Prepping in Layers – P.A.C.E

Layering and Preparedness

I’ve mentioned in a few previous articles that preparing with layers is a really important concept.  Preparing for an emergency or disaster is not about a checklist or buying the right 5 pieces of equipment, and you’re done.  Preparedness is largely about planning; the equipment and gear help you execute those plans.  Layers provide redundancy and synergy.  They strengthen your plan by giving it flexibility, efficiency, and durability.  Layers will be a consistent theme on Cascadia Dispatch.  This is the first of many that will address the importance of layering in your planning.


Plan a and plan b

As a first step into layering, I wanted to introduce you to P.A.C.E.  P.A.C.E. Is a methodology for planning and stands for: Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency.  It was developed to be used by military special forces, but can easily be applied to any planning project.  This method lends itself extremely well to planning for emergencies and disasters.

The Meaning of P.A.C.E.

Primary – “Plan A”

The Primary is the first choice option.  This is your best plan given your available time and resources.  If everything goes according to plan, this is your plan.

Alternate – “Plan B”

Your Alternate plan is your second choice.  This isn’t the best option but still is a solid choice.  You may need to use the Alternate if your Primary option isn’t feasible due to time or resource constraints.

Contingency – “Plan C”

This is “Plan C”.  Your Contingency is less desirable than your Primary and Alternate options.  If you’re utilizing your Contingency you are likely dealing with both time and resource constraints.

Emergency – “Plan D”

The Emergency option is the last, best plan.  Keep in mind, this isn’t the last idea, it is just the last planned option.  The Emergency option is used when the situation has really become disastrous and you’ve worked through the Primary, Alternate, and Contingency options.

Using P.A.C.E.

So now that we’ve hit the highlights of what P.A.C.E. means, let’s talk about how you’d really use P.A.C.E.  To illustrate this planning methodology I’m going to walk through my water storage plans using P.A.C.E.


Bottled water

Our Primary water storage method is bottled water.  We have several cases of 500ml bottles and 1 gallon jugs.  These are portable, easy to rotate, easy to use, and easy to ration.


Our Alternate water storage method is our house.  We can pull water from our hot water heater, toilet tanks (not toilet bowls), and our pipes (whatever may be left in them and can be pulled out from the lowest faucet).  This option requires a little more effort than opening a water bottle, is less portable, and may require additional tools to access (hose and/or siphon).


275 gallon ibc tote

Our Contingency option is utilizing our two, 275 gallon IBC plastic totes.  These are not mobile and requires a hose to use.  Additionally this supply needs to be rotated every year or two (even with treatment – some people may disagree with this assertion, but I feel better about the water if it’s rotated regularly).


Our Emergency plan is to use various types of water filters to purify water from the streams that run through the wetlands behind our house.  These filters are designed to filter 1,000’s of gallons of water, but the quality of the water may still not be ideal.  Additionally, most filters are designed for drinking, so filtering enough water for cooking or sanitation will be time consuming.

A couple of final thoughts…

P.A.C.E. is a great way to help you focus on your plans and identify additional options if your best plan doesn’t work out.  While ideally you want to try to identify a Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency option for everything, some plans may not need 4 options.  Your personal situation might dictate that you either don’t need 4 options, don’t have the resources for 4 options, or have 2 or 3 options and need to research more to create a 4th.  If this is the case, don’t panic.  You’re not less prepared because you don’t have 4 options, you’re more prepared than you were because you’ve identified the options that you do have.

For more articles on planning click here.

Author: Casey Feves