The 4 Levels of Disasters (And How to Prepare for Each One)
by Daisy Luther
Disasters come in all shapes and sizes, and so do your preps. There are four different levels of disasters, from personal emergencies to a full-on SHTF end-of-the-world kind of thing. The good news is, no matter what your level of preparedness or your budget is like, there are things you can do to prep for each one.
Often we get new people on board in our group and they feel so overwhelmed because other folks are much further along in their preparedness efforts. You may be feeling like that yourself, reading this article and others like it. But don’t despair! Start out by prepping for Level 1 Personal Emergencies and Level 2 Short-Term Situations and then work your way through the other levels.
By dividing them up like this, it’s a whole lot less overwhelming and you will see ways that your Levels 1 and 2 preps can also help you through Levels 3 and 4 catastrophes.
Level 1: Personal Emergencies
This is often the thing that brings people into the outer edges of the preparedness world. I know it was for me. When my first daughter was born, my husband lost his job when she was just a few weeks old. We barely had any food in the house. We had no extra supplies like toilet paper or shampoo. We were penniless, had an infant, and it was terrifying.
After things got better, I immediately began stockpiling food and home supplies that were on sale. I never wanted to be in that situation again. Years later, as a single mom, when I lost my job, my stash of supplies was what helped us to weather that personal economic crisis.
Personal emergencies can occur in many different ways, but it’s quite often about money or the lack thereof. This can occur for all different reasons. Some examples are job loss, a costly medical expense, or a car repair bill.
The best way to prepare for personal emergencies is to begin building a stockpile by purchasing a little bit extra each time you go to the store. Getting toilet paper? Get 2 packages and put one back. Are canned goods on sale? Buy as much as you can afford of the things your family will eat. Just putting back a little bit extra every week will see you through a personal financial catastrophe. Here’s an article about building a pantry and an article about eating from your pantry when you have no money for groceries.
Secondly, begin building an emergency fund. Having a little bit of money set aside for these rainy days will help it be less disastrous. Here’s some information on building an emergency fund.
Level 2: Short-Term Situations
The next level is those small emergencies that cause some inconvenience but should be no big deal if you’re prepared. It might be a day or two without power, a leak in the water main that causes you to be without running water, or a snowstorm that keeps you stranded at home for a few days.
Level 2 situations are usually not life-threatening but they are a great way to check your preps. Do you have what you need to deal with that 2-day to 2-week power outage? Do you have food that you are able to prepare without power (or food that needs no preparation)? Do you have the stuff to keep the kids from driving you insane because they don’t have their devices? Are you prepared for a water emergency?
These situations are highly unlikely to kill you – they just might make life uncomfortable for a few days. Generally, they are inconveniences as opposed to actual disasters. They’re a great way to practice your preps and see if you have any holes that you should fill before an actual disaster.
Level 3: Manmade and Natural Disasters
Level 3 Disasters are a whole different ballgame. They are bigger emergencies that carry with them the risk of death and destruction of property. Quite often these situations arrive with only a moment’s notice. These disasters are things like wildfires, tornadoes, severe earthquakes, and tsunamis. Not all disasters are natural ones. There are plane crashes, explosions, terror attacks, bridge or building collapses, chemical spills, levees or dams that break, and nuclear accidents (or attacks.) With some, you have a little bit of warning, like storms that are likely to cause massive flooding, hurricanes, epidemics, ice storms, and volcanic eruptions.
This list is a lot scarier and so diverse that these things can be difficult for which to prepare. But there are some standard things you can do. The supplies that see you through level 2 situations will also help you if you must hole up at home. You should make a thorough evacuation plan so you can leave at a moment’s notice in the event of wildfires, looming floods, chemical spills, or the complete destruction of your home. If you have livestock, you need a plan for them, too.
But the biggest part of being prepared for Level 3 Disasters is in your head. You need to have the right mindset to act immediately in the event of some sudden, epic catastrophe. You also need to learn all you can about the different types of disasters and a great deal of that comes from history: what happened, how were the local areas affected, and what was the difference between survival and death for people at that time? If you have this information, you can make a plan that has a much higher likelihood of success.
And of course, we can’t overstate the whims of fate. If your home is crushed by a meteor or leveled by an explosion at the house next door, no amount of preparedness will help. The same is true for catastrophes like plane crashes or car accidents. In those cases, it is truly the luck of the draw. But as Louis Pasteur said, chance favors the prepared mind. Do all you can to be ready and you’ll have a much greater chance of survival.
Level 4: SHTF Event
This is an all-out, epic, long-term disaster of catastrophic proportions that changes absolutely everything. Some examples are war (see Selco’s articles for an example of this), utter financial collapse (Jose can tell you how awful this is), an EMP strike or solar flare that takes out the grid for years, nuclear winter, or the hurricane that took out power for a year now in parts of Puerto Rico.
This is a whole lot harder to prepare for. It is said that in the event of a long-term grid-down situation, as many as 90% of Americans would die within the first year.
No matter how much food and supplies you store, eventually they are going to run out, so for a Level 4 SHTF Event, I’m not telling you to just stockpile up to the rafters. (Although if you have the money, it can’t hurt.)
To survive this, you have to focus on self-reliant skills: growing and preserving food, acquiring water, making clothing, home medicine, and building structures from raw materials. It can certainly be done, but you need to start now learning how to do these things. If your finances are limited (like most of ours are) your sights should be set on knowledge and skills.
It doesn’t even have to cost a lot of money with the abundant information available on YouTube and on websites across the internet. But don’t just watch a video or read about it. Actually get out there and get your hands dirty. It’s the only way to know whether the concept works when put into practice.
What kind of catastrophe has you prepping?
Of course, real life isn’t like an episode of Doomsday Preppers, which is edited to make the prepper look like a total lunatic who is only focused on the meteor scheduled to strike the earth at midnight on June 26, 2099. In real life, we prepare for a wide variety of events, and the cool thing about that is how your preps for one thing often work for another.
Remember, if you are just starting out, you don’t have to be ready for a Level 4 SHTF Event right away. You can start off slowly and plug away a little bit every month and the next thing you know, you’ll be handling emergencies large and small with aplomb. Every single event is a learning experience that gets you better prepared for the next one. Nobody – not even those of us who have been at it for a decade or more – is ready for anything. And if they tell you that they are, they’re either deluded or lying. Just keep putting things back and learning new skills. Your awareness alone has you far more prepared than those who are blithely unaware
What disaster do you find the most likely in your area? What has you the most concerned? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
About the Author
Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, leaving all links intact, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio. Daisy is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting, homeschooling blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. Daisy is the publisher of The Cheapskate's Guide to the Galaxy, a monthly frugality newsletter, and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. She is the best-selling author of 4 books and lives in the mountains of Virginia with her two daughters and an ever-growing menagerie. You can find Daisy on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.