Disaster Preparedness - Which Strategy Is Best For Me?

chess strategy

The combination of recent disasters on American soil and a multitude of movies and reality TV shows have finally gotten the attention of many Americans. And now questions are starting to circulate; the most common question I am hearing is ‘what’s the best strategy for me’? The fact that people are now asking this question for the first time offers hope for many because when there are more people who are prepared, there are more people who have the option to help others.

The simple answer to the question, ‘which strategy’ is; ‘the strategy that actually keeps you and your family safe and alive and is sustainable long-term’.

The survival strategy that you choose is a function of your own risk analysis, which poses some potential pitfalls in finding good information. And once you are accurately informed, what do you honestly believe can happen with realistic odds calculated?

Prepping is not a trendy hobby. It requires some real soul searching as to what you really believe, and then, what you’re willing to do. If you hedge your bets on proper preparedness, then you also hedge your odds for survival.

If you are truly serious about surviving a serious event, then you have to start-out with a strategy that has the least amount of intrinsic or built-in risks, which would require you to implement a whole bunch of ‘work-arounds’ just to deal with the risks that are inherent to a flawed survival strategy. This is not a good beginning…

First of all, if you’re serious, start out by not choosing a strategy that is premised on some disaster event that happens every 10,000 years or more, or that places you and your loved-ones in a survival location equivalent to downtown Baghdad. I am constantly amazed by some Preppers who think that they can survive a shootout with thousands upon thousands of evacuees who will surely overcome their fixed-location survival base, regardless of training and preparations… even a company of U.S. Marines could not withstand wave after wave of these many thousands of desperate people! And the whole notion of bugging-out in the company of thousands of armed desperate evacuees is rife with serious risks; in a large-scale disaster, there will be no orderly supervised evacuations. This is an example of an obtuse work-around that is a function of choosing a lousy survival location (a poor compromise). Too many so-called ‘experts’ are encouraging such lunacy, and they will end up getting a lot of people dead.

SB black friday blowout

If you really want to survive, you have to, among other things, avoid the dangers of combat at all costs, even if that means changing lifestyles and moving while you can relocate intelligently. There’s no gain without some pain.

Short-term localized disasters while devastating, are nothing compared to a large-scale long-term disaster. And the people who are properly prepared for such a long-term disaster also happen to be well prepared and equipped to handle any short-term event, but that doesn’t work the other way around! People who are well prepared for short-term events are not properly prepared for a long-term large-scale event!

smokey coast

There is no shortage of fools providing information on what you ought to be preparing for, and even after the lesson of December 2012 (‘end of the world’), there is still no shortage of people who are listening-to and accepting that kind of so-called ‘advice’.

History is one of our best teachers; however too many people fail to actually study history. History also helps a reasonable person to calculate the mathematical odds for the reoccurrence of various natural and man-caused disasters. The good news is that many serious scientists and historians have already done the math for us. By studying these results we can quickly establish our own particular risks with reasonable accuracy.

First of all, there are risks that are common to everyone; car accidents, medical accidents, illness and disease and home accidents top the list of our common risks. Many people are caught off-guard by the ubiquitous everyday risks that result in the deaths of hundreds of Americans each day. Here is an interesting live-feed accounting of daily (and semi-annual deaths in America: http://www.romans322.com/daily-death-rate-statistics.php

Daily risks and short-term localized disasters are much easier to prepare for than the more worrisome large-scale long-term events that nobody really wants to think about. And that’s because any potential solution or strategy is not easily effected; it requires some level of sacrifice and compromise (for instance, you might have to move your home, and/or change jobs).

Serious prepping must also extend to include large-scale, long term disasters, which can arguably engulf all of us at the same time, thrusting everyone into the same horrible situation. (http://williamesimpson.com/large-scale-disaster)

Most of us have had a glimpse of the effects of much smaller regional disasters, where help from nearby areas was forthcoming and provided varying levels of relief. But what happens when everyone (or nearly everyone) is in the same pickle at the same time? Who’s coming to the rescue then? Individuals who work for the various government agencies (FEMA, DHS, EMS, National Guard) will be personally engulfed and will be just trying to help their own families and neighbors to survive.

This scenario can be worrisome for those people who don’t know where to start. And it certainly is a subject that baffles emergency managers, who really have no workable solutions or options to offer; how does anyone help an entire country that is engulfed in a disaster, like a grid-down event? Obviously, the only real solution is that you have to be personally in a position to quickly help yourself (and possibly others, as you are able).

So what kind of events can cause a disaster of this magnitude and what are the odds for occurrence for such disasters?

carrington eventOne of the greatest fears of our own government is related to the events that would unfold should our national energy grid fail for any reason. Here’s a movie clip that encompasses the concept: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAjtheYwXQk

Our national electrical grid is more fragile than it has ever been (getting worse daily) and there are now a number of ways that a failure could be triggered, resulting in a catastrophic irrecoverable failure (AKA ‘grid-down’):


*Solar Flare with accompanying earth-directed coronal mass ejection (‘CME’)

*Electromagnetic Pulse (‘EMP’); caused by any nuclear explosion

*Computer hacking of the grid’s control systems

*Regional failures from less intense events can potentially trigger a ‘cascading’ catastrophic failure of the national grid.

There are several countries that have nuclear weapons and who are not exactly best friends with the United States: China, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and soon, Iran. EMP weapons are relatively easy to use, and as such, even terrorist factions could potentially obtain and use such a weapon. Here’s a brief video that puts things into perspective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHG8zcM-jU0

Some of the ways that our national electrical grid can be irreversibly damaged involve a technical discussion, but for those of you who enjoy that kind of stuff, here are the links to the papers that support my foregoing observations:




Considering the frequency of large-scale and regional wars, another potential is a conventional large-scale war, or even a regional war that spins out of control, which poses a very real risk for catastrophic escalation. Given the proliferation of nuclear and biologic weapons, any reasonable person should have some healthy level of concern. The odds are certainly far better than Lotto.

Next we have natural occurring pandemic disease to consider. History shows us what can happen, such as the 1918 Flu Pandemic where estimates place the loss of life in America alone at about 5% of the population. Recent variant strains of the
Flu have the potential to be far more lethal.

radioactive map

Looking at recent events in Fukushima, we see that it’s possible for one natural disaster (Tsunami) to trigger another man-related disaster (nuclear accident). There are hundreds of nuclear reactors in northern hemisphere of the world, any one or more of which could be the source of a significant nuclear event that could affect very large areas. Of course there are a few more statistically relevant ‘what if’ scenarios to be considered.

So we have these genuine potential threats, but are they the ‘real’ threat?


The simple answer is; no. Even through the initial onset of such events can immediately kill some people, many other people will have a window of opportunity for survival if they have a survival strategy already in place. In terms of casualties, sometimes the initial event is not nearly as deadly as the subsequent chain of events thereafter.

One example relates to the problems that will stem from the millions upon millions of crazed and desperate survivors (evacuees from the more densely populated areas), where the majority of whom will be armed and very dangerous. The following link points out just how well-armed these survivors will be: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country

crowdsAs these millions of armed people disburse themselves across the lesser populated rural and mountain areas in search of more ideal survival locations and resources, they will present several serious risks to people who have elected to shelter in place (this also includes colonies of people; see Nat. Geo’s the ‘Colony’). As a result of the sheer numbers, these armed evacuees will easily overwhelm any and all fixed positions they come upon (other than military facilities such as Cheyenne Mountain, etc.), regardless of people, guns and preps in place, and even as the masses disburse and break-up, they will still come in waves of hundreds day after day. If pandemic disease is involved, some of these people can be carriers, and as such, the disease could rapidly spread to remote areas as well. They will also be using and depleting local resources as they pass through or settle in areas, greatly reducing the value of hunting and fishing for food.

It’s not a pretty picture, or one that any of us wants to contemplate! But in reality, if you’re serious about disaster preparedness, this is exactly what must be carefully considered… we need to carefully evaluate all of the ‘what if’ scenarios… after all, we cannot begin an investigation of potential risks with ‘Once Upon A Time’.

I am sure some readers might be thinking that; ‘according to Capt. Bill, there’s no hope’, but that’s really not the case. If you are willing to do what it takes to have a realistic strategy that eliminates these risks, you have an excellent chance for sustainable and comfortable survival… I call this ‘stacking the survival deck in your favor’.

And once you have your strategy in place, then you can start looking into preps, equipment and tactics that support the strategy, not the other way around.

One realistic survival strategy would have Preppers living a lifestyle that keeps them out of harms-way, by living in location that is far (500 miles or more) from densely populated areas and where there are limited environmental risks (like living at the foot of an active volcano; that’s a no-no!). The mechanism for sorting-out such an optimal survival location is simple; first pick some perspective survival locations (or where your home is located) on a map and mark them. Then, using a compass, draw a circle around all of your proposed survival locations using a radius of 500 miles, which forms a circle that has a diameter of 1,000 miles. Why a diameter of 500 miles? Because some hoards of evacuees will in fact have made it out of cities with vehicles, and most vehicles will have exhausted their fuel at or before the 500 mile mark (assumes they start with a full tank of fuel). The best scenario is to be far enough out, that few if any desperate gangs show up at your door.

map ringIf there are any cities with large populations of people within the circle, it’s not good (the less people in your circle, the better). Also, if there are any legitimate environmental hazards within that circle, that’s also not a good thing (maybe find another spot). As this exercise will demonstrate, there are not as many great survival locations as you might think! Again, the key is to start-out with the lowest population density possible in your circle, which results in the lowest potential population density (per square mile) once all these people fan out.

Frankly, even though I love America, living in America is getting harder and harder for a multitude of reasons. With respect to disaster preparedness, some people I know are relocating their households outside America and are moving to countries and locations that have population densities that are extremely low, and where the agricultural carrying capacity of land is not overburdened, as it is here in America. Additionally, in these locations, fishing and game are plentiful as a result of low population densities and low pressure on those resources (1 person per sq. mile, or less), and where gun ownership is less than one gun for every one-hundred people (less than 0.01% of people have guns).

A couple saying come to mind here: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”- Desiderius Erasmus ... and ‘In the land of no guns, the man who has a Colt is the big-dog’.

So what other options do we have? How about the best of both worlds? Being able to live in or near a major coastal city (jobs, etc.) and being able to literally bug-out at a moments notice to a land or island where living is sweet? This option is what I call ‘Nautical Prepping’ and contrary to a few naysayers, it’s very affordable! If you can pay rent, you can own a boat that also can serve as your fully prepped home.

Some people have accomplished this feat using junk, literally! Here’s some information about a super low-dollar sailing operation, which clearly demonstrates that even by using junk, the concept can be accomplished. http://junkraft.com/home.html

However, I recommend that Preppers consider conventional sailboats (which are safer and are more welcome in marinas), unless money is non-existent. If you shop a little, you can acquire a decent used blue-water sailboat for under $15,000.00! A neighbor of ours recently bought a durable ‘Rawson 30’ sailboat (known as a ‘pocket cruiser’) for $7,500.00, which has all the amenities for two people to live aboard. In addition to sails, that vessel also has an auxiliary inboard diesel engine.

Living on a small sailboat is similar to living in a small Condo on the water, where you have all the creature comforts of an apartment. People who have adopted this ‘prepared lifestyle’ drive, bike or walk to work in nearby cities and come home to their boat-home at night, and play on their boats during the weekends and holidays. In the event of a disaster, they needn’t worry about joining the gridlock on the highways in a futile attempt to ‘head for the hills’. And almost anyone can sail to an island or a less populated area of land.

beach hutYouTube is loaded with videos of young and old people who are living this lifestyle, quite happily. Even young kids (teen boys and girls 16 years old) have safely circumnavigated the globe in sailboats as small as 26 feet (books: Maiden Voyage & Dove).


Here’s a video that outlines the concept of Nautical Prepping: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElYwxAysmDw

The big advantage is that when you live on your boat, it only takes 5 minutes from the time you even suspect a problem to be heading to sea and your pre-selected bug-out location. If the grid went down, for example, while others are wondering when the lights are coming back on, Nautical Preppers are in the ready mode and can depart immediately, fully stocked and prepped!

So as we see, there are workable options. If you are interested in either option, my book ‘The Nautical Prepper’ offers detailed steps to migrating into the lifestyle of Nautical Prepping, and it also offers details on proven tactics, equipment and preps that would also serve land-based Preppers very well: http://www.amazon.com/The-Nautical-Prepper-Equip-Survive/dp/1612432204

Cheers! Capt. Bill
Capt. William E. Simpson – USMM
Twitter:  @NauticalPrepper

About the Author:


Capt. William E. Simpson II is a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer with decades of boating and expedition sailing experience, having logged more than 150,000 miles at sea. Capt. Simpson has successfully survived long-term ‘off the grid’ at sea and at remote uninhabited desert islands with his family ...


Emergency Preparedness, Prepping, Recent Articles, Survival Skills


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