You can find a more complete list of survival acronyms here, but these are the basics I would focus on to get your preparedness in order right from the start. I know there are plenty more that I could’ve chosen to include here, but if you focus on these you’re going to be tending to your bug out plans, getting your food storage squared away, keeping yourself safe, and more.
1. BOB – Bug Out Bag
(aka. GOOD Bag – Get Out of Dodge Bag; INCH Bag – I’m Never Coming Home Bag)
Every serious prepper needs a bug out bag, it’s like prepping 101. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but it should be a hiking style bag with a waist strap and include the bare necessities (taken directly from my bug out bag checklist):
- Bug Out Plan, Information
- Cash, Small Bills ($20 bills or smaller)
- Change of Clothes, Shoes
- Extra Glasses/Contacts, Hearing Aid Batteries
- First Aid Supplies
- Flashlights, Headlamp (plus extra batteries)
- Local Maps, Destination Maps
- OTC Medications, Prescription Pills
- Pocket AM/FM/SW Radio
- Portable Phone Charger, Extra Cords
- Quick Foods, Snacks, Hard Candies
- Self Defense Option(s)
- Ultralight Tarp, Stakes, Guyline Tensioners
- Water Bottle/Canteen, Stainless Steel
- Water Filtration Option
- Weatherproof Jacket, Rain Poncho
Of course, there are plenty more items that could prove useful to you, but these are the basics to consider. Ensure each family member has their own bag and keep them somewhere easily accessible. Personally, I keep mine in my car, but next to your bed or a hallway closet may be good choices; just don’t keep them buried in the back of your closet in the basement–they need to be easily accessible.
2. BOL – Bug Out Location
So you’ve got your bug out bag all ready, that’s great! But where are you going? Most people consider a BOL to be an off-grid spot well away from people which would be ideal, but for most of us a bug out location is simply the place you expect to evacuate to if it comes to that.
Really, it should be more than one place that you can go. This could be friends or family or simply another town, but it should be well enough from where you live to be considered out of the danger zone. For something like a tornado this could be the next town over; for something like a hurricane it may be the next state over!
You’ll have to decide how far and where to go. And, or course, there are multiple types of disasters to consider, so it’s a good idea to have more than one place to go based on the disaster expected.
3. BOV – Bug Out Vehicle
I’m sure most people imagine a bug out vehicle to be something akin to a heavily-armored Humvee with giant wheels and gun ports. Ok, maybe not the gun ports, lol. Really, your BOV is simply going to be the best vehicle you own that most likely to get you from point A to point B. If that’s your ’95 Honda Civic then so be it.
Granted, there is something to be said for having a vehicle that’s capable of doing more than a standard sedan can. Just imagine having to get off the pavement a bit to avoid a downed power line or jammed up streets. You might not even be going off road per se, but if you don’t have a vehicle with the proper clearance and tires to make it happen then you could find yourself stuck very quickly!
At the very least, ensure whichever vehicle you choose to use is in good repair, is always filled with gasoline (keep the tank half full at minimum), has good tires, as well as all the things you might reasonably need to get it back on the road again, like a full spare and tire changing equipment, jumper cables (but a jump starter power bank is a better option), fluids (like engine oil, coolant), and basics hand tools.
4. EDC – Everyday Carry
This is all the items you take with you when you leave the house. For most of us this would include a wallet or purse, keys, maybe a pocket knife, and hopefully some sort of keychain flashlight like the O.light EOS which I use. If you want a kit that might fit in your pocket then consider the advice given here:
5. FIFO – First In, First Out
In order to keep your food fresh, you need to ensure you’re using the oldest items first, hence, the term FIFO. About the easiest way I know to do that is to use a can rotation system like the cansolidator. I’ve used these for years and love them. My mother-in-law uses some Harvest Food Rotation shelves which, sadly, are difficult to purchase anymore, but if you can find them then they’re definitely worth considering.
FYI, the FIFO technique can apply to anything that you use up regularly, such as personal hygiene supplies (e.g., soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.), matches, medicines, water…you get the idea.
6. GHB – Get Home Bag
A get home bag is very much like a bug out bag but though, in my opinion, not nearly as involved. In most cases it’s meant to NOT draw much attention to you (meaning it’s not like an obvious hiking style bug out bag) and typically includes the aforementioned bug out bag basics. But if you want a more completely list, I wrote a book about a get home bag I made for a wife a while back. If you’re short on funds, focus on creating a bug out bag and simply use that as your get home bag by keeping it in your vehicle.
7. IFAK – Individual First Aid Kit
Depending on who you ask, an IFAK could be anything from a simple bag with a few bandages and ointment to an elaborate backpack with tons of gear inside. Honestly, I suggest you don’t go overboard here, especially if you’re not skilled or knowledgeable with how to use most of the more advanced items you might find in a medical kit. Things like a tourniquet come to mind. If you want to create a simple vehicle first aid kit, watch this video or consider a much more involved kit made by AMP-3 Outfitters, but be prepared for sticker shock:
8. KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid!
I can attest from personal experience that it’s easy to make prepping very complicated. For example, I used to use spreadsheets to track food storage and other gear (I still use spreadsheets for some things) and I even got into hiding food and whatnot in various places around the house and elsewhere. Truth be told, this was becoming tedious and I even began to forget what I had and where, lol.
If you’re just getting started–and even if you’re not–there’s something to be said for keeping things simple; it’s just easier on you and other family members most of the time. That said, you do need to be careful with “keeping all of your eggs in one basket” such as with all of your food storage in one place. If, for instance, that space got crushed or water damaged then you could find yourself completely without. And, of course, this applies to more than merely food, but it’s the easiest example. Spread things out where it makes sense, but don’t go overboard either.
9. MRE – Meal Ready to Eat
Most newbies wrongly believe they should have pallets of MREs for just in case. That’s a bad idea. After all, there’s a reason why MREs have been called “Meals Rarely Eaten” and “Meals Rejected by Ethiopians” among others. Personally, I’d say that’s a bit harsh; there are plenty of MREs that are pretty good, including these first strike rations I purchased a while back. In small doses there’s nothing wrong with them, just don’t expect to rely on MREs for weeks or months on end…your bowels won’t appreciate it. Instead, stockpile the right foods in your pantry so you’re properly nourished and well fed.
10. OPSEC – Operational Security
This is a military term for “keeping your mouth shut.” If I had this to do all over again then I would have certainly kept my own mouth shut, not used my real name, and certainly made sure my immediate family did the same. Why? Because now everyone I know–friends, family, church members…maybe even my neighbors, for all I know–all think my house is the place to come for if/when things go south.
For a long time I resented this sentiment because it made me feel like these people expected to rely on me to prepare for them, which is certainly the case, but the older I get and the less able I am to do things the more welcoming I might find myself in such a situation. But who knows how I might really react or if I’ll even ben around to save them; I might have bugged out, after all. I suggest you prepare yourself rather than relying on someone else to do it for you! It’s the best insurance you can have.
11. PACE – Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency
Another military term, this is one is about redundancy in all aspects of preparedness and seems to completely contradicts the KISS acronym. But if you want to ensure you’re as prepared as humanly possible, this is how to do it. Want an example? How about fire starting:
- Primary – butane/Bic lighter
- Alternate – waterproof matches
- Contingent – magnesium/ferrous rod
- Emergency – Fresnel lens
12. PPE – Personal Protective Equipment
Consider this anything that helps keep you safer, from protective eyewear and gloves to a bullet-resistant vest, it’s all good to have. Include other safety gear like a hard hat, proper ear protection, chaps and gloves for when using a chainsaw, face protection (such as N-95 masks or even a respirator), disposable gloves and gowns, chemical gloves and face shields, proper work boots, rain gear (like a quality poncho and rain boots), and maybe even back or knee braces.
You might even consider things like smoke detectors and CO alarms as part of this group, but probably not. In any case, they’re still good to have, especially detectors that are lifetime battery-powered rather than merely including a battery-backup.
13. SHTF – Stuff Hits the Fan
(aka. WROL – Without Rule of Law; TEOTWAWKI – The End of the World as we Know It)
This is when all hell breaks loose. Basically, it’s what most people seem to thing we preppers are preparing for and, to some extent, we are. But the truth of the matter is that most of us, me included, probably aren’t as prepared for a real SHTF event as we think we are. That doesn’t mean we don’t try or bury our heads in the sand. Instead, we keep going. Keep doin what we know is right.