What Should You Prepare For? The 5 Levels Of Preparedness

When people ask “what do you prepare for”, I really cannot provide any more of an answer than “anything”. This is the same for many preppers when they start out, as news, weather, and at-home events happen around us we become constantly aware of new hazards, dangers, and circumstances that we could and should prepare for.

While it is nice to delve into the mechanics of how to prepare for anything, whether it be a natural disaster, grid failure, wilderness survival situation or a nuclear attack, sometimes we need to look at the basic blueprint of preparedness to remind ourselves of what we need to prepare for.

In this post, we take a look back at the basics of prepping to understand what should you prepare for so that as preppers, whether new or experienced, we can refocus our attention and efforts to the prepping that matters, over the prepping that is less likely to happen.

When I started prepping, there weren’t as many resources out there to identify what prepping is, or what specifically to prepare for. At the time, there was the tv show Doomsday Preppers, but were they really preparing for likely events? Some would think not. But as the saying goes (and it means a lot in the prepping world), you prepare for the worst and pray for the best. In that motto, if we’re preparing for the end-of-the-world, then we should be ready for anything, whether that be a natural disaster, severe storm, or job loss.

Since becoming a little more experienced, either by prepping myself, my family and some friends (of those that decided to join the good cause), and having spoken to a contrast of people interested, and not interested, in prepping, I can say that at some level, everyone is a prepper, then there are less people as we move down the scale of being really prepared.

5 Levels of the preparedness pyramid

Taking a look at the preparedness pyramid is a good way for new preppers to work their way down the scale of what they should prepare for, starting with the basic essentials of prepping, and then looking at what can happen in life, in their local area, weather patterns and other common occurrences, before moving on to preparing for a collapse and SHTF scenarios.

By no means am I suggesting to not prepare for a collapse environment. It is my belief that families should be ready for anything, whether it be a burst tire, an economic collapse or a nuclear attack. However, if someone has not covered the basics of keeping a first-aid kit in the car, or a flashlight and candles in the kitchen, or an emergency supply of water and food, then there’s no real way you can start prepping for worst-case scenarios.

So let’s take a look at the Preparedness Pyramid, to see where you should be focusing your attention.

prepper pyramid

Level One: Basic Prepping Prepare for lack of food supply

The biggest category, and rightly so, is basic prepping. Most people you know (if they have any type of common sense) will fall within this category. Even those people that know very little, or nothing at all, about prepping, might fall into this category. Why? Because at a base level, everyone prepares for the future in some manner or another. Whether it be having money in a savings account, doing the food shopping for the week rather than day-by-day, and having insurance on the home and contents.

Sure, none of this is real prepping, but it is the most common level of prepping done by people for that ‘just in case’ circumstance. In fact, you will find many of these ‘non-preppers’ will have a first aid kit in the car or in the home, and hopefully flashlights and candles for when the power goes out. Unfortunately, there’s no stockpile of food for when supplies are shut off, and no means of generating power. But for most, this level of preparedness is enough to go about their daily life.

In this level of everyday preparedness, we can also look at the specific area we live and cater this method of preparedness to the person. For instance, most people that live in cold snow-prone areas will have some way of dealing with the snow, and some method of getting the front and backyard ready for winter. In hot climates, these preppers may have a sunshade for the car and will most likely carry suncream in the car as a reminder to use it on sunny days to protect themselves from the sun.

For this category, I would put basic prepping down to just basic everyday common sense.

Level Two: Temporary Setbacks

Prepare for car breakdown

For me, when things go wrong in daily life, they always seem to happen in sets of three. This is when the car breaks down and the repairs are expensive, or you break your leg while playing sport, so you’ve got to take some time off work. These are temporary setbacks that are unplanned in life and set you back in time, money, and health. Preparing for these types of events at least once each year can mean the difference between having a health insurance that doesn’t pay out for your sport, or failing to get the right service to ensure your car does not overheat and destroy the engine.

In civil law, there is a clause that happens when many employees get a payout from their employment called, basically, the ‘sh-t happens’ clause. This clause includes those things in life, that seem to happen every now and then, that set us back financially. It might be that you have dropped your phone in water and have no replacement insurance on it so you have to buy another one.

When it comes to temporary setbacks, most of the time the best method to prepare for them is simply to have an emergency fund. This allows you to have that sick time off work if your employer doesn’t have sick leave, or to use to fix the urgent problem that stops your car from working. These temporary setbacks do happen, and for most people, they can come on an annual basis, so having that extra little bit of help when you need it the most is also common sense.

Level Three: Weather, Recession, and Injuries

Prepare for job loss or recession

Almost all of us have experienced at least one of these, and while they are wide in their effect, only time heals the wounds that they leave behind. In level two, we saw the temporary setbacks that we might suffer each year, such as a car breakdown or a broken leg. Sure these things can be quite serious but their financial impact is low, and for most families, it is pretty easy to bounce back from a loss like this.

In the third level of the prepper pyramid, we have more widespread impacts, which include severe weather such as tornadoes, thunderstorms where homes may suffer lightning damage or damage from strong winds. Families may also feel the impact of a slight downturn or recession (not yet an economic collapse). This could also involve job loss, or industry-specific downturns such as the construction industry decreasing over the next five years or automation of industries. I have also mentioned injury in this one, as that would include serious injuries such as a serious sickness or disability the requires family care or care for more than six months.

While there are methods to prepare for each one of these circumstances, similar to the second level’s preparation of financial safety nets, these types of events also require a greater deal of funds to help families pull themselves out of. However, in the circumstances we have mentioned, you will find that specific insurance levels would help greatly here, such as home and contents insurance, employment insurance or dividends, and specific health plans that don’t just cover you for the basics, but actually go greater in-depth in cases where you may need to be off work for more than a few months due to severe sickness or disability.

As you can see on the prepper pyramid, this level is still quite wide as these are things that all of us experience in life. However, you will find that many people do not have comprehensive and complete insurance plans for health, or if a storm happens. To be more prepared for this, it is a good idea to take a look at things that can happen in your geographical area, in your workplace industry and your health to make sure that if there are any slightly remote chances of that happening, that you are insured for it.

Level Four: Disaster & Collapse

What should you prepare for?

In this category, we start to look at survival and the necessities we might need to survive a 72 hour (or even a week) aftereffect of a natural disaster (flood, disastrous storm, earthquake) or how we can live and remain healthy during a global financial crisis. These things are much more widespread than any of the others, and I mentioned that survival is an important element in these because in these scenarios (which for many are worst-case scenarios) supply routes stop and basic provisions we need in life such as food, water, power and first-aid will cease either temporarily or for long periods.

The importance in natural disasters is to either ensure you are able to survive in a different area (where you might bug out and evacuate to) or whether you would be able to survive at home with your own means of food, clean drinking water, and power.

When many people talk about preppers they often think we are planning for a doomsday (more likely the fifth level of preparedness). However, most preppers would say that they are practically preparing for levels 1, 2, 3 and this level, as they seem the most practical, with a worst-case scenario being a flood or huge natural disaster. Over the past few years, we have really seen bad weather systems pick up, causing more natural disasters (especially flooding and destructive hurricanes) and have experienced them either ourselves, indirectly through friends, or indirectly through the price of certain goods (such as food and fuel).

I believe prepping has seen an increase in interest by many non-preppers since the end of 2017 because of these reasons alone. And I expect when more natural disasters occur, we will see more innovative ways for communities, families, and individuals, to ready themselves for unpredictable catastrophic weather events.

To prepare for this level of event takes a lot more work than just buying a medical kit and some flashlights and disasters and economic collapse environments need to be treated very differently. To prepare for a disaster, I have written a basic 5-step entry into the prepping world which will have you ready to survive for at least one week without having to rely on any systems for food or water. Most basic preppers have at least a 3-day or one-week supply of food, water, and daily essentials to use should they have to. Of course, there are other things that you might want to include to increase your comfort, whether they be a power generation method, cooking method and other things. Another important thing, especially for natural disasters, is to have an evacuation plan, pre-packed supplies in a bug out bag, predestined places you can bug out to, and procedures in place with your family and friends should you not be able to contact them, or should anything happen along the way.

Preparing for an economic collapse is different, as it is not preparing for an event, but more so preparing to live a specific lifestyle with less outgoings, stronger budgeting and frugal practices and a more self-sufficient lifestyle. I personally think, that while each has their own nuances and difficulties, it is harder to prepare for an economic collapse than it is a natural disaster. To prepare for economic collapse, you need to be rigorous with your finances, which ensures having easy-to-liquidate assets, be debt free, and have a good emergency fund. But it goes further than that, as you may also experience less food on the shelves, less reliable power and less reliable clean drinking water. Each one of those has various methods of how to prepare for them, however as a very basic to prepare for an economic collapse, you should have your own food supply, which not only includes emergency food, but a way to replenish that with growing your own food, either by a garden, or a greenhouse for colder climate areas.

For some of the real things you may encounter during an economic collapse, you might enjoy these entries from a prepper in Venezuela.

Level Five: When the SHTF

Some might call it doomsday prepping, I call it being ready for anything. The fifth level of the prepper pyramid involves being ready for the worst-case sh-t hits the fan (SHTF) scenarios. This could be anything from war, a nuclear attack, a chemical weapon, widespread disease, or an economic collapse that has resulted in a societal collapse, and that’s just to name a few.

In SHTF situations, not only do we need to know how to survive in the urban environment, but there are a lot of safety issues, as SHTF events are often associated with:

  • Possible roving gangs that evolve in a world Without Rule Or Law (WROL)
  • Using primitive survival methods in The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI)
  • Rebuilding society from the ground up in a post-collapse environment
  • High-security issues for preppers or anyone with a stockpile of food and water
  • To ‘bunker down’ from possible hazards from a nuclear fallout, chemical weapon or disease
  • Having to find alternative methods to find food, water, fuel due to contamination or underground life.

It sounds like a movie or apocalyptic nightmare, but for quite a lot of preppers this is the reality and it is something we need to prepare for. If you don’t believe this is a necessity, check out my article on underground bunkers for sale and you will see that there is no shortage of people expecting a real SHTF situation.

So how do you prepare for when the SHTF to survive the end of the world? Easy, you do everything in the prepper pyramid. Why? First, because in this scenario, myself and a lot of others have no prior experience. Sure, I have been through floods, lived in disastrous tropical cyclone areas and have been in the military, but I have not lived in a world without order or law and not many have. But in saying that, the reason why I advise to prepare for everything in the prepper pyramid is that you really don’t know what is going to happen. If you are in a bunker, you need a food supply, water supply, daily goods, and a first aid kit. But you also need a sustainable food source because your neighborhood grocery store or corner store is not going to open anytime soon, and most likely the farms would have stopped producing food. So you need a sustainable supply of all of those essentials. You need a car that’s easy to fix, you need a currency in post-collapse trade items and a lot of ingenuity and innovation to make ends meet. That, and you need to think about security, medical risks such as dealing with nuclear fallout, remnants of a chemical attack, what happens when gangs attack.

If you are in a SHTF situation, you need to be prepared for everyday life as well as the uncertainties that come with being alive in a world where things operate differently, and everything you need to survive is provided by yourself and no-one else. There’s a lot to think about, which is why I recommend taking up every level of the prepper pyramid.

It’s not a quick backpack and 72-hour kit that will keep you safe when the SHTF, it’s knowing the right skills, survival methods, self-reliance and an entire lifestyle change that will be the primary factor in yours and your family’s survival.

1 Comment

  1. Kevin Ryan


    Great way of pointing out what is important and what isn’t. Thanks Ben.

Let me know your thoughts on this topic!