The Prepping Pyramid


 

The term
"prepping" refers to the process by which you incrementally increase your level
of preparedness for emergency/disaster on a continuum from short-term
self-reliance to long-term self-sufficiency.

The term "preps"
can be defined as tangible items or systems that you acquire or build and use
in prepping. While some people may include intangible things such as weapons
training, drills, skill development, etc. in their definition of preps, for the
purpose of this piece, the focus is on physical items.

The stereotype
that survivalists live in underground bunkers in the middle of nowhere is
rarely accurate. The media sensationalizes the extreme cases, but the reality
is that a holistic survival plan involves several locations and several
different scales. I've organized the list below in order of scale from the
smallest to the largest caches of preps in a pyramidal model to represent
overlapping zones.

1.  Body

2.  Bug Out
Bag

3.  Bug Out
Vehicle

4.
Workplace/School

5:  Home

6:  Bug Out
Location 

 

Body

Preppers promote
taking some level of responsibility for your safety and security by not only
developing self-defense, first-aid, and other survival skills sets, but by
carrying implements, tools, devices, and supplies on your person at all times.
Having preps on your person isn't only so you can help yourself and your
family, it's also so you can help others in need.

What you carry on
your person is often referred to as "Every Day Carry" or "EDC".  On this
scale your preps will include an array of smaller survival gear items. The
number of items you carry will be determined by the amount of pockets, belt
accessories, carabiners, etc. you're comfortable with. Fashion and function can
be hard to reconcile, but it's worth an attempt. Many people walk through the
world without care or thought of the potential for anything to go wrong. The
expectation that something bad will "never happen to me" is a symptom of what
is clinically called "normalcy bias". This is a psychological tendency to avoid
considering and logically preparing for disruptions in modern business-as-usual
life.

Unfortunately if
we encounter bad guys on the street, chances are police won't arrive on the
scene until the incident is over. If we're in a disaster situation, emergency
medical responders may not be able to get to us in the time it takes to die or
become seriously ill from preventable causes such as bleeding, dehydration,
infection, etc. 

Items often
carried every day by preppers may include some of the following:

cutting tool,
fire making tool, multi-tool, parachute cord, led light, compass, first-aid
items (band-aids, alcohol pads), whistle, water purification tablets, emergency
medical info card, list of emergency contacts, bandana, cell phone with additional
charged battery, flash drive, notepad, writing utensil, "forever" postage
stamps, prepaid phone card, cash, checks, herbal energy pills, p38 can opener,
water bottle, pepper spray, misc. legal self-defense implements…

 

Bug Out Bag (BOB)

The "Bug out
Bag", aka "BOB", is the survivalist slang for what is more officially known as
a 72-hour emergency kit. However, the critical distinction is that a BOB must
be in the form of a back-pack that can allow you to move on foot, hands-free.

On this scale of
preps, you may have some of the same items that you'd have for EDC, however in
greater lengths, quantities, container sizes, etc. as you'll have the main
column of the bag, plus many extra pockets, compartments, straps, clips, etc.

Here's a list of
some of the items often found in or attached to BOBs.

More fire making
tools, more parachute cord, flashlight, batteries, candles, first aid kit,
extra medications, hand crank/solar emergency weather radio, signal mirror,
toilet paper, tweezers, toothbrush, misc. toiletries, sun block, bug spray,
warm clothes (kept dry in a large zip lock bag), rain gear, gloves, hat, sun
glasses, mess kit (eating dish/utensils), lightweight pot for cooking/boiling
water, salt/spices, three days worth of dry food, hooks/sinkers, wild edible
plant identification books, bigger water bottle, water filtration device, 5
gallon collapsible water jug, small bottle of bleach, folding shovel, wire saw,
sewing needles and floss, pen or pencil wrapped with duct tape, pen or pencil
wrapped with fishing line, full size notebook, envelopes, plastic bags, garbage
bags, survival manuals, entertainment devices such as books or games,
documentation package (including emergency contacts, local emergency service
provider phone numbers, evacuation procedures/plans/packing checklists,
multiple evacuation routes, encrypted bank account, social security, etc.
numbers, list of family medications/medical conditions, etc.), maps, sleeping
bag, space blanket, tube tent, therma-rest pad, tarp, poly sheeting, legal
self-defense tools carried in accordance with local law…

It helps to
separate and categorize your items into zip-lock bags and distribute the bags
into to different pockets and compartments for easy access. The bags also help
keep your gear dry.

This sounds like
a lot of stuff but if properly organized and compacted a lot of it can
comfortably fit in/on a large camping pack. Depending on the nature of the
situation, you may want to drop a lot of weight so you can cover more ground on
foot. In Saving Private Ryan, the scene in which the translator joins the unit
shows how a combat-inexperienced soldier tries to pack everything he was issued
in his bag for the mission, and is made to leave most of it behind by his
fellow soldiers. This is a useful bit of insight demonstrating that "the more
you know the less you need," and that you have to be realistic about your
ability to haul more than the bare minimum.  

Your normal
commuting vehicle (which may or not be your "Bug Out Vehicle") should always
contain your BOB so that it will be accessible wherever you drive. Storing it
in the trunk also ensures you'll never forget it at home, and when you need to
lighten the load and take a few items out, you can lock them in your trunk or
locked box in a flat bed truck.

Of course if
you're riding a bus, if you are a passenger in someone else's vehicle, or
riding a bike, it won't be feasible to bring your BOB with you. In those
situations you'll be relying on EDC, or a smaller backpack with a selection of
items from your BOB depending on the situation. For example, if you're hiking,
you'd want to grab a selection of items from your BOB and put them in your day
pack.

Most importantly,
every member of your family should have a BOB, and every BOB should contain the
same version of the documentation package. In an emergency you'll then be able
to co-ordinate your response based on documented protocols that everyone has
the current printed version of.

 

Bug Out Vehicle
(BOV)

Your "Bug Out
Vehicle" may be a huge 4-wheel-drive monster or a compact car.

Older diesel
trucks are preferable as they have less electrical components that can fail,
and they can be converted to run on veggie oil.

Whatever you
prefer and have the means to acquire can serve as your BOV, though traditionally
it's a truck or SUV. All that's required is that it be stocked with extra preps
and be equipped with accessories that will optimize performance and provide
redundancies in evacuation scenarios.

Besides simply
scaling up some of your preps (such as a 5 gallon bucket of dry food that
preferably doesn't require cooking, one or more gallons of water, a larger
first aid kit, etc. the following are some preps specific to the BOV:

Flares, basic
tools, spare parts (headlights, belts, bulbs, etc.), quarts of oil, extra
fluids, map books, solar power system, power inverter, spare tire, snow chains,
jack, blankets, tent, boots, trench tool, books, gas can (keep empty unless it
can be stored safely and securely), more legal self-defense tools transported
in accordance with local law, any other large utility/emergency items that
don't fit in or are not appropriate for your BOB.

Every family
vehicle should be to some degree prepped to function as a BOV, even if there's
one larger vehicle that's designated as the main BOV.

 

Workplace/School

This refers to
the place where most of your time is spent outside of the home, wherever that
may be. The goal would be to get your colleagues or co-workers on-board with
prepping so that they collaborate and pool resources to ensure that there are
preps on-site. Whether in a basement, storage closet, or under your desk you
should try to get some amount of food/water/medical supply storage set up. If
nothing else, try to convince whoever's in charge to at least have emergency
kits on-site that are sized appropriately for the number of people in your
office, dorm, etc.

Most likely if
done right, you can store a lot without it being a nuisance and have some sense
of security knowing that if you end up stuck there, you won't die of dehydration,
starvation, or mild injuries.

 

Home

Without being too
extreme, you should see your home as your fort. It's the place where you let
down your guard at night and go to sleep. It's the place where you raise your
family, or are being raised by your family. It's where you should feel the most
safe and secure, and where you should have the most control of your survival.
Again, many of the prep items you'll want at home have been listed above, but
here are some preps that are unique to the home:

large water
tanks, rain water catchment systems, months to years worth of long term food
storage in the form of canned foods and dry foods including your favorite
grains, legumes, seeds (for eating, sprouting, and planting), nuts, spices,
dried herbs, dried fruits, etc. in 5 gallon bucket/mylar bag/oxygen absorber
kits on a rotation system so you "eat what you store and store what you eat",
sprout jars, green house, permaculture garden (food forest if possible),
irrigation systems, herbal medicine cabinet, organic recycling center (i.e.
compost, vermiculture, humanure, etc), guard dog(s), livestock, food
dehydrator, canning equipment, solar power system with battery bank, more legal
weapons, low and high tech security systems, toiletry reserves, fuel reserves
(gas, firewood, etc.), generator, full camping gear for the whole family,
bigger/more specialized hand/power tools, fire-proof lock box for important
documents, back up computers, back up external hard drives, lots of useful
practical/instructional books and videos, cash, precious metal reserves, large
self-assembled or store bought emergency kits…

 

Bug Out Location
(BOL) 

The "Bug Out
Location" aka "BOL" or "survival retreat" is your ultimate destination in the
case of forced or voluntary evacuation from your normal place of residence.
Ideally it would be far out of the urban and suburban zones though not
necessarily totally isolated. For those who can afford the luxury, the BOL is a
piece of rural land that you own and have put some kind of legal temporary or
permanent inhabitable structure on (trailer, teepee, yurt, cabin, house,
natural building, etc.)

If you don't have
the luxury to buy land, you may discover that you have relatives living in the
countryside, or friends living on farms with whom you can pre-arrange to stay
with under an agreement that you'll pay rent, or do work-trade.

No matter how you
gain access to a temporary or permanent living situation for you and your
family, what matters is that you have a plan in place. The plan should ensure
that you have a main BOL and several fall back locations if the main location
is inaccessible, and have multiple routes to each location. It's also important
to work out a system whereby if members of your family or group reach a certain
rally point, there's a predefined way to "post" inconspicuous communications
about who's reached that point, when the got there, and where they left to.

In terms of the
scales of preps, the main BOL will often have the largest stockpile of preps
when you factor in the ability to hide or bury large caches and the ability to
establish permaculture edible forest gardens, ponds, springs, streams, swales,
wood lots, wind power, solar power, micro-hydro systems, etc.  Ultimately
the ideal BOL would be a rural homestead. However the extent to which it's
developed by the time you need it will be determined by how much time, energy,
and money you can afford to put into it while you're not actually living on it.

In rural zones,
the land itself is a prep. The more you do to prep the landscape, the more
yields you'll produce that are regenerative. In an apartment or small urban
lot, you're usually not able to access and produce renewable resources on the
scale needed to be fully self-sufficient (of course in co-operation with
neighboring food producers). Thus urban preps are generally only going to serve
for a finite period of self-reliance until the supplies run out.

Ideally if you're
"bugging out" to your BOL, you'll have taken as many of the preps from the
smaller levels of the pyramid with you so you'll be combining preps as well.

The BOL is
typically seen as the end point of the game where if you're successful at
making it there alive you'll be relatively safe, secure, and supplied. However,
most preppers acknowledge to varying degrees and extremes that to be prepared
while being surrounded by the unprepared is a recipe for disaster. Generally,
the higher the population density, the greater the risk of being jumped, besieged,
or raided. So the more remote you are, the less likely the zombie hordes
will be to expend the energy to hunt you down in the sticks. There's a
trade-off though which is that the further you are from at least a small town,
the less services are available to you and the less functional interdependence
you'll have with neighbors who you may need to rely on to save your life
someday, or even just to barter with.

 

Re-establishing a Culture of Preparedness

No individual, family, or group is an island. Ideally the largest step
of the prepping pyramid would be a culture of preparedness wherein redundancy
is built into every system that the population relies on for basic survival.
It's not utopian, a hundred years ago it was common sense. According to
prominent prepper Stewart Rhodes in episode 602 of The Survival Podcast,
"during the Cold War, this country had enough grain to feed all of its
people for three years in the event of a nuclear winter, now they have enough
to feed all of us half a loaf of bread."

Our ancient and recent ancestors had the wisdom to live by the ways of
the ant, not the grasshopper (see Aesop's fable "The Ant and the Grasshopper").
In the modern survivalist movement, it's accepted that winter is coming again
as it has in the past and will in the future.

Apocalypse would be an easy way out, but I believe the world will
continue, not end. We'll have to choose to be prepared. Moreover, it doesn't
take TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) for any individual or
family to experience an acute localized disaster.  Be it a job loss, an injury, death of a loved one, etc, when
the s**t his hit your fan, it's your
preps that will carry you through in a state of relative comfort and help
buffer desperation.

Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast has provided numerous planning and
strategy tools such as the "threat probability matrix" and notion of "disaster
commonality" (see episode 166) to help people identify the threats that are
most likely to occur in their personal lives, location, climate, etc. and
understand that in many ways the fundamental preps and planning needed to
survive anything from the "mundane to the insane" are the generally the same.

It's important while prepping to be creative and make it fun-based not
fear-based. Thanks to the modern survival movement there's a fail safe
principle built-in which essentially states that whatever you do to be prepared
for disaster should improve your quality of life whether or not s**t hits the
fan! The best example is growing some portion of your own food.

Just avoid panic buying. As with Permaculture the best solutions are
small and slow. Continually incrementally add to your preps when grocery items
go on sale, when you get extra cash, when you can score something on
Craigslist, when there's a yard sale, etc. Start small, make it fun, get into
the groove and you'll enjoy having a more sensible lifestyle that actually
empowers you to be a more safe, secure, confident, and dutiful cosmic citizen,
community member, and family member.

 

See the Disaster Preparedness Workbook here.

Image by cyphunk, courtesy of Creative Commons license.