I have mentioned in the past the idea of using "baby steps" in preparing. That is, prepare for short term, more common potentials, then move into putting together preps (especially food, water and fuel) for longer term. I really like the article entitled "Preparedness 'Pie' Chart" from Advanced Survival Blog (ASB) that sets up a general outline of what a preparedness plan would be. The article sets out three basic stages or goals in setting aside preps:
Level 1 is the center of the pie and the foundation of the plan. EVERYTHING needed for your household to function, without help, for 1-3 weeks should be in your home. Some of the most essential of these preps should be ready to leave with you if necessary. Completing Level One is an admirable achievement and this level of preparedness would be more than adequate for anyone to weather thru the most common emergencies.
Level 2 is the next “ring” in the circle chart and, IMO, shouldn’t be started until Level 1 is completed. It represents the 1-12 Month portion of a preparedness plan. This level should not only build upon Level One’s supply list but would probably include plans to improvise methods and/or learning to do something without the help of others.
Level 3, the final level, is the limitless area shown outside of the Level Two blue ring. It’s the goal of many to have over a year’s worth of preps or be self-sustained enough to replenish your needs independently. For some it means advanced training or acquiring equipment to generate an income or trade for other goods. For others it may mean farming or raising livestock.These three levels provide good way points, and perhaps end goals for your prepping. Although most preppers might think this to be heresy, YOU need to pick a goal which you are realistically going to meet and are comfortable with, even if you end up stopping at level 1. I would rather have all my neighbors at level 1 than none of them prepared because they feel obligated to reach levels 2 or 3 but such preparations are beyond their capability or desire. Also, don't feel obligated to use these levels as the specific goals or objectives--you are free to split them up: for instance, work on getting 1 week of food and water and fuel; then work towards 3 weeks; and so on. Level 2, if you decide to go that far, could have intermediate goals of 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and so on.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the type of preparations will vary for each of the different levels. The equipment and stores you need for level 2 may be very different from level 1. For instance, at level 1, food stores should be what you normally use and eat--just more of them. You can realistically store a week or more of water in bottles or drums in most cases. You can also keep batteries, propane fuel, kerosene and so on, to run stoves, heaters, lamps, etc. In fact, level 1 should provide little disruption to your way of life, where you choose to live, and so on.
Level 2 takes a slightly different mindset toward preparations that transcends simply putting away extra for a disaster to an attitude of becoming more self-sufficient. You can probably continue with storing foods that you normally eat, but the economics of such preparations may require you to begin canning foods on your own (with a concomitant investment in a canner and/or pressure cooker, jars, rings, lids, etc.), growing a garden to supplement your food supply, and so on. Flour doesn't store well for more than a few months, so as you push out toward one year, you may need to store grain, and obtain a grain mill. Unless you can afford to install a large water tank or cistern, your approach to water will have to change simply because you won't be able to store the water; instead, your focus will have to shift to collecting and purifying water; perhaps going so far as relocating to an area with a dependable source of water, be it a stream or well, or installing a rain catchment system. For those living in an urban area, or an apartment anywhere, level 2 preps will be extremely challenging. Fuel may similarly pose a challenge. A good woodpile may last for several months, but most fuel preps at this stage will, like water, focus on renewable sources of energy or being able to replenish your fuel.
Level 3 preps pretty much leave "preparation" behind and shift almost entirely to self reliance. At this point, unless you have extraordinary storage facilities, you probably won't be able to store sufficient food, but must concentrate on food production. At this stage, water collection and storage from natural sources is a must. Fuel at this stage will probably mean having access to a sufficient amount of land and trees that can be harvested for wood, a large solar panel system, or something similar. Perhaps the knowledge of how to produce alcohol fuels or wood gas. This level of preparation will require a large suburban lot or rural lot, and a whole host of skills and equipment beyond anything needed for levels 1 and 2. Most preppers will probably never have the ability or desire to engage in level 3 preps.
As ASB advises, you are best to focus on completing level 1 before working on level 2. This not only gets you into good habits regarding preps, but keeps you from missing the mark by looking beyond the target.
Beyond the basic levels is the concept of prioritizing your preps. That is, preparing for risks that have a higher statistical odds of occurring over those that are less-likely, or non-likely. ASB has a series of articles on prioritizing, but I want to highlight some thoughts from their first article on the subject, "Focus and Evaluate." They write:
What good does it do a family to spend their time and money preparing for unlikely events if they’ve left themselves vulnerable and exposed to the problemss that they know WILL happen or that are more likely to occur?
For instance, this week alone I have read 3 articles on motor vehicle EMP preparedness. All of the authors recommended older model vehicles and/or diesel-engine powered vehicles. They boldly stated that they were not only EMP resistant but also practical to own as well. The authors also seemed to be “parroting” information gleaned from the same tired sources dating as far back as the 1960s.
On the surface, this may not seem to be all that bad but I look at this as being not only factually incorrect but to also be a dangerous distraction away from the threats we are actually facing.
I could argue that finding a 1970s Jeep or pickup truck (that wasn’t in need of a complete rebuild) would be an outrageous waste of time for most people or that owning a Ford F-35o Super Duty is an enormous cost for the average homeowner. It could also be debated that neither option is very practical. But instead, I’d like to say that there are more urgent things that require your attention.
Which is more likely in the next year: a lone terrorist or Iran (or whoever) setting off an EMP weapon somewhere in the US or is it more likely that the US economy will be hit with the fallout from a European depression?
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Since the majority of our readers, myself included, would probably have a hard time to letting go of the $8000-$12000 necessary to purchase and restore a vehicle capable of resisting an improbable event, in my opinion, it would seem to be a better use of the money to have that money ready to work for us in the event we were laid-off or under-employed.Although I've been criticized for taking this position, the same principles apply to defensive preparations. You are more likely to suffer a mugging, a robbery, or a home invasion than to be attacked by "the Golden Horde" and should prepare accordingly. This is why I've in the past recommended obtaining a good handgun before laying out the money for a combat rifle; and why I have suggested that your handgun will be your primary weapon absent some major event such as a civil war. To put it into context of the prior levels of preparation, a handgun clearly falls into the realm of level 1, whereas needing a combat rifle assumes a much greater level of unrest or lawlessness. Obviously, your situation may vary according to where you live. If you are living on a rural farm or ranch, where you have to protect livestock against coyotes, dogs, or foxes, a rifle may serve you better than a handgun. But for the majority of people, a handgun will be the weapon you most likely will turn to if in danger.