The “Power of Ten” Planning Model, by Sandkicker

This article has nothing to do with any special properties of the number ten, but rather refers to a progressive planning method based on the size of a problem. This is a way to organize thinking and planning for chaotic situations.  

“If you fail to plan, you’ve planned to fail”.   It would be irresponsible to present any particular plan as suitable for everyone, however, these are some guidelines on how and why you should develop your own plans.  Why do I have the nerve to write this piece?   I’ve been in the middle of more than one “adventure”… and in only one of them did I have any preplanned resources.  I’ve been thinking and planning about survival issues for decades.

SHTF or TEOTWAWKI can mean different things at different times.  While many web sites focus on total breakdowns, the fact is that for any given person walking across the street without looking both ways and being killed by a truck, it’s the same as the whole planet getting smacked by a 50 mile wide asteroid.  The focus of the “Power of Ten” is based on the premise that almost everyone has sudden small emergencies. Preparation for small emergencies as a part of a larger overall plan is a useful approach, because a small one day emergency can stretch out to many days.  Those who are prepared have the chance at survival    

Consider some small emergencies: Imagine losing electric power for four hours. Depending on individual circumstances, this can be an annoyance, up to a catastrophe. Suppose power goes out for four days. Again, depending on weather and climate, this can become a much bigger problem.  My daughter and her husband live in deep New England. Last winter their power went out for days.   No heat, frozen pipes – and even though they were able to get a generator, they had to spend a good bit of time on the phone with me to figure out how to connect it. Do you have a generator? Do you know how to safely hook it up? Do you know why it might not be a good idea to power up your whole house and light it like a Christmas tree? Do you know how to hook up even a small generator to keep just your vital services going?  Will your existing plan for a SHTF situation have any elements in it to help if the power goes out during a 2 day ice storm?

Enough examples, so let’s get to the point.

Every one needs a plan, a realistic plan.  If the plan isn’t written down and everyone who is to participate in that plan does not understand it and their clearly defined roles in the plan, then you don’t have a plan!  The facts are that, “No plan survives its first touch with reality” and “You can’t plan for everything”.  But you can -and must- start to plan with everyone in your household included.

No plan can cover all eventualities when first written, or ever for that matter.  GOOD plans are written to reflect one’s understanding of what they are trying to accomplish with what resources they have at any one time.  GOOD plans are read, reviewed and revised as necessary.  The best plans cover a range of problems.  They contain bits and pieces that help with small, large and huge problems and for scenarios never anticipated. Hence the title of this piece.

Here is where the “power of 10” can help you to get organized. Plan for… 1 day, 10 days, 100 days, 1,000 days….(and gulp)…10,000 days.  You cannot get to day 10 if you don’t survive day 1 and not to day 100 unless you survive day 10.

I am a firm believer in modular planning,  The plan to survive 10,000 days (Yes, 27+ years) is made of elements that one uses to survive 1, 10 and 100 days… after all, on Day 1, there isn’t going to be an announcement saying.. “This event will be over in…” that you can believe anyway!   I believe that it is totally foolish to start one’s planning with “How am I going to survive a total collapse”.   Start with a 1 day plan for each season and for different events, then work towards the 10 day plan, again for each season and for different events. Doing this will help you build that 1,000 or 10,000 day plan more effectively.  You should already have handy what you need for the “one day plan”, if not, get it, then work towards the 10 day plan. When you have that plan written and reviewed, it’s time to start implementing.  Buy what you need and set it aside so it can be used.  Talk to the whole family about the plan.  Include everyone – kids, old folks, and don’t overlook pets.

As an example, I live in a coastal community on the eastern seaboard.  My one day plans are one set of plans, my 10 day plans another…and my 10 day plan will vary depending on what I’m planning for.  A winter ice storm that kills power is one plan, and evacuating in the event of a hurricane, quite another.  Folks talk about are they going to be “Bugging In” or “Bugging Out”.  When asked which you will do, the only correct answer should be, “It Depends!”  You need to be ready for the unexpected.  How do you do that?   Think independence, dependence on nothing other than what you have in hand. When talking to a friend about this essay, they said, “One day plan, who needs one?”.  Who?  Me, you, everyone!  I’ve been traveling worldwide for business on and off since the days of the Boeing 707s.  My rule after my first flight:  always have in hand what you need for at least 24 hours without outside help when you leave for the airport. More than once over the years, this policy has made my life immensely easier and more comfortable. Additionally, planning and acting on a day to day basis for emergencies, instantiates a “survival mentality” that realistically, we need to be in constantly.  Most often, emergencies do not come with warnings ahead of time.

I firmly believe that the minimum plan one should have thought through, written out, and implemented is the 10 day plan… for both “bug-in” and “bugout”.  And on the subject of “bugging out”: One needs to have different destinations for different scenarios.  There are a pair or scenarios that I’ve planned for where we bug out to my brother’s home well north of me and a scenario where he comes here.

As to getting from here to there… as mentioned above I live in a coastal community.  On summer weekends, 90 min trips from “the city” can take four hours in good weather.  If it got to be “bugout” time for us, the last piece of road I’ll be driving on will be the local superhighway. I’m sure if most of you think about it, that nice bit of superhighway that’s your first thought for any trip won’t be viable.    Plan your routes, and your secondary route and if you are fortunate enough… a third route. Try not to depend on the Interstates.  Don’t plan to use that great GPS navigation box in your car.  The GPS system is managed by the government.  It can and has been shut down in the past by the government when they thought they had a need.  Get good paper maps. Mark routes.  As to the Interstates, the legislation that funded them states that the Government can restrict use of the Interstates to military use only as needed.

Okay… you should work towards having plans as follows:

1 and 10 Day:


Weather Related


Civil Breakdown


Bug in/out

Bug in/out

Bug in/out


Bug in/out

Bug in/out

Bug in/out


Bug in/out

Bug in/out

Bug in/out


Bug in/out

Bug in/out

Bug in/out

This does not mean that you need 24 plans… In your individual situation, you probably will only need 2 or 3 bug-in and bug out plans that you can use/reuse/equip/stock as modules.  And for all bugout scenarios, plan what you will do if you end up on foot.

Beyond 10 days to 100 days and beyond…

Now things get more difficult.  You can stock up on 6 months or a year of “survival food” which may work out, if you and that food all get to be in the same place. Is your Bug-Out Vehicle a diesel powered International Harvester all-wheel drive 26 foot truck?  How about stocking six months or a year of required medications?  Or six months or a year’s worth of fuel?

Frankly, somewhere between 10 and 100 days is where the (first) big crunch will happen. I’ve heard some say… “Oh, I’ve got my retreat in western “Pennsyltucky” all stocked up!” Yes, you can do that, and that could be your plan, however, I suggest that if all you are going to do is move your kith and kin to a isolated place in the “wherever”, and sit on and eat off your stockpile without having any skills related to the current situation to contribute to the community, you will become a foraging opportunity.  Plan on bringing “value” to whatever community you will be moving into (i.e., hedge fund managers without any other skills, need not apply).  No matter what you bring or have stockpiled, if you don’t have useful skills to bring to the community appropriate to the situation, you will just become a burden to that infrastructure -which is likely to need help not an additional burden.  BTW, being a good shot and well armed is necessary, but not sufficient in my context.

I don’t have any guidelines to share for these very long range plans other than the speculation that beyond 100 days, either our military will be moving in and trying to bring order, or… someone else’s military will (barring an extinction event asteroid),   as one of our “creditors” may decide to “foreclose” to “protect their interests”, or for “humanitarian interests” .   When the military moves in, I suspect that those whose plans started with:  “ my 12 gauge, my AK and my 9mm and 1,000 rounds for each” and ended with a backpack or pickup truck full of food and a plan to high tail it into the woods somewhere, will either be waiting for a burial detail to get to them, or run the risk of being hunted like vermin.

To sum it up…Create a written plan.  Address specific scenarios. (note plural).  Review and discuss plans with those who will be included in them. Change (improve) them as events and resources will allow.  Plans need to be practiced.  Plans should include action/role sheets for everyone, especially for an emergency bugout.  As a small example: last week, my wife and I went to the local range.  I very much wanted to bring my spotting scope as we were firing an iron sighted 22 LR bolt action rifle among other things and I needed it to see shots in the black at 25 yards.  When we unloaded at the range, no spotting scope!   I’d left it home.

Your plans, or even the existence of them, probably should not be topics of conversations at back yard barbeques as there is always at least one “opportunist” at one.  Get to know your neighbors, to see if they could be depended on for mutual aid. You don’t have to like them, but you may need to trust them.  That crusty grump up the street may very well have skills and experience that could be handy.  Running off into the sunset, or the hills, or turning your home/farm/retreat in the boonies into an armed bunker is not a plan… it’s the survivalist fairy tale.  Only those who plan are the ones who may have the chance to live happily ever after.