Incremental Preparedness: The Good, Better, Best Approach, by Jeff B.

For many, the idea of preparedness seems like an impossible undertaking. The amount of equipment and supplies needed is staggering. When I first came to the realization that I was under prepared, the gap between what I had and where I needed to be was too much for my public servant’s paycheck to bear.

I would spend a lot of time discussing preparedness with a group that I would go shooting with, and all of these meetings would always gravitate to “which weapon do you plan for X meters?” or “how many rounds do you think I need for X weapon?” I love to talk guns, but if we were discussing preparedness as a whole, we were leaving out lots of basic needs!

It seemed that the plan was to square one area of preparedness away before moving on to the next. I asked myself “what happens if I have to leave tomorrow?” I realized that having a little bit of everything to survive was better than having a pallet of ammo, but no food or water. This is where I decided that being honest about what I actually set aside for emergencies and developing a starting point was the best plan.

A friend of mine once said “you can’t boil the ocean; you have to start one pot at a time”. I developed the idea of categorizing my list of necessities then deciding what was a minimal level all the way to when I felt fully prepared.

This Good/Better/Best approach has helped me get a handle on the holistic approach to preparedness while still allowing me to keep my bills paid. A side benefit is that this incremental approach was that it was easier to get my wife to think about being more and more prepared without being in the poorhouse.

The first step is to categorize what types of things you deem necessary to survive. There are great resources already written that lay out categories and what goes in each, and this is not the the purpose of this article. For ease of discussion, I will use a couple examples such as food, water, communications, medical, etc.

The second step is to determine what your realistic plans will be, and set minimums for each option. Looking at these plans through the good/better/best approach I will explain how this incremental plan allowed us to stick with a plan and grow it as we can.

Good Plan (Bug In). This is most likely for many of us, such as floods/tornadoes/earthquakes. I know, to many people, planning on bugging in is not considered a ‘good’ plan, but this is compared to being totally unprepared, so being self sufficient at your house is a good start. The fall of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 gave my wife and I a wind storm that knocked out power for 10 days at our house, and an ice storm that knocked out power for an additional 8 days. Now the situation was not dire enough to pick up and leave, therefore the “bug in” was appropriate for us both times. Having set minimum supply requirements for a ‘good’ plan allowed us to manage the wind storm without any problems. Now lessons learned during the wind storm allowed us to plan for the following ice storm. We were better prepared for the second storm than the first, and it was fortunate since the weather conditions were worse. I can guarantee that we are better prepared now from those experiences.

Better Plan (Bug Out). A better plan would be to not only be prepared to bug in, but have the ability to mobilize with needed supplies and move to a predetermined location. This would be some factor that makes it not safe to remain at home. My wife and I have just built on to the existing supplies by adding the proper vehicle, and storing supplies in such a manner that they can be loaded into the vehicle in a matter of minutes. One thing that we both had to agree on was where were we going in case we had to pick up and leave. We still aren’t in a financial place to acquire retreat land, but we have trusted friends on a farm that we have that agreement with, and not only do we have our routes planned, but we have also stored some additional supplies at this ‘better’ location.

One thing that my wife and I have agreed on is certain red flags that prompt a bug out. We both work in emergency services and watch the news and the general demeanor of the public that we deal with on a daily basis. While nothing has necessitated a evac, there have been plenty of times when I drive to work loaded down with supplies and plans to meet her on the way out of town.

Again, let me reiterate that we weren’t comfortable moving to bug out plans until we felt that we could sustain ourselves at home for one month, since this was the what we considered as our minimum criteria. I wanted to get a bug out vehicle first, but after thinking about it, if I didn’t have a minimum supply of things such as food/water/shelter, then the vehicle wasn’t going to do a lot of good. Once our minimum amounts were met, then a truck was squared away, while also adding more to our supplies. The key was not to let the ‘fun’ purchases such as guns and vehicles get ahead of more mundane things such as spare medications and kerosene.

Best Plan (Retreat Living). As Mr. Rawles has pointed out, this is the ideal plan. Being able to weather any problems that befall us from within the confines of our own well prepared retreat is great. This is our ultimate goal, and with each bill paid off, it comes a little closer. However, I would guess that the most of us don’t wake up one morning and decide that ‘I think I’ll go buy a remote tract of land and build an uber-retreat on it’. You will have to decide when you can financially make this move, but you can’t go unprepared while you are saving for that moment.

I can’t give you a perfect plan to see you through incremental preparation, since no two people will have the same situation. What I can suggest is that you start with a pencil and paper, and be honest with what is set aside for rough times. Decide what supplies you will need per person (don’t count regularly used groceries, these are off limits until they near their shelf life- then replace, use or donate), and set a minimum of each category so you can gauge where your gaps are.

If you’re like us, when you sit down and write out what you have in the house, then separate those supplies from the others, you may be surprised at how prepared you are compared to what you thought. You may be well above minimum on certain things and seriously deficient on others.

Setting benchmarks for your categories should keep you on track as far as reaching each level of preparedness in a holistic way. Without these benchmarks, it becomes too easy to focus on one area, and neglect others.

Using the Good/Better/Best approach as it pertains to specifics.
Another place that I use the good/better/best approach is in each category of our preparedness. I consider a good (minimum) is having a quantity on hand, a better is having the means to get more, and best is having a sustainable/replaceable supply. I will give some examples of how this approach may be interpreted.

Good- One gallon per person per day, for X number of days.
Better- In addition to stored water, having purification means such as chemical/UV/filtration systems.
Best- Having a well, spring or refillable cistern in addition to the aforementioned.

Good- MRE’s and stored food.
Better- Stored food as well as hunting supplies and seeds
Best- Healthy land to hunt and farm, as well as canning means.

Good- A single 50w HAM radio and some training
Better- 50w mobile base station and 5w handhelds for members of the group.
Best- A base station/repeater, 50w mobiles in every vehicle, and 5w’s for the group.

Medical (training)
Good- EMT
Better- Paramedic
Best- Wilderness Paramedic.

These are just some examples of how the good/better/best approach can allow you to become prepared all around incrementally, without running yourself into serious debt while doing so. Notice how each step builds on the last, as this allows you to constantly improve your preparedness, while not neglecting any area.

One last note- I challenge everyone to thrive by learning to adapt, rather than artificially maintain your comfort level. To clarify, during our winter power outage, my wife and I found alternate means to bathe, heat the house using our woodstove/kerosene heater, and worked by lamplight. Some neighbors tried to run their homes via generators, to find that some were stolen, broke down, and frequently ran out of fuel.

My challenge to you is to become familiar with your comfort zones and push past them. How long can you go without hot coffee? How about cigarettes or alcohol? How picky an eater are you or your family? These are not things to deal with when TSHTF. If you can quit any vices and expand your comfort level to outside the norm, then when the time comes, your stresses will be lessened.