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Taking Your Preps to the Next Level With the P.A.C.E. Concept

A while ago I read this article from Survivalttp.com that got me to thinking about how robust my emergency preparedness plans really are. And, after a short deliberation, I concluded that they really are not as robust as they can be. Granted, we’re better off than most American families, but not yet good enough in some areas and perhaps woefully inadequate in others.

The P.A.C.E. acronym stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingent, and Emergency. I think it has origins in the military–maybe special forces–but I’m not sure about that. Regardless, I feel it’s a great way to look at your emergency preparation plans. The idea is simply this (definitions taken from Survivalttp article):

  • Primary – The normal or expected method or means used to achieve the objective
  • Alternate – A fully satisfactory means or method of achieving the objective
  • Contingent- A workable means or method of achieving the objective
  • Emergency – A brute force means or method of achieving the objective

As preppers, we understand the need for a backup plan. For example, if the power goes out we pick up a flashlight and set out lanterns. If the heat goes out we start up the wood stove or propane space heater. If the stores are out of food we’re eating from food storage. Certainly, the list can go on. But, even as preppers, perhaps we don’t take this quite far enough.

Let’s look at a simple example: adequate area lighting when the power goes out. I would suspect your primary means of area lighting will be lanterns of some sort, be they battery-operated, liquid-fueled, or propane. If those go out or fail then your last resort is probably candles, right? That’s my plan, anyway. While there are other forms of light that I keep around, suchas flashlights and patio solar lights, that I can use if need be, the very specific need is adequate area lighting… not just any form of lighting that I might have.

If I apply the P.A.C.E. concept to area lighting, for example, I’m really only fulfilling two of the four requirements and, honestly, probably the contingent and emergency aspects. I’ve never really fulfilled the primary or alternate aspects at all.

The question, therefore, is: what other options do we have? Well, for starters, a small solar setup with DC lighting might be a good start and if I worked it properly could be my primary means of indoor area lighting. As I already have a basic solar setup I could easily connect a set of RV lights or string lights to illuminate a room, I just need to buy them. There are other DC lighting options that I could explore so long as I have a basic renewable power source.

What about an alternate option? I’m not so sure about this one. If I were desperate I could consider my current supplies (lanterns and candles) as alternate and contingent aspects and then I could throw in something like a hand-crank light or cyalume light sticks as emergency options, but I consider this as “cheating” a bit. I really need to come up with a better alternate option and I don’t honestly have one.

That’s just one example. Here’s another: fire in a bug out situation, an area I actually feel like I have covered well. The original article gave their own suggestions, but I might consider the following:

  • Primary – butane/bic lighter
  • Alternate – waterproof matches
  • Contingent – magnesium/ferrous rod
  • Emergency – fresnel lens

The concept sounds easy enough to follow, right?

Well, think about all of the aspects that emergency preparedness entails:

  • shelter
  • water (storage, procurement, treatment)
  • food (storage, procurement, cooking)
  • personal safety/security
  • area heating/cooling
  • area/tactial lighting
  • communications (receiving information and among group)
  • home security/defense
  • personal defense (weapons, martial arts, etc)
  • hygiene
  • sanitation
  • first aid
  • chronic medical concerns
  • alternative health options
  • entertainment
  • financials
  • and more

…now, multiply this by what may be covered for when you’re at home, in the car, on foot, at work, and the P.A.C.E. concept can seem overwhelming! No doubt I’m not even close to being as prepared as I thought I was. ;)

But, to be thorough we need to think this way. We need to take our preps to the next level and the P.A.C.E. concept can help get us there. So, the next time you consider your preparations, decide exactly how and where said preps fit into your P.A.C.E. system and what other preps you have (or need) will fill the rest of the plan. Heck, make a list and write it down. That’s probably the easiest way to decide where any holes might be.

EDIT: I’ve created a one page worksheet [PDF File] you can use to get started with this concept. It’s easy to create your own too and rename the categories as you see fit. Right-click on the link to download it.

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