For many new preppers, and for even the most experienced ones, the process of prepping can be somewhat haphazard and at times overwhelming. There is so much information and so many different aspects and levels of prepping, it’s often very difficult to keep track of progress.
Prepping can feel like a slippery slope and it can really wreak havoc on your finances if you don’t have a budget or system. Not to mention that planning by the seats of your pants leaves room for gaps in your preparations that you might not notice until SHTF and it’s too late!
Having a plan in advance of a crisis replaces feelings of helplessness and panic with calm and confidence. It will allow you and your family members to make decisions and take action quickly. Those precious moments you save by reacting quickly may just be the difference between life and death. So let’s get started with our framework for a bullet proof survival plan and some suggestions for how to implement one.
Gather Your Information
The first step to any kind of plan is to gather intel, in this case it’s information about you, your family, your home, your climate, skills you need, and any dangers and specific needs of your location, etc. You’ll also gather information about survival resource categories like food, water, security, medical, etc.
The key to prepping in a systematic way is to gather as much info as you can, document it and update it as you get new information. The information you gather will be invaluable as you move through the process of creating your bullet proof survival plan and will come in handy later if you implement your system and find you need to revise something that isn’t working.
Bugging In Versus Bugging Out Section
Your preps are different if you are going to bug in or bug out during an emergency or SHTF event. This is probably the first distinction that you need to make. If you know that your current location will be immediately unsafe, then you will focus more on your bug out section. If you believe it may be better for you to bug in for a period of time before transitioning to a bug out situation, then you can either have two completely separate plans or somehow indicate bug in versus bug out next to each item.
Keep in mind that the skills you may need in a bug out situation will be more varied. You won’t be able to carry many supplies. So you will need to make sure you learn and practice basic survival skills like fire starting, water purification, and shelter building as quickly as possible so you will be ready. If you will have bug out location separate from your existing home, you may want a separate plan for each location.
Your Family or Group Needs Section
When thinking about your family dynamics and their needs, consider each member’s age, gender, level of mental and physical fitness, as well as their natural interest and skill levels. Make sure to objectively consider any chronic medical needs as well as any disabilities. Also document any limitations that could have an impact on how far or fast you can travel if you need to bug out. Document any personal needs too such as personal hygiene items, diapers or formula so you don’t forget to plan for these items.
Documenting all of this information in your plan for each person provides a baseline to work from and lets you see where there are gaps or room for improvement. Maybe everyone’s fitness level is lower than it should be so a family fitness activity might be warranted as part of your survival plan. Include sections for skills each person has or is interested in as well as which skills they need to learn or improve upon.
It makes sense to include a category in this section on communications. Make sure to include cell phone and landline numbers for each family member in your household as well any relatives that may live elsewhere. Have a plan for communicating with family during a crisis or if family members are separated.
Consider alternative methods of emergency communication other than landlines and cell phones which may be jammed or not functioning. Many preppers plan to use CB radios, ham radios, or walkie talkie systems during a crisis. It’s always a good idea to have some signals such as whistles or bird calls, as well as some hand signals that only your family members will recognize mean something. Make sure each family member knows where to meet up if separated and communication isn’t possible. Include any learning or instruction that family members may need to be confident in their ability to communicate.
Your Home Needs Section
Inspect your house and property and take detailed notes about what you discover. You will want to consider what repairs or enhancements that you can make that will increase your security and your available resources for survival. If you have a bug out location, you will do the same kind of inspection for that as well. Inspect the interior and exterior of your home as well as the landscape around your property.
Inspect the inside of your home and document any repairs or fortifications you need to make to make it more difficult for intruders to gain entry to your home or that will just make your home safer. Reinforce entry doors and windows, install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, consider possible evacuation routes from each area of the house. Identify a small interior room such as a closet or pantry that could be fortified to serve as a shelter from weather related events or intruders.
Inspect the exterior of your home with an eye toward not only enhancing security but also toward protection from things such as wildfires, flooding, and other weather related or geological events. The goal is to create an effective defensible space in each zone around your home by clearing away dead branches and flammable materials to help delay fire from reaching your structures and minimize damage.
When it comes to the security of the outside of your home, think about things you can do to keep intruders at bay or make it more difficult for them to get to your structures undetected. The more warning time you have of a potential intruder, the more time you and your family have to react. Make notes about things such as outside lighting options, audible alarms or early alert to trespassers, removing any potential hiding places, locked storage of things like lawn equipment and tools, etc.
Stand in different places along the road and make some notes on what kinds of things you can see. If you were an intruder or a desperate person trying to feed their family, does your home look like an easy target? The goal here is to encourage intruders to move on to another house so in this section, think about planting some natural physical barriers such as vine covered fences or dense thorn covered plants or bushes that both obstruct view and deter access to your home and garden from the road.
If you aren’t familiar with the food forest concept of gardening, consider looking into it. A food forest is one way to grow food that isn’t immediately recognizable to most people as a food source. You can also grow food that is virtually invisible by using edible plants for landscaping. Taller hedges or shrubs can easily hide things like okra and tomatoes from view. Planting cucumbers and bean plants where they can vine along your fence gives them extra support and can shield them from view.
Things like comfrey, fennel, red rubin basil, artichokes, tri-color sage, and other succulents will look like landscaping decoration to most people and will double as a food source. Use companion planting methods to create flower gardens with your vegetable, fruit, and herb plants hidden in between or behind the flowers.
The location of your home or bug out property will play a large part in how you secure your home and the survival resources that are available to you. You will need to take into account the average weather in your area, the types of storms or weather related events that could occur, annual rainfall, seasonal temperatures, and any geological events that might be possible.
It’s also a good idea to know the distance between your property and the nearest neighbors and how far it is to the nearest major highway. The recommended distance from major highways is 7-10 miles because it’s estimated the average distance your typical adult could travel on foot searching for food would be 5-7 miles.
Include anything in this section that you feel is relevant about your specific location. Determine where the nearest nuclear facility is located and whether or not you are within the danger zone. Also consider any dams or levees, rivers, etc. that could cause an issue for your property during a weather related disaster. If your location is prone to mudslides, avalanches, coastal storm surges, hurricanes, tornados, or wildfires, then your system will need to include survival plans and fortifications for these events.
Your plan will be different if you are in an urban location versus a rural one. Urban residents will need to spend more time on security issues and defend their stockpile more often because cities are more densely populated and city residents tend to be less prepared. Rural locations will have their own specific issues as well. Your home and gardens may be a target for panicked travelers leaving the cities who are trapped when their vehicles run out of gas or the roads become jammed with people.
Is there a crowded condo development filled with senior citizens down the street or a mobile home park filled with families? Those people may be the first to need food and other supplies if SHTF. Make sure your plan includes a method for dealing with them that suits you and your family.
The category to include in your survival plan that many people may not consider in an organized way is financial prepping. Make sure your plan includes several ways to reduce wasteful spending and a method for becoming debt free. As you progress in these two areas, you will free up money to use for other preps and you will make it more possible to live on less when things do get bad.
It’s also important to establish a regular savings plan if you don’t already have one. You can save change, you can stockpile silver, you can stockpile extra items for bartering. There are many, many ways to do this, you’ll have to find the one that works best for you.
Another very important part of your financial preparations is that the job you have now, that allows you to support your family, may not continue when things get bad. Part of your financial preparation then needs to include ways that you can make income if your current job becomes obsolete. Many people plan to grow extra food, raise surplus livestock, or poultry, firewood, etc. to bring in income.
Food and Cooking
This will probably end up being one of the largest and most comprehensive sections of your plan. You will need to plan for ways to feed your family for both short-term and long-term periods in order to be prepared for whatever situation may occur. There will be multiple categories for supplies and skills to learn, including hunting, butchering, gardening, canned food/pantry items, home canning, preserving food, alternative cooking methods, dehydrating food, and edible plants.
The preparations for food and cooking that you make will need to take into account whether you will bug in, remain in your current location or whether you will be bugging out to another location. You also need to realistically plan for the unexpected. Even though you may plan to bug in, you will want to be prepared to bug out or change locations if your current home is overrun and no longer safe.
If mom always does the cooking, consider what would change if she suddenly wasn’t able to cook for a period of time. You may want to document her recipes in one section of your plan or write them up on index cards. Make sure your plan takes into consideration those who are good at specific skills but don’t let your plan be dependent on any one person to hunt, cook, start a fire, etc.
In an emergency, you can find water in your hot water tank, pipes, and even your toilet tank. Make sure that tools to do this and instruction for each family member is included in your plan. Walk your property and nearby property and make note of any natural water sources such as streams, lakes, rivers, and ponds. Include the locations of all of these in your plan. Under no circumstances should you use flood water as it may contain sewage run off and other chemicals or unsanitary fluids. Document information on water table levels in your local area here too.
Any water that you find will need to be filtered and/or purified before using. Unscented Chlorine bleach can be used in an emergency but you will also want to boil the water 3-5 minutes before drinking. There are a variety of water filters that you can make or purchase to use to filter water that you find. One of the most common portable filters is the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter. You can also purchase water treatment tablets to make questionable water safer to drink.
The recommendation for storing water is at least 1 gallon per person or animal per day. Start by storing enough for a 3-day supply for the household, then 14 days, and if you have the space increase to a 30-day supply, etc. Depending on what system you are using to document your plan, you may be able to set it up to automatically calculate food quantities based on your group size.
Thoroughly sanitizing your water storage containers and rotating or replacing water every 6 months should be added to your water section task lists. Consider purchasing large food grade type plastic drums for water storage. A 55-gallon drum runs about $25 on Craigslist and often you can add a hose connection to the bottom.
Storing tap water is great if you have the extra space but this is only a limited solution. You will want to include a method of creating sustainable water as part of your survival plan. Consider a power outage that lasts for several months or a SHTF event that means no city water available indefinitely. Your stored water will run out eventually regardless of how much you can store initially.
For urban dwellers, scout out available water sources close to your location that might be abandoned when SHTF. Make sure you have tools you would need to open water mains or fire hydrants, etc. Work out a plan for hauling and storing water from other sources.
Whether you are an urban or rural dweller, you will need to have a sustainable water plan for you and your family. If you have a year round spring on your property, this is the ideal option. The second best option is to have a well drilled on your property or to have a rainwater collection system.
Worst case scenario you could plan for a way to tap into a stream, river, or pond on a long-term basis. Make sure you explore the water rights in your state, some states do not allow diversion from streams or lakes or even rainwater! It’s hard to know if the government would enforce such laws more strictly during a SHTF situation or if there would simply be no one around to know if water laws were being broken.
Remember that water that would normally go down the sink or shower drain, may need to be captured, filtered and re-used. Minimally you can use this greywater to water plants and animals so that your stored water can be conserved for drinking. In a worst case scenario, you could capture and purify greywater to re-use for cooking or drinking. Consider including a method for greywater capture or diversion in your survival plan.
Alternative Shelter Section
Having a plan for sheltering yourself and your family in a SHTF scenario is crucial. Most people will begin to experience effects after just 3 hours of exposure to extreme temperatures. Obviously your main shelter will be your home or your bug out structure and you’ve inspected and included that above.
But you may not be able to remain at your home or bug out location or you may need to temporarily shelter your family as you travel to between locations or even on your own property as you wait out intruders who have taken over your house. Consider options for building alternative shelter both on a temporary and longer term basis and make sure you include this in your plan.
Imagine all doctors and pharmacies are shut down for an extended period of time. What do you need to have on hand, how can you stockpile those items, and what other ways can you get those items if you need them?
If you and your spouse are hurt or unconscious, your children knowing what to do to help you could save your life. Those in the group who are old enough should minimally know how to treat minor abrasions, broken bones, bleeding, hypothermia, snake bites or stings, and shock. All of this first aid/CPR and trauma information and needed training will become part of your plan.
Detailed lists of any and all routine or daily medications needed by yourself or family members. Make a plan to stockpile medications for chronic life threatening issues such as asthma, high blood pressure, or diabetes. This includes medications for allergy symptoms and to stop or prevent allergic reactions.
Natural or herbal remedies for life threatening medical problems. We certainly cannot recommend that you switch to herbal medications without the advice of your physician but if you have to choose between dying from high blood pressure or asthma and trying an herbal remedy, you may want to have the option. If possible, talk to your physician in advance and let them know you’d like to find natural alternatives to medication, they may be able to help you plan.
Pharmaceutical options that you can purchase and stockpile such as antibiotics, saline solution, etc. Supplies for DIY first aid kits, including splints and carriers for transporting a family member would go in this section too.
List all first aid supplies and assign storage in your EDC, GHB, BOB, and INCH bags and to your safe room, car, bathroom, etc. If you are using a program like Excel and have a little know how, you can create a shopping list of items that you have used up or at least have items change colors when you are running low.
Alternative Energy and Power Section
No survival plan would be complete without a section on alternative energy and power. Think about this section in terms of short term first. If the power goes out for 3 days, have a plan for heating, lighting, cooking, etc. during this time. This can include battery operated, gas powered, hand cranked, propane, or solar options.
After you’ve considered short term alternative energy and power options, then plan for longer term options. Consider solar, wind, and even hydro power systems as long term alternative solutions. The great thing about these alternative methods is that they not only increase your odds of survival but they can be implemented gradually right now as a way to reduce your utility expenses and help you save money and even qualify in some locations for tax incentives. Be sure to check your local and state laws regarding alternative energy systems prior to implementing anything.
Your sections can be set up in any way that suits you and there will be many, many categories. Don’t forget to include a section on security, both while at home, at your BOL, and while you are traveling either to/from locations or in search of needed supplies. Use the security section to plan and track your inventory of firearms, ammo, and alternative weapons and to document the information about home and property security from your initial inspection.
Select and Create Your System
The next step to creating a framework for a bullet proof survival plan that will work for any type of disaster is to gather all of your facts, relevant family info, survival needs, and information together in one place or in one system. You can do this on paper, you can use Excel, or you can consider one of the many software applications for your PC to do this.
Below are some common events to keep in mind as you create your plan:
- Utility related incidents such as natural gas leak, broken water pipe, or downed power lines
- House Fire or Home Invasion
- Weather Related Disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, flooding)
- Geological Events (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions)
As you are creating your plan consider for each type of event: (1) What Needs to be Done, (2) How to Do It, (3) Who Should Know How to Do it, and (4) Where to Go to be Safe
We’ve listed some examples of survival plan systems or tracking methods that you can consider below. Remember the old saying, Garbage in, garbage out. Your system will only be valuable if it suits your style and is something easy enough for you to use and update regularly.
Paper Lists and Systems
If you are a list maker, then a paper system may in fact be a good option for you. The key thing to consider is will you keep it updated? Think about how you will make changes and modifications to the system as you go along. You can use a different spiral bound notebook for each person or for each survival category, etc. Some people like index cards and recipe boxes because they are small and can be portable whereas others use a binder or filing cabinet and file folders to organize inventory lists.
Apps for Your Cell Phone
Keep in mind that if you use an electronic device such as your cell phone to store information and plans, you could be unable to access it at all if service is unreliable or you can’t charge your phone. Include options for charging your phone in your plan. There are multiple choices for apps available from Apple iTunes and Google Play. Make sure you do your research first.
Many of the apps are more informational in nature, such as the Army Survival Guide, CPR & Choking, FEMA, SAS Survival Guide, and Cures A-Z. These are great survival resources because of the comprehensive information they provide but they do not really help you plan or track your survival readiness.
Once the info is on your phone, you should be able to access it even without internet as long as you can keep the phone charged. Make sure you test this out in advance by blocking internet access to your phone and trying to use the app to access the information.
A good app to check out for tracking survival readiness is the Bug Out Bag Survival Guide. It focuses primarily on BOB supplies but it lets you track what you’ve got so far and reminds you to replace items that have been used. Prep & Pantry is another great app for tracking food and supply quantities and expiration dates and it has a bar code scanner for quicker data entry.
Software on Your PC
Another option would be to create a customized survival plan using a program like Microsoft Excel, Smartsheet, or Microsoft Project. There are tons of spreadsheet and project management software programs, so the important thing again is to choose the one that works best for your needs and personality.
Microsoft Excel is unlimited so you can add as much as you want. You can use a separate tab for each person in your family or for each supply category, or even each time period. Excel is a great option because if you are willing to learn, you can even create formulas to do automatic calculations for food stockpiles, to track expenses, or a budget for a specific project.
In addition, with Excel, you can attach entire files or even embed hyperlinks to webpages for the time being. Keep in mind those links may not work if the Internet is down. Smartsheet, MS Project, and other project management software programs are similar but may require you to be more computer savvy and may not be quite as adept when it comes to calculating budgets and projections.
In each section, create a list or have some other way of indicating things to buy, things to scavenge (in your attic, from a relative, etc.), and things to make yourself or put together. Always try to scavenge or buy used before you buy new, especially for items such as clothing, blankets, etc. Practice using tools and other items that require skill to ensure you can make it do what you need it to do when the time comes.
You can design your plan to be implemented in several phases and only include inventory, projects, and tasks for that phase. Best of all it can all be printed out at any point if you need to do so or need to reference anything while working on a project.
Dan’s Note: Store Survival manuals on a Kindle or a Tablet
Kindles are particularly useful because they have a long battery life. They’re cheaper than tablets and are specifically designed for reading.
Implement Your Plan
When you have collected a good amount of basic information and document it all in your survival plan or system either on paper or via Excel or some other software application, then you can begin to implement your plan and actually start purchasing items, making items, modifying your home and property, and learning skills you’ll need to survive whatever comes your way.
You will want to have some way of prioritizing your implementation, you can’t just go out and buy every item or complete every task all at once. You honestly can prioritize implementation of your plan in any way that meets your needs. Lots of people implement based on time period, so first they get preps together to last 3 days, then increase supplies gradually with a goal of 2 weeks of preps, to 3, 6, 12-months preps, etc.
Some people prefer to prep by category, they stockpile food and water first, then medical, weapons, etc. If your spouse and family aren’t supportive of prepping, you may want to do all your own individual preps first. Get your EDC Kit together and then a GHB, BOB, start learning some basic skills for yourself. Once you feel adequately prepared, you can approach your spouse and children with some ideas or even just suggest some family projects that enhance your home preps gradually.
Regardless of how you decide to prioritize your prepping, keep in mind that an event could occur at any point. Always prioritize essential items over other items and buy essentials first. Try to ensure that if the power went out tomorrow, you would be able to survive with your family for at least twenty-four to forty-eight hours.
Implement your plan slowly and gradually so that you don’t burn out or blow your budget. Spend time prioritizing so you feel comfortable as you progress through plan implementation. Try to balance between purchasing items, scavenging for them and making them yourself. It helps to have set an amount of money each paycheck or each month that is designated for prep purchases or projects.
Remember that every step you make toward being prepared is farther than you were before you started. As long as you are researching your choices and making the best decision you can at the time, you will be fine. As you learn more, you can adapt your plan to reflect new knowledge or skills. You can never be completely prepared for every scenario but with planning, persistence, and commitment, you can increase your odds of survival.