The first and most important step in getting prepared is deciding what you are preparing for. The idea of being “better prepared” is very broad and very vague. You can’t prepare for everything, so you need to be specific about what you do want to prepare for. Being specific doesn’t mean you only prepare for one thing, it means you have a Primary Event that you are planning for first. Secondary Events are planned off of the primary plan. Secondary Events represent lower priority disasters or negative events that you want to be prepared for too.
Primary Event Planning
Here’s an example using my family’s situation. In our specific situation I have used the Cascadia Earthquake as our Primary Event. Our Secondary Events include: snow storm (Portland, OR does not handle more than a ½” of snow very well), power outage, job loss, house fire, and medical emergency. You’ll notice that I don’t have events like hurricanes, tornados, asteroids, tsunamis, or global financial collapse as a Primary Event or a Secondary Event. These would all be legitimate and devastating occurrences that someone might choose to prepare for, but they don’t make sense in our situation due to the following factors:
- Environment: Oregon does not have a hurricane season and is not prone to tornados.
- Geography: Tsunami’s are not a threat since Portland is 80 miles from the coast. Additionally, the Coast Mountain Range provides an added shielding from waves.
- Resources: An asteroid impact, depending on the size and location could be an extinction level event. The best way to prepare for a disaster of that size would be to create an immense underground bunker, which is significantly out of our budget. If the financial system collapsed, you would want to be as self-sufficient as possible, and purchasing a farm to accomplish that is not feasible at this time (although I sometimes dream about it :-))
If you live in Florida, you should probably make a hurricane your Primary Event, if you live in the Midwest tornados would make sense to be a Primary Event – if you live East of the Cascade Mountains you should not have the Cascadia earthquake as your Primary Event.
Once you’ve selected your Primary Event, that should be the primary focus of your prepping and planning. That Event dictates what supplies you need, how long those supplies need to last, and what you and your family will do to survive once the Event has concluded.
In our case, an earthquake will cripple our utility service. In Portland, our utility lines run underground and over bridges. When the Cascadia quake strikes, the underground utility lines will be destroyed. Additionally, the bridges that carry the utility lines over the rivers will be destroyed. We need to plan to be without electrical service, water service, and natural gas for a prolonged time. If we were concerned tornados, we wouldn’t worry about underground utilities being damaged.
Secondary Event Planning
Secondary Events are the next lens to look through. These Events use the planning that you have for your Primary Event as a base, and require a small amount of specialized planning to fill the gaps. Here are a couple of examples of how these Secondary Events fit into our plans:
- Power Outage: Power outages can happen without warning but are usually short in duration and do very little damage. The biggest physical and/or financial damage will be melted frozen food. This is an easy Secondary Event to plan for because we anticipate a power outage after the Cascadia earthquake. We have supplies to mitigate the impact of an outage including: batteries, flashlights, lanterns, battery chargers, and a generator.
- Snow Storm: Portland, OR is known for rain but not for snow. It is not uncommon for schools to close with the threat of an inch of snow in the forecast. It is also not uncommon for roads and freeways to become impassable during these storms, not because they are slick but because cars have been abandoned on them. Our Primary Event preparations already include having extra food and toiletries on hand to avoid trips to the grocery store. We have a gas fireplace that provides heat, but we also have propane heaters on standby if needed. Our Primary Event plans don’t include icy roads, so we added tire chains and kitty litter to provide vehicle traction.
These illustrations show what it looks like when your Primary Event plans overlap with your Secondary Event plans. Once you identify the overlap, you can very easily identify the gaps (traction devices in the case of the snow storm) and very easily fill them (chains and kitty litter).
Determining what you are prepping for, and what you are not prepping for, helps you to focus your time, energy and resources. Your plans will be sharper, your supplies will be tailored, and confidence will be boosted.