What Does Your Survival Portfolio Look Like?, by J.H.

Every single skill, tool, ability, or prep for survival that you acquire should be viewed as an asset. With that state of mind, you can look at your chances of survival in various situations, evaluating where your strong and weak spots are. Just as you would diversify your financial portfolio through multiple investments in different areas, you must do the same with your survival portfolio. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! If you don’t have a survival portfolio, it’s time to build one.

Having an organized approach to survival helps keep your mind from screaming and the fear of the unknown at bay. While fear is a natural and healthy response and an excellent motivator, as humans, we can choose to keep our panic “in the basement”, allowing us to go forward when faced with situations that are severe or traumatic. This idea defines bravery, and bravery as well as skill can be cultivated through planning and training.

Once you are ready to create your plan, make a hard copy. Sit down either by yourself or with any participating members of your survival group and write out a plan, covering as many aspects as you can. The plan that follows is part of my family’s plan, written in stages. This is not the entirety of the plan nor the portfolio, but it includes important aspects for a family disaster plan.

The following is an example of how to begin building a survival portfolio. This list is not all inclusive, and of course things can be added or stripped away from this list to more fully fit your survival needs and plan. However, this will give you a medium through which you can identify your strengths and weaknesses and begin prioritizing your next steps.

The “sets” of survival are broken into three categories, consisting of Mind-set, Skill Set, and Tool Set.

For organizational purposes, this is an easy to understand and follow list that provides answers to the question of basic necessities to survive during and after a disaster, in a wilderness survival situation, urban survival situation, or in the case of societal breakdown. The three categories are listed in order of importance. Mind-set is first, because it is the catalyst for every other part of survivability.


  • Constitution (a strong will and/or reason to survive)
  • Common sense
  • The ability to remain calm and think rationally
  • Ability to take corrective action and delegate tasks
  • Cooperation with the environment, with others, with the situation; adaptability
  • Weighing pros/cons, evaluating risk/reward, and calculating calories, temperature, et cetera
  • Paying attention to oneself, others, surroundings, environment, needs, responsibilities, and so forth
  • Creativity (working with limited resources to achieve a desired outcome)
  • Decisive action

Skill Set

After mind-set comes skill set. After all, what good are the tools if you can’t use them? This isn’t to say you shouldn’t start or continue gathering tools and/or preps; it just means that your energy is better to be focused on being able to effectively use the tools you have to accomplish the goal you are looking to achieve.

The first four skills are the absolute most important. These address the four essential needs in a survival situation and are listed in order of priority.

  • Providing shelter (Whether in an urban environment or wilderness environment, good, warm, and safe shelter is imperative to survival.)
  • Water procurement and purification (You should know of and be able to use at least three methods of disinfecting your water.)
  • Creating fire (You should know three primitive and three modern techniques of creating fire.)
  • Acquiring food (Whether hunting/trapping and gathering or collecting food from a resource in an urban environment, at some point, you will have to know how to feed yourself.)
  • First Aid, CPR and medical knowledge
  • Know knots! (Knowing how to tie the right knot can save your life; not knowing can kill you.)
  • Cutting/chopping/skinning/gutting abilities
  • Cleanliness (Sometimes, it’s not the instant wound that kills you. Sometimes, it’s the bacteria that gets you after days, weeks, or months of being dirty. Keeping clean in a survival situation is a skill, believe it or not; it’s not as easy as you might think.)
  • Self Control (If you have only two candy bars, will you hold off until you absolutely need to eat? Or will your hunger overtake your common sense?)
  • Camouflage (I’m not talking about wearing camouflage clothes! How well can you blend in, in an urban environment under duress? In wilderness? Will you stand out? Can you hide in plain sight? Being an obvious target can get you killed.)
  • Containment (Keeping your family and yourself safe, keeping bad guys away, keeping operational security)
  • Conditioning (How far can you run, hike, walk? How fast? The slowest sheep get eaten by the wolves.)

Tool Set

(This particular tool-set is for a bag. It does not imply that it is a list of all needed tools.)

And finally, the tools…


  • Backpack
  • Plan (printed, in bag, waterproofed)
  • Maps of areas in plan (in zip-lock bag)
  • List of contacts/ emergency contacts/ important, pertinent information, like license plate (in zip-lock bag)
  • Instructions/ care/ frequencies for communication equipment (in zip-lock bag)
  • Instructions for other gear when not obvious (in zip-lock bag)
  • Recent family photos, including the dog (in zip-lock bag)
  • Backpack waterproof/rain cover (high visibility)
  • Safety vest (high visibility)
  • Hi-visibility ribbon (for communication/ ribbon system; this is discussed later in the article)
  • Fifty feet of paracord
  • Cap (hat of some sort with brim)
  • N-100 medical masks (2)
  • Anti-acid (in zip-lock bag with medical masks)
  • Safety glasses (can be sun glass style, but it is important that they are protective quality)
  • Multi-tool
  • Pocketknife (or fixed blade knife)
  • Socks
  • Headlamp (with extra batteries)
  • Walkie talkie (with extra batteries)
  • C.B. radio (with extra batteries)
  • Emergency whistle
  • Reflector tape (for signaling to prep group or to mark land mark for night-time navigation)
  • First aid kit (including chap-stick, eye-drops, inhaler, antibiotics, medical gloves)
  • Dental floss (non-waxed for stitching skin, waxed for sewing clothes, either or both)
  • Sail needle
  • Poncho
  • Map compass with mirror
  • Hygiene kit (including toothbrush, soap, lotion, nail clipper)
  • Work gloves
  • Orange bandanna
  • Black or brown bandanna
  • Pencil, paper (or small notebook), chalk, crayon, marker
  • Key-rings (2)
  • Carabiners (2)
  • Toilet paper and baby wipes
  • Cloth diapers (2) with safety pins (4)
  • Undergarments (thermals or long underwear)
  • Snacks, hard candy, lolipops, chocolate, and utensils (CRKT Eatin’ Tool)
  • Book (small, paperback)
  • Earplugs
  • Silver coins ($5 face value, minimum)
  • Nicotine gum and one pack of cigarettes (for Mom and Pop, to trade)
  • Small roll of gorilla tape
  • Super glue
  • Matches, lighter, and emergency candle in waterproof container
  • Glow-sticks (two, with one being battery-operated)
  • Pocket U.S.K. (Urban Survival Kit in Altoids tin) with Ranger bands
  • Water in canteen or stainless steel water bottle
  • Water purification device
  • Flask of whiskey (for Mom and Pop)
  • Terry cloth towels (3)
  • SOL sports utility blanket or heat sheet
  • Aluminum foil (in zip-lock bag)
  • Small spice bottle of baking soda
  • Watch (digital for kids; analog for adults)
  • Large receiving blanket
  • Breast milk bags (for pure water or waterproof bag)
  • Fifty-five gallon drum liners (2)
  • Light jacket or windbreaker
  • Sneakers or comfortable hiking boots for swift trekking (secured to bottom of pack)
  • Scout kit

    Optional: Pepper spray gun and/or flares/flare-gun


I suggest putting as many items as possible into zip-lock bags, but absolutely use zip-lock bags for those items noted with (“in zip-lock bag”) in the contents list. Zip-lock bags have so many uses– as water containers, gloves/mitts, waterproofing, and shoe covers, just to name a few. Additional Ranger bands are nice as well, as they can be used for so many things that it is ridiculous not to carry as many as you can. For example, they can be used as large rubber-bands (obviously), for making a sling shot, as a long burning fire-tinder (even in wet conditions), for holding gear together, making traps, condensing “airy” items, making a waterproof seal, keeping pant-cuffs secure, and the list goes on and on.

Also, yes, all of these items and more can fit in one reasonably-sized bag. Creativity in the item sizes you choose, how you pack, and packing items inside of other items make this possible.

In addition, you may want to carry firearms and extra ammunition. I specifically did not include these items on the list for personal security reasons as well as to make the list applicable to more individuals.

Have A Plan!

You may want to design a disaster plan or a similar plan for your family. This is what our family’s disaster preparedness plan looks like.



    1. Identify what the disaster/threat is and how we must proceed.
      1. If the EVENT indicates that we are secure in our home and we are all together, we then “COVER ALL BASICS” procedure.
        1. Shelter (structurally sound and secure.)
        2. Water (inventory amount available and set up disinfection and purification system.)
        3. Food (inventory food storage and set up meal plan following a 3 meal 1 snack a day schedule.)
        4. Security (secure all entry points, cover/block windows, set “deterrents”, set “watch” schedule and crow points.)
        5. Warmth (if applicable, set secondary heating systems and identify our “huddle” spot.)
        6. Energy (inventory and center all energy resources, i.e. batteries, fuels, lights, and any other resource items.)
        7. Entertainment (gather and facilitate entertainment for kids/babies, delegate to secretary of entertainment, i.e. Son 1 or Daughter 1.)
        8. Communications (identify communication tiers, i.e. phones, walkies, CB’s, emergency signaling, and so forth; begin contact attempts- 1/2Hr-1Hr.)
        9. Waste Disposal (Set up secondary waste disposal system and dump area; set up sanitation system.)
        10. Health (gather and center medical supplies and triage area; set up hygiene schedule with water usage, and identify mental health stability of each family member and coping mechanisms.)
      2. If the EVENT indicates that we must abandon our home, we then follow “TO GO” procedure.
    2. Are WE all TOGETHER? If “Yes”, we follow Primary w/o vehicle procedure under w/o vehicle circumstances. However, if we are with vehicle and have time, we can pack Primary and Secondary survival systems.
      1. Primary- “Go Bags” and Family Medical Bag only

        Grab go bags, family medical bag, pets, and we as family follow location procedure:


        (This is a list of “Safe points” where we can gather and strategize. If location 1 is compromised, we go to location 2. If location 2 is compromised, we go to location 3.)

        1. “Orthodox Church”
        2. “Quarry”
        3. Ringsville Hospital
      2. b) Secondary- Long Term Survival System
      3. In addition to Primary components, we may bring extra drink and food caches, medical cache, secondary weapons, tools, and shelter options as well as predetermined “comfort items”.
      4. We then follow same location procedure as primary.
    3. Are WE all TOGETHER? If “No”, we follow R&R (rescue and recovery) procedure:
      1. a) Identify who is separated from family and where they are.
        1. School- If one or more children are at school:
          1. Mom heads to the school w/ the Dog for R&R; Pop, Son 2, and Daughter 2 follow location procedure.
          2. Son 1 and Daughter 1 go to school meeting area– woods behind abandoned grocery store– to meet up w/ MOM.

            *Note: Son 1 procedure Plan.

            *Note: Ribbon system in use.

          3. Mom, Son 1, Daughter 1, and the Dog go to location 1, follow location procedure. (Ribbon system in use)
          4. Once we are all together, we proceed w/ strategy plan.
        2. One or more separated anywhere else:
          1. Go to “Target Range” (meet up or message)
          2. Follow location procedure. (Ribbon system in use)
    1. Pop and Son 1 prepare immediate survival setup.
      1. Law of 3’s
      2. 11 Primary Items for each and then all other items
    2. Mom establishes emergency communications (use communication tier procedure).
      1. Contact list
      2. Prepare emergency signaling (if applicable)
    3. Daughter 1 or Mom establishes baby care.
      1. Baby care area
      2. Meet baby health/safety needs
      3. Entertainment
    4. Information Priorities.
      1. Identify disaster threat level and vicinity
      2. “News”
      3. Family and friends
      4. Our survival needs (including immediate as well as cache retrieval)
  3. 24-72 HOURS
    1. Identify “Living Situation”
      1. Temporary, Semi-Long-term, or Long-term “Wilderness Living Survival”


      2. Semi-Long-term or Long-term “Civil Living Survival”
        1. Follow contact/make-way procedure.
          1. Terry and John’s
          2. Paul’s
          3. Mike’s
          4. Sarah’s
          5. Ed- Last resort/ Res. resting point


The procedure for Plan B goes into effect in the event that our family is unable to maintain “standard of living” in our home in a survival/disaster/WROL situation. (For example: if our home is compromised, if water/food/shelter resources have been damaged or compromised, or if continuous engagement of “enemy forces” is unsustainable during the “Event” we have found ourselves in, or some scenario similar to these takes effect, we engage Plan B.)

I have not included a copy of our Plan B procedure for operational security reasons.


Ribbon procedure is to be used for non-verbal communication between family circle members. The ribbon that the family member carries is to signal to another family member that they have been at the designated meeting place and have moved on to another (secondary or third) meeting place. The ribbon is to be tied in a highly visible area that can be easily seen by the other member(s) of the family so that a member looking for the ribbon does not need to spend extra time searching for the ribbon or family member they are looking for.

Each member of our family circle that is applicable to have and use the ribbon system for communication signaling will each have their own color ribbon so signaling will be easily determined.

The color of ribbon for each family member is as follows:

Son 1- Yellow Ribbon

Daughter 1- Pink Ribbon

Mom- Red Ribbon

Pop- Orange Ribbon

All ribbons are of high visibility colors (neon or bright) so as not to be confused with other markers that may be in the area that has been chosen for ribbon “marking”.

Another piece of the portfolio that is important is to take time to practice your plan and skills. Make a schedule for practice drills and include all group or family members. Make it engaging and exciting so all involved want to participate.



  1. Fire Drill
  2. Zombie Intruder Drill
  3. National Disaster Drill (24Hr/48Hr/72Hr Drills)
  4. Plan B (“Bug Out”) Drill

Fire Drill– The purpose of this drill is as a readiness exercise in the event of a house fire and/or nearby fire. There will be multiple levels to this drill.

  • Level 1 will be a scenario in which all participants are able to escape through a central location, such as front door, back door, et cetera.
  • Level 2 will be a scenario of separated participants. Members can’t get to each other in the house and must use individual emergency exiting strategies for escape (upstairs windows and so forth).
  • Level 3 for the family scenario will consist of one adult family member being mock-injured and the procedure of which the rest of the participants are to follow.
  • Level 4, the final level, will be a scenario with the adult participants trapped outside and the child(ren) trapped inside and should include both escape and contact procedures. Each level should build on the prior level, starting with Level 1. Each drill scenario should be performed with the use of “Go Bags” and then again without the bags. Establish discipline of grabbing “Go Bags” but reinforce that it may not be possible, depending on the situation. A communication system should be established between participants, such as using emergency whistles.

Zombie Intruder Drill– The purpose of this drill is as a readiness exercise in the event of a “Zombie” intruder. Now, obviously this exercise is not solely for “Zombie” intruders. I have chosen this theme based on my family’s interests and what I thought would be the most fun and exciting for the participants in this drill. This is a multiple level drill wherein participants are able to go through the motions of an intruder in the home and what the responsibilities and procedures are for each and all individuals participating in the event.

  • Level 1 will be a scenario in which all participants are able to gather in a central location and work as a tight group to defend the home and establish secure perimeters.
  • Level 2 will be a scenario in which all capable members of the group must work independently of each other to establish primary defenses and separately establish secure perimeters.
  • Level 3 will be a scenario in which there is a mock-injured member of the group and the procedure to follow in that instance. Each level of the drill should be performed “real world” style and “Go Bags” should be included in all levels of practice. This does not mean that the participants should necessarily defend against the intruder threat while wearing the “Go Bag”, but awareness of proximity to the bag should be kept in mind in the event of a needed escape from the house or if shifting to Plan B procedure.

National Disaster Drill– The purpose of this drill is as a readiness exercise in the event of a National Disaster, such as a grid shut down, major earthquake, hurricane, WROL, nuclear event, or similar event). This drill is not limited to an entire National Disaster; however, I chose this as the title because one would act similarly if the event only effected a region, state, or district. This is a multiple level drill with the fourth level leading directly into the Plan B “Bug Out” drill and procedure.

  • Level 1 will be a scenario in which a National Disaster has taken place and the participants of the exercise have enough forewarning to “hunker down”, secure the house, and follow pre-planned procedures. The “event” for this drill has shut down the grid and for 24hrs, the participants practice having no electricity, running water, or emergency services available to them. The participants follow plan procedure in their “first 24 Hours” plan.
  • Level 2 of this drill is the same scenario, but participants maintain plan procedure for 48 hours.
  • Level 3 engages multiple scenarios in which the level one scenario is conducted for 48 hours, followed by an “Intruder event” in which procedures from the Zombie Intruder Drill are followed, leading directly into the “To Go” procedures of the plan that the participants have developed. The participants should follow the protocols and procedures of the “To Go” plan for 24 Hours. The last level of this drill follows levels 1, 2, and 3, with a mock-up of the Plan B procedures. All levels of this drill should be conducted as “real world”.

Plan B (“Bug-Out”) Drill– The purpose of this drill is as a readiness exercise in the event that the participants home location has been fully compromised and the group will not be able to enter back into the home for whatever reason. This drill is mostly a singular level drill and should be enacted as a “without vehicle” practice first but may be enacted “with vehicle”, if desired. For this drill, the participants will follow Level 3 of the National Disaster Drill, followed by a 5-10 mile, two-day hike (depending on the health and level of the participants). If it is a 5 mile, two-day hike, participants should hike 2 ½ miles to their “camp” location, spend 24-36 hours, making a camp and surviving, and then proceed to “break down” camp, “leave no trace”, and hike back to their starting point. The same procedure is followed for the 10 mile hike, but the participants hike 5 miles each way. This drill should be treated as a “real world” exercise. Also, during “camp hours”, scouting procedure should be practiced.

The “drill leader” (the individual hosting the drill) should keep either written or recorded notes for any and all drills to identify weak areas as well as progress and to make notes of anything to be added to a plan, procedure, or drill. Also, the participants should discuss the drill when the drill is over. This will help everybody have a better understanding of the roles each individual participant plays as well as how to work as a whole more effectively. The discussion portion proceeding each drill is as important as the drill itself. Communication is a major key of efficiency in almost all aspects of life. The “drill leader” may want to keep notes for the discussion portion of the drills as well.

Our family’s drill schedule has a drill about twice a month. This schedule suits my family, but other groups may want to schedule differently. Make sure everyone in the group has a hard copy of the drill schedule.

In addition to the portions of the survival portfolio that I have included, you or your group should take into consideration having the following plans and lists in your survival portfolio:

  • Shelter on site plan
  • Self quarantine/decontamination procedures
  • Any group member’s health problems
  • Contingency travel plans
  • Inventory lists of preps
  • List of survival skills/abilities
  • Maps
  • Items to obtain
  • Defense plans
  • Any other information that may be useful for portfolio purposes.

Make sure you are keeping all of your information (lists, plans, maps, drills. et cetera) in an organized, easy to understand, hard copy system. It is also suggested to keep duplicate copies of everything in your portfolio on a flash drive.