Last Updated on February 3, 2015
Everyone makes mistakes, but when it comes to Prepping, all of our efforts are directed toward actions that are designed to either keep us safer, prolong our lives or stave off some disaster that could be prevented with a little foresight and planning. When it comes to survival, mistakes can kill you and that is the last thing we want to happen isn’t it?
In this article I wanted to discuss some common prepping mistakes that I have seen over the years and ideas I have that I believe will help the person new to prepping avoid them. I do this with the hopes that others will realize how some of these actions can put you at a distinct disadvantage in your prepping efforts in the best case, but could result in death in others.
Preparing for a single event
All too often we come to the world of prepping due to outside stimulus. Something triggers either an awareness or sense of need in us that drives us to learn more about being prepared. For a lot of people out there, Y2K was just this type of event and before the clock struck midnight on December 31st 1999 millions of dollars had been spent on survival gear and preparedness items to plan for the disaster that was supposed to happen. As you all know by now, nothing happened at midnight; planes didn’t fall from the sky and our country wasn’t sent back to the Stone Age.
When this happened a lot of people became disillusioned with prepping. They looked at the money they had spent on supplies and felt foolish for believing the hype about the approaching doomsday scenario. As a result, they sold all of their gear on Ebay and a lot of people were able to buy unwanted survival supplies for very cheap.
Preparedness shouldn’t be for a single event. You should prepare for any event that could put you or your family in danger. There are common prepping basics you should follow and while they might be motivated by a single event like the threat of Ebola, you shouldn’t believe that if Ebola never happens that all of your preparations are worthless. Think of all the people who sold their freeze-dried food, survival weapons and gear. If we had another disaster after they sold their supplies, they would have been back at square one and just as desperate as someone who didn’t prepare at all.
Preparing for a specific date
Similar to people who planned for Y2K, there were those who feared the Mayan Calendar ending at the end of 2012. They did the same thing when nothing happened and the world kept on spinning. The danger of prepping for a specific threat that is date-based is believing that nothing else in the world could happen to you. Natural disasters in the form of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, winter storms happen every year and any supplies you store should keep you alive regardless of the disaster. Don’t believe that if the world doesn’t end, you will never see any disruption causing event in your life.
Even people as far south as Atlanta were caught unprepared last year as a relatively minor winter storm stranded thousands of motorists on the side of the road. Now, I will grant you that this isn’t as ominous as the end of the world as we know it, but wouldn’t you rather have supplies in your car if you were stranded due to a winter storm that caught you by surprise? Most disasters don’t keep appointments so you never know when they will strike. It is better to be prepared all of the time instead of when the calendar says a disaster is supposed to happen.
Bragging about your prepping supplies
I advocate that everyone should practice OPSEC as much as possible to avoid the problem of having hordes or your friends and neighbors appear on your doorstep in the event of a disaster. When you tell everyone that you have food stored up, weapons and ammo and all the supplies you would need to last for years if the grid goes down, you are inviting trouble.
In desperate times, people who have nowhere to turn will act out of desperation. Your friends who didn’t prepare will view your food supplies as necessary to keeping their children alive. By your actions of bragging about what you have, you now have a potential threat to your life and the lives of your family in someone who knows that you have food and who knows their children will die without it. Keep your preparations secret unless you want to share with the world. In that case, expect your food, supplies and anything you have to be taken from you in a worst case scenario.
Planning on being a criminal
There is a sub-culture of people in the world who are not preppers in the true sense of the word. They are predators, but they hang around in the circles of survival and preparedness websites. They share some common traits with preppers in that they see the possibility of a SHTF event in their future, but instead of planning ahead, storing food and supplies and trying to become self-sufficient, they plan to take what others have. If this is you, I want to let you know you are making a huge prepping mistake.
Those who ascribe to the theory that when we reach some TEOTWAWKI event, they will just grab their guns and take whatever they need to survive, will be in for a rude awakening. Just as they have prepared to take by force, preppers are preparing to defend with force. In that scenario someone is going to die. My money is on the prepper who is defending his family. Sure, you may get away with some violence, but it will catch up to you. My advice is to forget this idea and start taking steps to prepare your family with supplies you acquire. It will make you appreciate what you have more and could keep you from getting shot in the face as you try to steal from someone else.
Buying a fortune in food you hate
I will admit that the easiest (but not cheapest) way to stock up on food that will last a long time is to purchase a pallet of freeze-dried food. Throw this in your basement and you will be prepared to last a long time without the benefit of your local grocery store but what if your family hates the freeze-dried food you have? What if they have allergies to the ingredients? What if you bought from a supplier who wasn’t really reputable and instead of lasting 25 years that stored food went bad without you knowing it?
Food Storage seems like a complicated thing, but it isn’t. Start by stocking more of what your family already eats. You can augment that with some freeze-dried foods, but make sure you test this with your family first to get their take on what they will be forced to eat possibly to survive. Try several manufacturers; try alternate forms of long-term storable food like MREs, but more importantly plan for providing your own fresh food. Vegetable Gardens and small livestock are much better than a pallet of food in the basement.
Thinking you will be able to defend your home against all invaders
We simply don’t live in defend-able structures anymore unless you have built a custom compound on hundreds of acres in the wilderness. Most of us live near cities even if our suburban lives allow us to see more trees between ourselves and our neighbors than our city cousins. If a collapse happens and violence breaks out, you will not be able to defend your home against an overwhelming determined force. You may survive if you are able to band together and create a neighborhood defense plan with your fellow neighbors. This may work or it may be impossible depending on the circumstances and you could end up needing to leave.
Have a plan to bug out if that becomes necessary. My own personal plan is to shelter in place for as long as feasible but if the situation dictates that my neighborhood is no longer safe, my family will be heading out. Make sure you have a plan B.
Believing that a gun is all you need
I believe that every law abiding citizen can use a firearm as long as they are trained to defend themselves in certain situations. However, just because you have a gun that doesn’t mean you are going to shoot your way out of a firefight like a Navy Seal. Guns are tools but they require a lot of skill to be used effectively in highly stressful situations. You might think that if you have a gun, that is all you need to defend your family but it isn’t that simple.
Take the time to practice with your firearms often. Beyond going to the range and killing paper zombies, sign up for classes that put you in different scenarios with stress that is similar to what you will experience in a real life or death situation. At bare minimum look at this firearm as a tool that is only capable of what you are capable of doing. If you can’t handle it properly under pressure it could end up getting you killed instead of saving your life.
Prepping in isolation
There are a lot of preppers who “wake up” for lack of a better term to the world around them and begin well in advance of any of their loved ones to feel a sense of urgency. In some cases, this can lead to frustration and even outright animosity towards the notion of prepping from spouses or family. A common question then becomes how can I get my spouse on board with prepping. If a prepper isn’t succeeding on one front they may try to hide their prepping and that usually doesn’t bode well.
Prepping is most effective when you have a team of people moving toward a common goal. Prepping should be a family affair if possible so that if nothing else, everyone in your family knows what you are trying to do and why this is important to them. Naturally if you have small children you have some limitations, but if you go it alone without getting your family on board, they might not be prepared to act in a crisis. Without a plan and direction, this could get some people killed.
Some people like lists. My wife is a huge fan of lists and draws them up on a daily basis for what she needs to do each hour of the day. When you start prepping, one of the things that I recommend after you think about what you are prepping for and who you are prepping for is to make lists of items you feel would make you more prepared. This can get into a world of side issues and specific areas of expertise as you research and investigate. I have seen people with multiple tabbed spreadsheets with items they want to purchase with comparisons between vendors and prices online. The net effect is that some people research for years before they ever do anything and it doesn’t matter if you have the most thorough and complete plan on paper; if disaster strikes you have to roll with what you have and what you know.
Take basic steps now to cover the biggest bases of preparedness. Get a month worth of food and water taken care of before you develop your 5-year plan. If you don’t have the money for the perfect survival arsenal, get a fairly cheap shotgun and learn how to use it. If the world has gone to hell, something will be better than nothing.
Thinking you can save the world by yourself
This might be the hardest to reconcile for my Christian readers because we are called to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. This phrase from the bible is most often associated with charity and whole reams of paper have been expended on how we can plan for charity in our prepping supplies. I believe that there is a place for charity and I will plan on taking care of those who are in need. To a point.
My primary goal in prepping is to provide safety and security for my family. After that has been accomplished, I will do what I can to offer assistance to those who need it. I won’t be opening my doors to everyone and I won’t sacrifice my family’s safety or security for everyone who has a need. I will have to reconcile my actions when the time is right, but I do anticipate turning some away. I think if you go into thinking about a world in chaos and expect everything to be sunshine and lollipops, you could be in for a rude awakening. Charity will be dispensed with the utmost of discretion and it is my goal to make sure that as much as possible nobody knows the charity I am dispensing. If you want to feed someone try to arrange to deliver food or supplies to a third-party like a community center or church anonymously. This will keep my family safe and it could protect yours as well.
Those are my 10 prepping mistakes and this article ended up being longer than I expected. If you hung in till the end I would like to hear your thoughts below. Stay safe, and keep Prepping.