Preparedness, also called prepping, self-reliance, and survivalism is defined differently depending on who you talk to.  I think when many people who are unfamiliar with the idea hear the words prepper or emergency preparedness, it conjures up an image of a heavily bearded hippy-looking man wearing a gas mask living in a candle-lit bunker surrounded by food, water, and other emergency supplies.  Maybe that’s because of some of the things out there in pop-culture today; maybe it’s because some preppers actually look like that.  But prepping is actually a growing movement that has caught on nationwide.  In fact, in many of the interviews I’ve done, and many of the people I’ve spoken to about this topic for the first time are surprised at how “practical” and “normal” preparedness (and my approach to it) can be.

That in part is my goal; to promote a well-researched, practical, and reasonable understanding of what emergency preparedness really is.  Because there is so much out there already (from the extreme end to the mundane/barely prepared end), I prefer to use my own term for the idea of emergency preparedness.  It goes along with my most recent book (see books section), and that term is Survival and Emergency Preparedness Skills, or SEPS.

SEPS are “the combination of knowledge, plans, supplies, and networking that a person, or group has in place in order to survive under abnormal or exigent circumstances.”

Click the button below for a profile of Jay and his prepper network from the National Geographic Channel’s hit series, “Doomsday Preppers.”



See the tabs below for a look at the  Six main aspects of SEPS, which come from three essential considerations; mental, physical, and spiritual preparation.  For more detailed information, I highly recommend you get a copy of my SEPS booklet, available now from Oaktara publishers ( or on Amazon.  It’s a great foundation for an important issue. See BOOKS section to place an order.

  • At a recent event where I was teaching on the topic of emergency preparedness, I had a room filled with all kinds of emergency supplies, from food, to water filtration, to fire starters and edged tools.  I asked the people to pick out the ONE thing, in the room, that was THE most important tool for survival.  Some named a firearm.  Others a backpack.  Others a knife.  Finally an older woman guessed it correctly when she pointed to her head.  Your mind is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT tool for survival, and so, the first aspect of SEPS is THE PROPER MINDSET.

    The proper mind-set is one that combines mental preparation, knowledge, planning for the unseen, and practicality.

    Mental preparation comes by taking the time to think through things you may not have even encountered yet.  This is important so you will not be conquered by negativity, or worse, by horrific things your mind may not be used to attempting to comprehend.   Knowledge comes through research, learning, and experience driven by curiosity and/or necessity.  Planning for the unseen involves having a written and mental atlas to steer you through any situation.  And finally, being practical means you should only have to invest a minimal amount of time and money in SEPS and then put them aside if a need arises (instead of becoming paranoid).

    Don’t let possibly overwhelming circumstances conquer you!  The person who says, “we’re doomed” and the person who says, “I WILL SURVIVE” are both right!  Which one are you?

  • What could happen in your area?

    Although there are exceptions, most of the catastrophic events that take place are possibilities because of your geographic location.  If you live in the southeastern part of the US, or on the Gulf Coast, you’re more likely to be hit by a hurricane than someone living in Michigan.  People in southern California have the earthquakes to deal with.  The Pacific Northwest is prone to blizzards, ice storms and the occasional volcanic eruption.  The Midwest sees more than its share of tornadoes and extreme cold.

    But natural disasters are not the only things driven by location.  Although terrorists can strike anywhere, they focus on places that will have the greatest impact.  If you’re in the Washington DC area, anywhere near New York City, or near major landmarks, then the likelihood is greater than for someone living in Paducah, Kentucky (no offense to Paduciahns).  Social unrest is more likely to strike and severely affect urban as opposed to rural areas.

    You need to ask yourself which of these catastrophes, dangers, or other emergencies are most likely to happen in your area.  With minimal research you should be able to find some answers.

    Check with neighbors, local authorities, and other resources to find out what things you need to be prepared for in your area.

    Here are a few resources that I consider reliable: to this website, choose disaster maps, and follow the instructions. to this website, choose disaster safety.  There are many helpful hints and tips here.

  • How much?  For how many?

    If you’ve already conducted research about your area.  The supplies you need will be determined by the number of things that can affect your area, the things that can affect any area, and the extent to which you wish to be prepared.  So if you want to be able to survive for a month without help, and there is a recommendation as to how much of a certain supply you’ll need to make it a day or a week, simply multiply that out to the amount that will cover you for a month.  You’ll also have to adjust for the size of your family.  If you have a family of four, you’ll need to multiply the recommended amount by four in order to have enough supplies to last for everyone.

    The following is a list of supplies you’ll need to consider for an emergency situation.  For more detailed instructions, see my SEPS booklet.

    -Water; Food (and supplements); Cooking supplies; Accessories for the elements (clothing, shelter, sleep gear, footwear); Flashlights; Hand tools (knives, multi-tools, shelter building tools); Medical/first aid/hygiene supplies; Backpacks/bags/containers; Communication supplies; Important documents; Emergency currency (cash and credit cards).

    Bug out bag: many preppers have these bags pre-packed with numerous supplies, in case an emergency hits with no warning (say an earthquake, or large hazmat incident) and immediate evacuation is necessary.  A bug out bag should include most of the aforementioned supplies, but should be light enough to be carried if you’re on foot.

  • In most emergencies, sheltering in place is the best option for survival.  Most people will hunker down and stay put where they are most comfortable as long as they can.  But if that comfort zone is not available, where will you “shelter” the storm?  What if you’re at work when a catastrophe strikes?  What if there is an evacuation?  In many cases you’ll have friends, family, or some type of emergency shelter set up in these events.  But because Murphy’s Law takes over many times (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong), you have to have a back-up plan.

    In order to start putting a plan together, you need to be able to answer the four W questions:  Who, What, Where, and When

    Who is involved in your plan?  Everyone involved needs to know of the plan and how it will play out.

    What is the emergency?  What do you need?  What do you do?  Your plan should answer these questions.

    Where will you go?  When your primary shelter is compromised you should have multiple back up (also called “bug out”) locations.

    When should you implement it?  When the emergency strikes.  Don’t wait for the emergency to hit to formulate a plan, then it will be too late.

  • NOTE: Research/know your local, state, and federal laws as they apply to protection/self-defense.   Safety, training, and the advice of a trained professional are recommended before attempting to implement any protection and self-defense methods.

    As a former law enforcement officer, I’ve seen firsthand the evil that people are capable of unleashing on one another.   Because of the sad reality of the existence of evil in this world, we have a standing military to protect us from foreign threats, and police, Sheriff’s offices, and various state and federal agencies to maintain order, and protect us from local criminals.  Despite the best efforts of our emergency responders, people are still victimized on a daily basis under “normal” circumstances.  But in emergency/exigent circumstances, history has shown us that emergency responders are spread too thin to handle every call for service.

    If law enforcement cannot respond to protect us from the groups that represent the worst in people during catastrophic situations (people who commit crimes in normal situations, and then those who take advantage of emergency situations and commit crimes), citizens have the right to protect themselves.  This means being prepared to meet an attacker with the legal and proper amount of force to stop their attack.  If someone approaches to take something, and you shout and make noise to scare him or her off, well, then that’s all the force that is necessary.  But what if someone shows up with a baseball bat, a knife, or a firearm and they are planning to hurt your or your loved ones?  What will you do then?

    In order to be fully prepared, self-defense tools, to include firearms, are a necessary and important part of SEPS.  The following options cover many aspects of protection from minimal force, to lethal force that can be used in different situations, based on the level of threat:

    -Verbal Commands: Loud, direct, and authoritative words/language to convey/control a possible attacker.

    -Pepper Spray: Used by most law enforcement agencies, pepper spray is an irritant that causes a painful and lasting burning sensation that works on many people.

    -Pressure point/control holds: Use of pressure points/sensitive areas to gain compliance from an attacker.

    -Open handed strikes/kicks: Use of different parts of the body (hands, elbows, knees, and feet) to defend against an attacker

    -Impact/edged weapons: Expandable batons, baseball bats, knives, and other tools used to defend against a would be attacker.  Note that in many cases, this is considered lethal force and an individual must fear for theirs or another’s serious injury/death in order to justify use.

    -Firearms: Considered lethal force.  An individual must fear for their own or another’s serious injury/death in order to justify use.

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