained and equipped. Nothing short of sheer bad luck or overwhelming odds will stop or kill these people. Able to escape, avoid, confront or cobble together a solution to nearly any problem.

Level 3 Equipage and Planning List

  • Food, 2,000 cals./day for each adult, 2 weeks to 1 month supply
  • Water, sealed, 1 Gal./day for each adult for hygiene and drinking 2 weeks to 1 month supply
  • Water Purification Equipment: Filters, chemical tablets or drops, etc.
  • Tents, Bivys, and other self-contained shelter items
  • Emergency Blankets
  • Guns: Secondary firearm, plus ammo, min. 500rds.
  • Solar Charging System for vital electronics
  • Comprehensive First-Aid and Trauma Kit: Tourniquets, Hemostatic Gauze, Suture Kit, Chest Seals, Wide-Spectrum Antibiotics, Painkillers.
  • Camo Netting
  • EDC Kit: tiny trauma kit, folding knife or multitool, lighter/ferro rod, pistol (optional)
  • Vehicle Repair Kit: Spare parts, belts, fluids, flat tire repair, etc. with appropriate tools to correct common breakages.

Notes: Preppers in this category are now broadly concerned about major disasters and everyday emergencies, and plan accordingly. The presence of an EDC kit as their go-everywhere first line of defense against a bad day is telling.

The possibility that they may need to truly bug out or at least abandon their home or town entirely is very real to them, and they have prepared accordingly, with items necessary for warmth and shelter from the elements, and continuous refinement of escape routes and alternate safe zones.

Vehicles will be kept in excellent condition, fueled and loaded with supplemental supplies. This serves as an escape vector or the means to get home accordingly.

Level 4 – The Hardcore

Survival Time: 2 months to 6 months

This level is where preparation is more or less a lifestyle. Folks in this category may have naturally arrived here after years or most of a lifetime spent in pursuit of personal preparedness consistently, or they simply feel the call and respond in kind. Some will be professionals for whom other careers and pursuits are too sterile, boring and devoid of meaning.

These guys and gals are not just ready, they are practically waiting. Months of food, water and fuel. Medicine, clothes, tools, batteries and weapons with cases and cases of ammo and maintenance supplies. Shelter and protective equipment for all but the most infeasible of threats.

A customized bug-out vehicle is likely. These people can turn their homes into fortresses, and have plans and equipment to deal with anything short of a direct hit from a nuke or EF5 tornado, and in that unlikely occurrence they will retreat to their custom shelter or pre-stocked and hidden secondary shelter at their bug-out location.

They know all the ways into and out of an area, including rural, unmarked and overland routes. If confronted with a curveball, they will shift gears smoothly without any glitches; they have already not only planned for just such an occasion, but rehearsed it. Cool, unflappable and utterly ready, these preppers are what we all aspire to be with enough time, practice and investment.

In the skills department, those who get to know them suspect they were either secret agents or commandos in a prior job; they will be able to heal, hurt, build, fix, escape or hide with equal aplomb, and know all the best times and seasons to reach out to the other side of the planet on their ham radio.

They will of course regale you with all this right after they build a warm, sturdy wikiup in the woods and cook you a mean meal from locally caught game and sourced plants, one you’d actually want to eat.

These are the Heroes of the group, and often the ones who will see through the less prepared or unlucky. Only true misfortune or the very, very worst of scenarios will phase them.

Level 4 Equipage and Planning List

  • Food, 2,000 cals./day for each adult, 2 month to 6 month supply
  • Water, sealed, 1 Gal./day for each adult for hygiene and drinking 2 month to 6 month supply
  • Enough additional supplies listed previously to sustain group with add-ons.
  • Overland Capable Bug-Out Vehicle
  • Civilian Band or Ham radio setup
  • Multiple Long Guns, Multiple Handguns, min. 1,000 rounds of ammo per.
  • Multiple, redundant water purification and catchment methods.
  • Supplemental Provisions: vitamins, prescription meds, alcohol, etc. for consumption or trading
  • Hardened Home: Windows, doors reinforced or upgraded.
  • Safe Room or Underground Shelter: suitable for disaster or defense against direct attack
  • Owned Bug-Out Location, with suitable shelter

Notes: Compared to those who came before on this list, preppers in this level will show considerable emphasis on long-term, group centric sustainment and survival, the idea being that they and their closest people will be armed, equipped and fed to survive the onset of total societal breakdown, and will be able and willing to weather such an event in place or after escaping to their fallback location.

Note how they are able to fully equip group members with more than just food. The biggest thing that will set these folks apart is their commitment to their skillsets: they will be just as competent bushwhacking through the woods as treating gunshot wounds or keeping everyone warm outdoors on a cold night. Getting here takes a lot of work, often a lifetime. Consider this the black belt of prepping.

prepper

Level 5 – Prepping is Life

Survival Time: 1 year +

This level is only theoretically possible, as it is only seen on TV or talked about in water-cooler conversation. This prepper monarch will literally do nothing else but prepare for potential disaster in frightening and increasingly intricate detail. Whether from extraordinary wealth, or total commitment to their cause and lifestyle, these people will live, eat sleep and breathe readiness.

The material preparation these singular individuals will have at their disposal will rival the governments of some smaller nations: no less than a year, and probably years of food and water, stockades of ammo, medicine, weapons and every imaginable consumable and comestible, multiple vehicles including perhaps aircraft, enormous tracts of land (often with tapped wells and aquifers), multiple secondary and even tertiary fall-back locations at undisclosed places.

More vitally, these people will almost invariably have assembled around them a group of likeminded people, family or otherwise, who they plan to survive the Bad Days with.

While usually quirky and often eccentric, their knowledge of the local area, surrounding counties and greater region will be virtually encyclopedic, as will their repertoire of survival skills. They are the Yodas and Mr. Miyagis of prepping. They will have grown beyond such petty concerns as civil unrest and cataclysmic weather events.

Nothing short of true end-of-world or end-of-society grade events garners their interest. These people will be truly ready for nuclear war, major asteroid or meteor impacts, intense solar storms and other global or national-level threats.

They will know all essential survival skills as intimately as breathing. They will also have mastered or be in the process of mastering major recovery and rebuilding skills, the kind necessary for the continuation of civilization, or at least a semblance thereof. Things like mass-production farming, proper construction, metalworking and other such skill sets.

In any survival group, they are invariably The Savior, and in a historical context they will be the ones who help bring communities, or at least groups of other survivors, back from the brink of annihilation.

Level 5 Equipage and Planning List:

  • Food, 2,000 cals./day for each adult,1 year supply +
  • Water, sealed, 1 Gal./day for each adult for hygiene and drinking 1 year supply +
  • Multiple dwellings on private land, with hardened bunker or shelter.
  • Multiple fully equipped bug-out vehicles
  • Extremely remote BOL: fully furnished, equipped and maintained, with onsite water and renewable power generation
  • Complete material preparation: enormous stockpiles of everything above, plus equipment and provision for sustainment livestock or crops, long-term overhaul of vehicles, harvesting of lumber, minerals and more.

Notes: For most of us, this will only ever be a dream. Even with a lifetime of preparation the cost in both coin and manpower to build, supply and maintain a private retreat or compound for a large group of people will be far greater than what we can muster,

But for the extraordinarily motivated, very wealthy or exceptionally funded, a self-contained if small community, far, far beyond the reach of most other survivors will likely be the crown jewel in their life’s work.

Conclusion

Readiness is not a hard and fast label, a hat or merit badge you get to hang on your head or pin to your shirt once you have arbitrarily checked off a list of supplies and skills.

No, readiness is equal parts exercise in steady discipline and journey, one that you will never truly finish. On that path, though, you will grow and evolve from the equivalent of a helpless baby to a capable and confident survivor, ready and willing to tackle anything that comes your way.

Like a lot of things, you won’t feel those changes happening, but should you look back on where you started from your lofty perch attained a few years down the road and many hours of dedicated practice, you’ll be stunned to see how far you climbed the ladder of preparation.

levels of preparedness pinterest image

Charles Yor

About Charles Yor

Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.
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4 thoughts on “Levels of Preparedness

  1. Charles,
    At first read this looks like a pretty good article with two glaring flaws from my perspective. I’ve taught a similar way pf preparedness planning over the years and the two most important real world things I’ve encountered or seen other encounter were not even mentioned.
    The most likely real world EOTEAWKI events from my experience are a loss of job (income) and a medical crisis, that can have a similar and perhaps more devastating effect on one’s life.
    The second most likely, even if you survive the initial problem like hurricane or blizzard and can keep yourself warm and dry in place, is ”Communications.” FEMA and the ARRL (ham radio organization) were recruiting hams to travel to Puerto Rico after the hurricane devastation there stopped not only their power grid; but, their communications infrastructure. While the skills of a ham operator could be very useful, the license extremely easy to acquire, and the equipment getting very inexpensive, just having an all band all mode receiver that can be operated from something other than mains power should be an essential part of your kit, at any level.
    I will of course add more analysis later; but, at first glance this looks rather complete, assuming the event is catastrophic and not personal.

  2. A nice article. Like PatriotFarmer, I would classify myself as a hard core 3, with some elements of 4. My food stocks are in the 4-plus range as are a few other categories.

    I’l have to hit the lotto big time to see myself firmly in the 5 range.

  3. Charles,

    I do not have even the faintest hope that this list will be anything more than informative and, hopefully, a little illuminating. There are simply too many possible scenarios, unique situations and Catch-22’s to make a properly scientific declaration that a given person is “ready.”

    I agree and all each of us can do is to evaluate our own situation and prepare for the foreseeable contingencies that we can afford.

    Still another person may be the very best person on earth for dealing with the devastating and cataclysmic consequences of reversal of Earth’s gravitational field, no matter how mind-blowing small the chances of that happening are, but are so inured, so enthralled with this cosmically terrible scenario that they have failed to prepare for a car wreck, home invasion or indefinite term blackout. Is this person ready? Well, in their way, but I’d argue no.

    I would agree that as Heinlein stated: ”Specialization is for insects”, and it doesn’t take too much to wipe them (the insects) out. The competent man will attempt to be ready for any scenario, short of a nuke strike or airplane crash on his house.

    Priorities of Preparation
    The bottom line is that readiness is always in a state of flux. It’s holistic. You may be ready for anything, except that one thing. Want of a nail, and all. You may be supremely well-equipped, fit and trained, but simple, stupid, dumb luck could see you laid low or all your hard work in preparation go up in, literally, smoke. Now what?

    I once heard it said that “You’re never really prepared for how quickly the world can come down around your ears. You spend your days working, watching TV, shopping at the same old grocery store, mowing the same lawn, washing the same dishes.”; but, looking up that remembered phrase I find it’s from a book by Orson Scott Card, “The folk of the fringe” that really seems to nail it. You of course have hopefully done all you can for such contingencies. In my case a stroke (Cerebral Hemorrhage) unexpectedly took me down; but, a paid off homestead, money in the bank (savings), and paid up disability insurance made all the difference, which along with a loving wife and great friends got us through. You can never do too much preparation.

    Think of it this way: you are and will be your own first responder. Not just “later.” Not just”“then.” Now. You are your medic, firefighter, tracker, mechanic, cook, gunslinger, carpenter, plumber guide and more.

    Being able to do nearly everything and/or surrounding yourself with people, who are similar, can be the thing that makes the difference. In my case, most of my rural neighborhood has these kinds of people.

    The difference between now and later is that you will not have the luxury of being able to pay someone else to scratch your back and solve your problem. At least, not at the click of a mouse or tap on a phone. So when that day arrives, all those skills we have outsourced, from navigation to wound care, will be put to a definite and severe test.

    That’s another reason to cultivate a good group of people and work with them in the here and now, so in the later, they will be around and trained.
    Priorities of Preparation

    Experience may be the best teacher, but what that old adage fails to explain is that experience gives you the test first then the lesson. You have to be alive to get the lesson.

    That is why you need to be brave and more daring when you are young, and take on those experiences with some amount of control. I’ve spent hours exploring caves, climbed tall rocky places, dived using SCUBA in deep swift waters, and jumped out of perfectly good airplanes and would have been a solid 5 on your scale. That however was 30-40 years ago and age takes its toll, so adjustments must be made, like training the younger folks and bringing in more friends. From a knowledge and supplies perspective, I’m still a solid 5; but, some of my skills are just no longer quite where they were. I have a friend whose 6’ 5” 15 year old is now undergoing some training for future support and his own future benefit.

    No instance is too small or too boring for me to account for. I am sharing the following so you have some context for my thought-processes.

    The best way to prepare for any and all eventualities is a technique I call “The Threat Matrix” that I’ve been teaching people for decades. I’ve explained it so often that I now have the explanation in a file that I will include at the end of this response.

    I will instead focus on everyday first-aid and essential trauma skills, defensive and offensive driving, fast and accurate shooting of a pistol from concealment, and keeping in good shape so as to be more useful in any given emergency, and much harder to kill by violence.

    All good ideas; but, ”The good shape” part, try as you may, gets harder as we age and often more defensive tools & techniques must be learned and brought to bear.

    For instance, if you are buying a battle-grade long sword or training in use of medieval weapons before you buy yourself a pistol or take first-aid training, you are wrong, and simply pursuing your hobby with the worthy goal of preparedness as a pretense.

    I actually did something like this, 50 odd years ago. While I had a rifle at age 12, it was strictly controlled by my father. At age 14 I started martial arts training and by 16 had earned both the rank and the ”Right” to use non-edged weapons, that I still practice with today. By then I had however, already taken first aid and wilderness survival training.

    The Levels of Preparedness

    Note that every level builds on the preceding one; I won’t be listing food every single time in an effort to make the list a little easier to read, for instance.

    Reference my Threat Matrix at the end of this reply.
    Level 0 – Unprepared, Unaware, Uninvolved

    All we can do is hope for the best and keep an eye on them until something happens to them which might snap them out of their ironclad delusion. If that does occur, and they survive, there is a modest chance they will level up into another category on this list.

    In our firearms and situational awareness training, we look at 4 basic categories:
    1. Unaware hopefully only when you are sleeping; but, being aware that you are unaware makes all the difference. Unfortunately too many seemingly don’t realize this fact.
    2. Aware Sometimes world events wake people up. The towers falling on 9/11, the wildfires out west and the current flooding in the Midwest are examples.
    3. Alert This is probably the most important one. If #2 woke you up and made you plan some actions, then you could be good to go; but, all too often, once the events have passed, people relax and go back into their sleepy ruts. A rut BTW is only a grave with open ends.
    4. Alarm This is where the 5 P’s come into play, since Proper Planning really does Prevent Poor Performance; but, improper or no planning turns into a disaster, and perhaps your last one.

    Children
    Level 1 – Basic Preparation

    Our children are grown and gone; but, this may be one of the hardest things. My kids learned self reliant skills, mostly out in the yard by making fires and shooting guns; but, most of all, making it a fun event, since kids will work hard when it’s disguised as play.

    Survival Time: 3 Days to 1 Week

    This level of preparation is common among many adults, though they don’t know it, or have not cohesively worked to attain a proper level of readiness.
    This is the level of equipage and rudimentary skills you will see advocated by government agencies to be prepared for a common, short duration natural disaster or other modest emergency. The other preppers that fit into this category are simply the lazy and unmotivated.

    As a 20 year volunteer with my county Emergency Management Agency, we strive to get all county residents to at least this level (72 hours on their own). The often unrealized fact, is that in many disasters, it takes at least that long to get the wheels spinning and get people deployed to help those in need, so they are essentially on their own. What people forget is that first responders often have families of their own, and even when often more prepared than the general population, still need to stabilize their own situations before helping others.

    Notes: The important thing is that folks in this level will not need rescuing immediately. Note that most people in this level will not be prepared for bugging out or truly going mobile. They are counting on proper evacuation or weathering whatever crisis happens to befall them in place at home for a short duration until normality returns.

    This is good, since as I stated above, that help may not, actually will not be immediate.

    Level 2 – Ready and Able
    Survival Time: 1 week to 2 weeks+/-

    Folks in this bracket have either been through an event before or take to the idea of self-sufficiency like a duck to water. They are aware of prepping as a lifestyle and believe in its practical and ethical merits.

    One would hope that seeing 24/7 coverage of disasters around the world would instill at least this level; but, apathy and normalcy bias often rule the day here, since it only happens to others.

    Defensive and soft-skills are important to them or at least on their radar. Many will have a basic-first aid cert or equivalent skills. Most importantly, they are very aware of how much they don’t know, and are keen to learn more.

    Most of my friends and acquaintances fit at least this definition; but for most others, we could only hope.

    In our party, these folks are The Preppers Nextdoor: capable, motivated and prepared. We can expect them to come out OK so long as the trial is not too severe or too complex. Those who stay at this level do so out of mild ignorance of just how bad things can get, or they simply lack the commitment, time or resources to take their game to the next level.

    This would describe most of my rural neighborhood and can be seen as an advantage of sorts. Living a preparedness lifestyle all of these years, we have many resources many do not have or cannot afford, so those with proper skills have already been invited here and they know who they are and what is expected.

    Level 3 – Serious About Surviving
    Survival Time: 2 weeks to 1 month

    This would also describe most of my rural neighbors.

    Level 4 – The Hardcore
    Survival Time: 2 months to 6 months

    You call this Hardcore? LOL

    This level is where preparation is more or less a lifestyle. Folks in this category may have naturally arrived here after years or most of a lifetime spent in pursuit of personal preparedness consistently, or they simply feel the call and respond in kind. Some will be professionals for whom other careers and pursuits are too sterile, boring and devoid of meaning.

    While it’s been a journey, it has been one at least for me, going on 60 years, with 35 of them on this homestead with a dedicated wife, slowly working through to an unknown endpoint. That journey will not end until I do.

    In the skills department, those who get to know them suspect they were either secret agents or commandos in a prior job; they will be able to heal, hurt, build, fix, escape or hide with equal aplomb, and know all the best times and seasons to reach out to the other side of the planet on their ham radio.

    That would be me and many of mine, being a licensed ham for 43 years and mentoring many new kids into the hobby.

    Notes: Compared to those who came before on this list, preppers in this level will show considerable emphasis on long-term, group centric sustainment and survival, the idea being that they and their closest people will be armed, equipped and fed to survive the onset of total societal breakdown, and will be able and willing to weather such an event in place or after escaping to their fallback location.

    This would be us, except we live in our fallback location and are just too danged old to be moving elsewhere.

    Note how they are able to fully equip group members with more than just food. The biggest thing that will set these folks apart is their ommitment to their skillsets: they will be just as competent bushwhacking through the woods as treating gunshot wounds or keeping everyone warm outdoors on a cold night. Getting here takes a lot of work, often a lifetime. Consider this the black belt of prepping.

    That was almost a lifetime ago; but, age has taken a toll on some of those skills, which is why we carefully recruit and train others.

    The material preparation these singular individuals will have at their disposal will rival the governments of some smaller nations: no less than a year, and probably years of food and water, stockades of ammo, medicine, weapons and every imaginable consumable and comestible, multiple vehicles including perhaps aircraft, enormous tracts of land (often with tapped wells and aquifers), multiple secondary and even tertiary fall-back locations at undisclosed places.

    That would be us, especially for energy related needs; but, lacking the aircraft (except drones for recon) and the bug out locations, since we will stay here at all cost.

    More vitally, these people will almost invariably have assembled around them a group of likeminded people, family or otherwise, who they plan to survive the Bad Days with.

    We are lucky in this area, since our rural neighborhood is full of LMI’s who all work together.

    While usually quirky and often eccentric, their knowledge of the local area, surrounding counties and greater region will be virtually encyclopedic, as will their repertoire of survival skills. They are the Yodas and Mr. Miyagis of prepping. They will have grown beyond such petty concerns as civil unrest and cataclysmic weather events.

    Who are you calling quirky and eccentric? LOL

    They will know all essential survival skills as intimately as breathing. They will also have mastered or be in the process of mastering major recovery and rebuilding skills, the kind necessary for the continuation of civilization, or at least a semblance thereof. Things like mass-production farming, proper construction, metalworking and other such skill sets.

    This would be us; but, also many of our farming neighbors, since, farming is not just planting seeds and harvesting crops; but, maintaining and often fixing equipment you cannot afford to have someone else repair, so jack of all trades is almost a farming requirement.

    Level 5 – Prepping is Life

    This level is only theoretically possible, as it is only seen on TV or talked about in water-cooler conversation. This prepper monarch will literally do nothing else but prepare for potential disaster in frightening and increasingly intricate detail. Whether from extraordinary wealth, or total commitment to their cause and lifestyle, these people will live, eat sleep and breathe readiness.

    We are not a TV show or extremely wealthy; but, I have been doing this since I was a pre teen and the wife and I have been doing this together for almost 37 years, with 35 on this property. No theory here; but, it took working for 40+ years as an engineer, often driving 40 miles one way to work, and pouring numerous resources into this property & lifestyle. We are BTW not yet finished, with additional projects and equipment slated for this upcoming year. It helps a lot that most of my TV is recorded for watching at my convenience, and that I never watch sporting events, which frees up a lot of time; but, perhaps does make me quirky and eccentric. LOL

    Nothing short of true end-of-world or end-of-society grade events garners their interest. These people will be truly ready for nuclear war, major asteroid or meteor impacts, intense solar storms and other global or national-level threats.

    This is only partially true, since it’s generally the little things that bite you; but, being aware of your local area, as well as the world around you with its ever changing events, is key to at least trying to mitigate all threats.

    In any survival group, they are invariably The Savior, and in a historical context they will be the ones who help bring communities, or at least groups of other survivors, back from the brink of annihilation.

    We’re getting too old for that description; but, we’ll sure help to try to guide and manage the younger ones.

    Notes: For most of us, this will only ever be a dream. Even with a lifetime of preparation the cost in both coin and manpower to build, supply and maintain a private retreat or compound for a large group of people will be far greater than what we can muster,

    How we have done this is both dedication and love of lifestyle and the answer to a riddle. ”How do you eat an elephant?”
    One small bite at a time; but, be patient, since it takes a while, and that large group of people like the answer will be gathered, and involved over a similar timeframe.

    Some relevant words of note from Polish-British writer and novelists Joseph Conrad.

    “Few men realize that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings.”

    “It’s extraordinary how we go through life with eyes half shut, with dull ears, with dormant thoughts. Perhaps it’s just as well; and it may be that it is this very dullness that makes life to the incalculable majority so supportable and so welcome.”

    And now that threat matrics I promised:
    Something you might want to do to organize your start is a technique called
    ”The Threat Matrix” , that I will describe here. This tool is not hard or complex; but, will take some clear and honest thinking as you create it, and once it’s completed, you’ll have a map to start you on your way with some semblance of organization, and perhaps a little less stress. You can use paper and pencil, a dry erase board or Post-it Notes, or a spreadsheet or word processor, if you’re comfortable with one of those tools. Here is how you construct the one for your situation.
    Start with a list of threats in prioritized order, with loss of your income, death in the family, or sudden acute illness at the top. Add global nuclear war and life ending asteroid strike at the bottom. Fill in the middle with the threats you and your family could actually face. As an example, in my location we can have blizzards and tornados; but, are not concerned with earthquakes or hurricanes and generally not much with floods or wildfires at my actual physical location, so be honest with yourself for your area, location, and situation.
    Next, starting at the most likely / highest priority event, make a list of the resources required to mitigate that threat. A resource in this case would be Materials, knowledge, and/or skills.
    Keep in mind also that often people confuse information, knowledge, and skills with each other. There is; however, a simple way to understand the difference and that is the application of each to your own situation. A library with all of its books or the internet with all of its web pages, podcasts, & videos, contains absolutely no knowledge. That content is only information. When you apply that information by reading, listening, or watching, then you gain knowledge when you start to understand the concepts.
    That act of absorbing and understanding information does not however make a skill until you then apply that knowledge by ”doing” something to create a skill, and then practice that skill to become proficient. One additional concept to keep in mind is that the old maxim, ”Practice Makes Perfect” is only partially correct, since only ” Perfect Practice Makes Perfect” , especially when doing things that could be dangerous, like chopping or splitting wood or running a chainsaw, so take your time.
    Once you have made your threat list, and added the knowledge, skills, and resources required to mitigate that threat, move on down to the next one on the list. What you will find is that as you move down the list, you start needing to add fewer & fewer items, since they have already been covered in the levels above. Once the matrix is complete, you have a plan with a map for the supplies, knowledge (books and other information), and skills to acquire, and like any journey, it just gets easier with a map to the destination.
    Also, note that as you prepare your way down this list, other things you missed will pop into your head; but, be assured that this is normal, and as you move on this journey in an organized fashion, you should occasionally stop and smell the flowers, looking back for just a minute to see how far you’ve come. Always looking ahead will only tend to disappoint you, because this journey like life itself never has a final destination. I’ve been seriously on this journey and lifestyle for 50+ years, and still on occasion wonder what I’m missing.
    Your journey forward into preparedness will be constantly changing as you acquire new resources or skills, many of which will then equip you to think of and ask questions that might not even have been thought of at the start, since we are often sometimes to ignorant to even ask the right questions. One of those resources are the incredible people here who are not too proud to admit ignorance and ask a question and often have the knowledge or skills to answer one., so don’t be shy and ask or answer.
    Sometimes not knowing what we don’t know is our biggest problem; but, as you move forward, often very obvious things will pop into your head, at which point you go back and rework the matrix; but, I think you’ll find that it will only get easier and you will eventually gain some peace of mind.

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