As humans, we tend to look critically at others but not ourselves. We look past things about ourselves we could or need to improve on. Some even blatantly ignore these things. (Caveat: Not everyone looks past or ignores things they could improve upon.)
As I look out the window, I see the fields covered in about four to five inches of snow and the thermometer hovering around the low 20s. This time of year is when I like to do an annual Objective Self Assessment. I say “Objective” as this is a totally honest and even brutal assessment of myself. A personal risk assessment is one of the most important things a prepper can do.
What does this Prepper’s Self-Assessment entail?
I begin by asking myself a few questions:
- What went well this year, and why?
- What did not go well or even failed, and why?
- Have I improved upon my strengths?
- Have I worked on my weaknesses?
- What new skill sets can I learn to improve my prepping?
To get a better handle on it, I use lessons learned in the USMC when addressing a humanitarian crisis. Categorization made the situation more manageable. We broke it down like this: Food – Water – Shelter – Security. Providing the refugees (for lack of a better word) those essential elements gave them what they needed for basic survival.
Applying that type of management when assessing my own prepping has made it easier for me to be genuinely objective. During one of my previous assessments, I identified a lack of medical training as a weakness. So, I saved up funding and took vacation time from work to attend a night course to become an EMT-B. Then, I took it a step further and participated in the NOLS Wilderness EMT course. (Here’s an article on the most important medical skill to learn.)
How do you break it down when it comes to prepping?
The question is how to apply that type of management to prepping. We don’t have a nation’s logistic network to bring food, tents, medical supplies, and security? How do you make this assessment when it is the prepper and their families and what they have on hand?
Short Term: Daisy has mentioned the need for a well-stocked pantry many times, including how to build a 30-Day emergency food supply fast. Building a good pantry when you are tight on funds can be difficult, but it can be done. You can feed yourself and your family from a well stocked pantry, with some imagination and a few good recipes.
Medium Term: Anything from a small seasonal garden (even when you think you can’t) to stocking a years’ worth of MREs for every family member can get you through for a while. However, what happens when the gardening season is over? After eating MREs for a year, even rationing them, the supply runs out at some point.
Long Term: A multi-year endeavor. Not only in the sense of growing food but how can you increase your food production?
For the winter months, canning will save food without the need for refrigeration. Learning about long term storage and processing of meats will help stock your pantry. Root vegetables piled into mounds of hay will stay cool and protected. Can you build a root cellar? Can you raise small, medium, or even large livestock? (Check out this article about learning food preservation methods.)
Before buying the farm, I didn’t know a thing about livestock. The only time I saw livestock was either from the school bus window or at the county fair. I got some books and read a lot. Now I can raise rabbits, chickens, ducks, and hogs and process them all. It wasn’t easy, and I made mistakes. But, I made notes and learned from those mistakes.
Hunting for wild game can also provide a great source of protein. However, I went hunting a few weeks ago. Despite putting up the deer stand a half-hour before sunrise (in single-digit temps) in an area with game trails, fresh tracks, deer droppings, and sightings of live deer, we didn’t see a dang thing. I heard what sounded like two bucks fighting 200-300 yards behind me. Otherwise, nada, zip, zero, zilch, the fat lady sang, had dinner, and went home. So, I won’t leave it to chance that a deer walks past my stand vs. having chickens in the coop or rabbits in the hutch when it comes to survival.
Wild game is subject to fluctuation in their population. Last year was a frigid winter, with more than a few major snowstorms. I only saw a few set of rabbit tracks. This year, I have seen more tracks. One is even around the barn. I leave it a carrot under my truck every afternoon. Will there be enough rabbits to feed the wife and me for the entire winter? Probably not. Even setting traps out by the brook is unlikely to increase my yield.
Water is a tough one. Assuming a long term, grid-down situation, your geophysical location may dictate access to it. Having the means to collect, purify, and store water safely is crucial. Check out Daisy’s book on the subject of water preparedness.
Sanitation goes in this category as well. I do not want to contaminate my water source with my waste in a post-SHTF situation. Learning how to compost human and animal waste can be beneficial here. Animal compost aged for two years makes excellent additions to the garden and container gardens.
Daisy wrote about the impacts Hurricane Maria had on the island of Puerto Rico. One news report that stood out to me was people in the more mountainous regions were using rivers and streams for their water source. Unfortunately, many got ill because people upstream were using the same rivers and streams for human waste disposal or washing contaminated clothing. We saw something similar in Afghanistan during a drought and had a Cholera outbreak requiring a humanitarian mission.
How well insulated is your dwelling? What can you do to your residence to improve your chances of survival or improve your comfort level?
Fire can be categorized under shelter as it provides heat and a means to cook. In the North, a stand-alone wood stove would be an excellent alternative to electrical heating. But that then begs the question, where do you get the wood? In the deep South, an outdoor wood grill might be a better option. Solar ovens I have read work well, but I never tried one.
I also include clothing for cold, wet, and hot weather in this category. Suitable footwear is a necessity. Adjust according to your climate with base layers, performance layers, in-between layers, and outer layers. I find synthetic underwear and base layers to be better than cotton for cold weather. Wool socks of various weights are also better than cotton, even in the summer.
Some people believe that “pull the trigger. Bang! Bang!” is all there is to security. We also need to keep in mind physical and mental health security.
Do you require Rx medication? Is there a natural alternative? Is it possible you can engage in an exercise regime within the limits of your ability to replace those medications?
Regarding the “pull the trigger. Bang! Bang!” type of security, make sure to get formal training from a certified instructor. Try many different firearms from other manufacturers and different calibers. Get educated on the differences and take notes to make an informed decision when making a purchase (within your budget).
Be prepared to get your home ready for an emergency quickly. You can learn about building a safe room in your home or apartment here and about preparing your home for potential unrest here.
SHTF situations can be high stress but can also be boring
During those boring times, it’s good to have something to occupy your mind. Books of various kinds and genres, for example. The wife and I have a massive library of physical books. Digital books can be good, depending on your situation. Some will say they can fit our entire library and more on a thumb drive in their pocket. But then they are dependent on all the infrastructure that goes along with using that thumb drive. And we all know how easily the infrastructure can become unstable.
Monitor not only your mental health but your spouse, children, friends, and neighbors. Watch out for deep depression or melancholy and short tempers in those not inclined to them. Here’s an article on how the pandemic and lockdowns have affected the mental health of preppers.
Many different factors will affect your prepping for SHTF
If you live in the deep south, close to the coasts, it makes sense to prep for a hurricane. More so than say a blizzard, which I am more inclined to experience. (It was negative fifteen this morning here in the Great White North.)
Local weather patterns will dictate your preparations. The climate and what agriculture zone you live in also will. Other factors are if you live in an urban, suburban, or rural area. Even your socioeconomic status has a place in all this. If you are pulling six figures, you might be able to afford that 80-acre, well-insulated, hobby farm with the full solar array and wind turbine.
My point is, learn NOW while the lights are still on, and you can still get Chinese carry out if you really mess up.
While this self-assessment should be honest, it is not to dishearten or make one feel they are a failure. If anything, it is to look at ourselves, our preps, and our situation to focus on improving. Set realistic goals for the coming year, and do not be afraid to try something new or outside your comfort zone.
In other words, make your own objective assessment and prep accordingly.
What are your thoughts?
You may already know where you need to improve your preparedness or you may need to spend some time thinking about this. How can you get better prepped? Moreover, what is your plan to do so?