For some people, preparedness is about the big things: the well-stocked retreat home, buying yet another firearm, or getting a super-fancy generator. While these things can certainly be classified as preparedness endeavors, it isn’t the expensive and dramatic gestures that make us truly prepared people.
The way prepared people spend their time before an emergency is the real key to survival, and this is something that no amount of money can buy.
It’s the small daily habits that become an innate part of our everyday lives – habits that may not even be noticeable to someone outside the lifestyle.
Real preppers, the ones you should look to for advice if you happen to be new to preparedness, are the ones who quietly conduct their daily lives with an eye towards readiness. Not only are these the qualities you should strive for yourself, but they are also the qualities that can help you to determine whether someone is the “real deal” or an armchair survivalist.
#1: Prepared people think beyond “Plan A”
Anytime one disaster occurs, several others are bound to follow closely in their wake. One of the most dramatic examples of this was the tsunami that followed closely on the heels of the 2011 earthquake in Japan, resulting in one of the most horrific nuclear disasters in the history of the world.
But it doesn’t have to be on such an epic scale to qualify. No matter how excellent your survival plan is, if things go awry you must immediately be able to accept that monkey wrench and adapt your plan to it.
Prepared people understand that even the most perfect plans can go wrong, and they are willing to abandon it and act on the fluid situation at hand.
#2: Prepared people react calmly.
Panic kills. When something terrifying happens, if your reaction is to freeze or to run around like a chicken with your head cut off, you’re probably going to die unless Lady Luck steps in and saves you through no action of your own.
Panic can show itself in two ways. For example, during the King Fire, a massive forest fire that burned over 97,000 acres of California wilderness, we witnessed some very visible panic in some of our neighbors.
When we got the first evacuation alert (a notice that evacuation was highly likely within the next 24 hours), a woman who lived down the street was wailing and sobbing as her husband tried to pack up their vehicle. She was rendered absolutely useless by fear.
Alternatively, panic can manifest in the inability to act. In psychology circles, completely freezing is called “tonic immobility”. This is a biological impulse related to an overload of stimuli due to extreme stress. It can also show itself in as an irrational sense of calmness as the brain denies the reality that a horrible event is truly happening. In her book, The Unthinkable, Amanda Ripley wrote about the cognitive dissonance experienced by some in the World Trade Center on 9/11.
The story that stands out in my mind the most was the one about the people in the World Trade Center on September 11. They described the last time they saw some of their coworkers. There were many people who simply could not accept the fact that a plane had crashed into the building and that they must immediately evacuate. They gathered their belongs, tidied their desks, finished reports. They didn’t feel the same sense of urgency that those who survived did, because the situation was so horrible that they just couldn’t accept it. Their inability to accept the scope of the danger caused many of them to perish in a tragic incident that other people, who acted immediately, survived. (source)
You can enhance this ability to accept events and act calmly by thinking through possibilities ahead of time and considering courses of action while your pounding heart is not pumping vast amounts of adrenaline through your veins.
Prepared people know that the ability to calmly accept the event, make a speedy plan, and then act on that plan is the key to survival.
#3: Prepared people are critical thinkers.
Thinking critically is an important skill. Those who passively accept everything they see on the TV news are missing the concept of propaganda. Six enormous corporations control just about everything seen on mainstream television. Through this control, they can promote their own desired agendas by putting their own spins on events. They can influence how the American people think about guns, about our nation’s enemies, and about the food we eat. It’s vital to think about how these corporations earn money – through advertising dollars. Will they really show the truth if it negatively affects their advertisers?
The same is true of nearly any situation. The “truth” presented is most often the “truth” that benefits the presenter.
Prepared people are able to assess the information provided to them and distinguish the difference between facts and manipulations. They keep up with current events, but strive to separate the reality of the event from the opinions of the broadcasters.
#4: Prepared people carry a kit with them everywhere, every day.
If you don’t have a basic everyday carry kit, you can’t consider yourself to be a prepared person. I personally carry the basics for fire, water, and safety in my purse at all times. I also have an extensive emergency kit stashed away in my vehicle for times that I am far from home.
Prepared people know that disasters don’t usually give warnings, so it’s necessary to have a few basics on hand at all times. Here are some ideas for gifts to enhance day to day preparedness and here is an article that gives the basics of an EDC kit.
#5: Prepared people are MacGuyvers.
People who are prepared don’t really solely on tools and preps though. They rely on a mindset that allows them to create what they need from what they have on hand.
Being able to work with what you have and develop solutions is a vital skill for preppers. Here are some tips on enhancing your make-shift engineering skills. As well, Jim Cobb’s new book, Prepper Survival Hacks, is a great way to develop that mindset if you are new to this line of thinking.
Prepared people are creative problem solvers who enjoy challenges to their skills.
#6: Prepared people live a skills-based lifestyle.
It isn’t enough to just plan. You have to have the ability to execute that plan. And the only way to know that you have that ability is to make the skills a part of your day to day life. Here’s an example. I recently moved to a farm to begin homesteading and discovered (the hard way) that my successful backyard gardens did not make me an instant self-sufficient homestead farmer. How many preppers do you know that stock seeds instead of food or say that they’re just going to “live off the land” when it all hits the fan? While it’s entirely possible to do this successfully, it takes a lot of practice and a substantial amount of time building a foundation to make this a viable plan.
But it isn’t just homesteading that people mistakenly assume will be an easy survival plan. If it’s part of your plan, you must work at it now. You have to practice skills like marksmanship – we put some ammo downrange every single weekend without fail. You have to practice skills like hunting if your plan is to provide meat for your family this way. You have to practice preserving the food that you raise or acquire if you intend to eat in the winter.
Prepared people practice what they plan. They focus on productive hobbies and live a skills-based lifestyle that is closely related to their SHTF plan.
#7: Prepared people are physically active.
Prepared people generally work some kind of fitness into their day-to-day lives. They work a physical job, they walk or jog, they go to the gym, and they don’t sit at a desk for 8 hours, only to relocate to a couch until bedtime.
I occasionally teach introductory preparedness classes in my area. Every single time, someone from the city tells me their plan is to hike to Lake Tahoe because of all of the water there.
It’s a pain in the neck to drive to Lake Tahoe, let alone walk there. Don’t let the 30-40 mile distance fool you. When hauling a 60 pound pack through the mountains, that 30 miles might as well be 300 miles, especially if this is not the type of thing you normally do. If your last walk was through the potato chip aisle at the grocery store, bugging out on foot through the mountains is probably not going to be a viable plan.
Moving more in your day to day life is a great way to gently break your body into a more active lifestyle. Just walking daily can make a world of difference to your fitness level.
#8: Prepared people require purchases to be multi-purpose.
Most of us do not have unlimited storage space, and we have a lot of things we want to store. For this reason, we tend to pass on the “one-hit-wonders” unless they are truly remarkable. We have supplies that will serve more than one purpose. Our pantry basics can be used to make cleaning supplies. We stock large amounts of items like vinegar, duct tape, and baking soda. Our tools are versatile instead of narrowly specialized.
Prepared people seek out high quality products that multitask and limit purchases that only serve on purpose.
#9: Prepared people are not wasteful.
How far can you stretch your leftovers? What kinds of things do you reuse that others simply throw away? The ability to make one’s supplies last for as long as possible isn’t something that just appears overnight.If your friends think you’re a “cheapskate” you’ve probably got this habit nailed down. (Check here to see if any of these signs apply to you.)
Prepared people live frugal, non-wasteful lives now, and they’ll be far better suited to make things last later. One day, a situation could arise in which the supplies we have are very limited.
#10: Prepared people practice situational awareness.
Over the past few years, we’ve heart about all sorts of incidents of mass violence, both in the US and abroad. Practicing situational awareness at all times is a habit that helps you to instinctively assess the baseline of normal for your location, and in turn, notice early on if something just isn’t right. This helps you to react more quickly if a threat occurs, and often those brief seconds can be essential.
Prepared people spend time participating in activities that enhance their situational awareness. My kids and I used to play a “game” of identifying exits when we went to new places. You can channel author Rudyard Kipling and teach your kids “Kim’s Game” to increase their observational skills. (Learn more about it here.)
What are some other habits for preppers?
Preparedness is not some finite goal that is achieved when you have amassed a certain amount of beans and bullets. It’s something that is an ingrained part of your personality. Our habits become such a natural part of us that we don’t have to think about them when we find ourselves in the midst of an emergency. The way you live your day-to-day life is the real key to survival, and this is something that no amount of money can buy.