A Concentric Circle Preparedness Plan, by Second Hand Lion

As a professional project manager for a large international corporation, my position requires me to mitigate the risks of unknown variables that can alter the success of large and small projects. Donald Rumsfeld quote that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know” comes to mind. It is my job to insulate our company from cost overruns, time delays, or catastrophic project failure by identifying those variables and reducing their impact. These principles of project management applied to small personal events to those effecting us globally has led me to recognize some concerning trends in the preparedness community.

My observations have evolved as I have reached out or involved myself with various groups, whose vision and goals were to help other become aware of the fragile society and economy and how to prepare for it. I have discovered that the vast majority of people prepare themselves and their families, then stop at that point, thinking they have what they need to weather the storms of life. That discovery is what led me to move people beyond a personal stockpile of “stuff” and develop a Concentric Circle Preparedness Plan.

The goal behind this next step in preparing is to build a personal community, enhance your skills, resources and knowledge base and insulate you from the crisis with circles of defense. Concentric circles multiple your ability to survive. From small events, such as job loss, to major events, such as a global socio-economic collapse; adapting this along with a color code of awareness will help you identify what actions you should take and when.

Your Family Circle
This is your Primary Circle and where most people start and stop. They lay up food, water, medical supplies, fuel, shelter plans, guns, ammunition, maybe some cash and silver. They may develop some new skills such as sewing, canning, gardening, animal husbandry and acquire books as reference material. Yet they get to this point with a new level of confidence and assurance and falsely believe all is well or at least better. They may be prepared more than the masses but this is not the end of the journey. This initial circle is very important, because without it you become a refugee at the mercy of others or worse case FEMA.

Areas you should focus on are: Food, Water, Shelter, Fuel, Security, Medical needs, personal Hygiene, Currency/Barter skills, Gardening, Basic First Aid, etc. I would suggest finding a comprehensive list here on the List of Lists.

Extended Family Circle

This becomes your Secondary Circle and by its nature and mindset of awareness, an individual will naturally reach out to mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and cousins, your extended family. All of us have done this at some point or another and have our message both accepted or we are given the look (you know the one I am speaking of).  Developing the second circle is important to acquire trustful partners in a time of crisis. Additionally, a family member may have a farm to act as a retreat or access to skills and talents you neither have the education nor training, such as mechanic, nursing, welding, etc. Your extended family circle gives you a multiplier effect to your resources, tools and supplies that you may not have or the ability to purchase. Since typically, (family dependant) the trust factor is high in extended families, the sharing of information becomes less of a factor than in the outside circles. This second circle along with your family circle becomes the basis for your primary community of support and security.

At this point the creation of additional circles becomes more difficult as the trust factor diminishes and OPSEC issues arise. The benefits are great but I would caution and use extreme discernment in reaching out to others without a thorough knowledge of others ideologies and personal beliefs.

The following Circles are interchangeable in their position. For instance,  your Church Circle may well be more important or relevant to your personal situation than a Neighborhood or Friend Circle.

Neighborhood and Friend Circle

This can be broken into two separate and distinct circles. As you move to develop this circle the selection process of people to include should be done with care. Again, if you know your neighbors you can pick out the individuals that would be hostile to any mention of preparedness or political differences that may jeopardize your inter-circles. I know in our neighborhood we are surrounded by “opposing” ideologies that would expect us to share what we stored. An Occupy movement for my storehouse would likely ensure if they knew of our preparedness mindset. Nice people under normal circumstance but potential threats should the crisis develop beyond the point of stretching regional resources. We do not mention our plans or thoughts on preparing to these individuals. Choosing friends and neighbors under extreme situations is left to your discretion. There are advantages, you may have certain friends or neighbors who can add to your skill and knowledge base or those that you know are all ready preparing and the subject matter would not be threatening to them. These individuals become additional multipliers and another layer of security and insulation to mitigate risks of a crisis.

Reaching out to unknown neighbors is not a wise decision. One way to evaluate a neighborhood mindset is to start a Neighborhood Watch program. You will find out very quickly those that are armed, concerned about crime or possibly even have a similar mindset.

We have friends that have developed over the last year from our Homeschool Co-op. They have a farm with cattle, milking cows, a private shooting range. We are working together now to learn new skills, their location is not ideal for a retreat since it is a farm in the midst of a highly populated area, but the resources we have access to are beyond our individual efforts.

Church/Organizational Circle

I would hope your church would be supportive and what better core of individuals to build community support. I would say that in my experience depending on your denomination, that some church leaders may oppose preparing or at least look at you with the same look you get from skeptical family members. The groups I have been involved with have reached out to Churches with mixed results. The reason may vary from those that believe preparing is equal to not trusting in the Lord (which I believe He does) or that the Rapture will let them escape any major crisis (which I have no doubt He is capable to do). Unfortunately most automatically jump to a TEOTWAWKI situation and fail to see that hurricanes, tornados, ice storms, and job losses are everyday crisis’ people deal with. When they hear preparing, they hear Revelation events. That being said, I have found that most church members understand the principles found in scripture concerning preparing and are not opposed to it. The Joseph Principle, Noah, the Ant proverb, and the parable of the Ten Virgins are great examples.

The benefits of building the relationships in this circle are vast. Your trust factor should be higher than the population at large, the number of people (depending on your church) gives you access to more skills and resources of knowledge, a pre-structured community, access to large commercial kitchens equipment to feed large numbers of people and most importantly a support group of people of like faith.

Local Authority Circle

I know the mention to some will send shivers through your spine but bear with me. In no way am I suggesting you reveal your preparedness plans to local law enforcement. Especially in light of recently signed Executive Order — National Defense Resources Preparedness. If you are not familiar with this order I suggest you read it.


What I am suggesting is to make yourself acquainted with your local sheriff’s office or in my case we have a Deputy Sheriff that lives next door. He does not know that we are have a preparedness plan, in fact he does not even know that he is part of my circle, he knows who I am, and to some extent my views on life. Remember the crisis may be personal or global so mitigation of any risk is your goal and having knowledge and a personal connection with the local county sheriff or fire department may prove to be an extra layer of security. I would also add that including a Deputy Sheriff at your Neighborhood Watch Program actually provides you with information on the Sheriff in your county. You may discover that your sheriff is an Oath Honoring Constitutional minded Sheriff willing to assist citizens in his county to prepare.

By no means should your circles encompass any or all of these, you can tailor your concentric circles according to your own personal situation. But as you do, you will start to gain even more confidence in your survival skills, knowledge and resources.

How and when to engage these circles will be dependant on the event you are experiencing. Of course a job loss will not require you to engage the sheriff’s office but you may reach out to family, then your church, etc., yet a regional chemical spill may. Remember each circle provides a resource to mitigate risk.

Codes of Awareness

Now that you have a circle of security to insulate and mitigate risks to your family, establish a Color Code of Awareness. Information is key and if you plan to bug out it is imperative that you are the first ones out the door. While everyone else is watching Fox News to learn of the most up-to-date report on the crisis, then it is time to go. My personal opinion depending on the crisis will be that 80% of people have no where to go and will stay glued to the television for up to the minute news. The remaining 20% will have the sense to leave but 80% of those will hesitate because they are not ready, have nothing packed and no plan of action. That leaves us. The question my primary and secondary circles discuss on major events is What is the trigger? I still don’t have an answer for that question. We have thoughts and ideas and those are used to form a basis for decisions. But this is when we venturing into the “don’t-know-what-we-don’t-know-area”. We all have a sense in today’s world that events are upon us that can go badly very quickly. This unknown variable can only be provided with contingencies, a If this-Then this scenario, and in no way could every possible scenario be accounted for.  Under that unknown variable, we apply an OODA Loop.

Observation: You information do we have; what is going on around us, etc
Orientation: Formulate a plan around the Data you have received
Decision: Is the information valid, is it sufficient to make a decision, if not then more observation, reach out to your circles to uncover other information that will assist you
Action: Based on the information, is it a trigger event for you to implement a plan. What are the implications of delaying action?

Using an OODA loop for engaging your circles will help you from jumping the gun or crying wolf. The color code may also be used to determine when you call upon on more levels of your circles. Those decisions should be based upon your specific circumstance.

Code White
Means there are no potential hazards, ongoing crisis or crises on the horizon. Anything that happens would be a complete surprise. Personally we have never been in a Code White. With all the events going on politically, economically, socially a Code White would be a welcomed relief.

Code Yellow
Code Yellow means there is no specific threat but you are aware of some crisis that may be on the horizon. Example: A potential hurricane, snow storm. We have Code Yellow occasionally in North Carolina. In a Code Yellow we may contact those in our Extended Family and Friend Circle

Code Orange
Code Orange means there is a specific threat serious enough for us to have gassed up all the vehicles and be prepared to bug out. Bags are at the ready, Daily phone calls to members of our Primary Circle are made with location and daily plans. A sound like over kill but it is nice to be in touch with a spouse or children on a regular basis even if just to check in on each others status. The cause for a Code Orange in our operational book is terrorist threats, economic uncertainty, looming war, severe weather alerts, political uncertainty, etc. Yes, we seem to stay recently in Code Orange. We are in contact on a regular basis with Extended Family, Friends and Church Circles.

Code Red
This is the most severe of Codes. This means the event triggering a Code Orange has a high probability, has effected our immediate area or has national implications. Events such as a terrorist attack on a major city, Urban Riots, Collapse of the Markets suddenly, outbreak of a regional conflict in the Middle East are classified as major non-weather events with devastating impact. In these cases we will have contacted multiple circles (if possible) and have initiated our evacuation plan of action.

I suggest that each of your Codes have a specific reason, specific plan of action, reasons why the Code would change either to less or more extreme level. Don’t trigger a Code without using your OODA Loop. You will prevent much heartache and stress if your Code decisions are based on sound Observation and Orientation.

As you see, once each circle is developed, you start insulating yourself and developing an increased probability of successful survival. We have lost too many years of not developing our personal communities. Communities in the past, survived because they developed these connections, if not by design but through necessity. Your survival can not be based on only your resources alone; you can not be an island unto yourself. It has been said many times before; if your plan is to scamper off in to the woods to survive by yourself off the land then your chances are slim if not zero.

This may seem hard but just as when you began preparing your inter-circle, it took a small step. Now you need to take another small step and call a family member and start building on your secondary circle today. Start with those family members that will be more accepting to your message or plans and branch out from there. There is nothing more motivating than early success and building early connections.  If that circle is complete, which I would assume it is, then start your next circle, you may never use it but like insurance its there if you do.