Prepping 101: The 10 Principles of Preparedness

Last night’s premiere of Doomsday Preppers got you thinking your emergency preparedness plans are somewhat lacking? We thought it might. Our resident gourmet prepper Kellene Bishop has put together an introductory lesson to the word of prepping. And big thanks to Kellene for live-tweeting during her episode last night! She provided great insight and behind-the-scenes commentary. And, since we noticed so many comments about people considering prepping or worrying about how they would fare in an unexpected emergency, Kellene put this handy guide together for anyone interested in how to start prepping: 

Attempting to be more self-reliant in any one area of our lives can feel a bit overwhelming. Even more frustrating can be the litany of advertisers who scare the bejeebies out of us in hopes to get us to buy their new and improved disaster prevention thingamajig. But if you stick to two key fundamentals of preparedness, you’ll be able to avoid the countless pitfalls.

Prepare for today, be ready for tomorrow. Avoid looking toward a single specific event for which you’re going to prepare. Self-reliance applies very personally to each person’s life. If you can prepare for the everyday, then you’ll find yourself prepared for future events as well. Instead of dwelling on the myriad of horrible possibilities, take it one step at a time. As you go through your daily routine, challenge yourself with questions that make you think differently about the access and freedoms you presently enjoy that make your daily routine possible. For example, as you’re driving ask yourself what you would do if your ability to drive that particular route was compromised. “What if” scenarios are much more powerful than simple child games, they give our brain the resources to use in the future when we are suddenly faced with a challenge, allowing us the chance to better function when faced with stressful situations. Also, allowing yourself to think of the “what if “scenarios, will naturally help you to take measures to be ready with countermeasures when you’re thrown a curveball.

Prioritize. There’s a natural progression of events that unfold in the face of a trial. Understanding this natural progression is key to properly preparing and will ensure that you don’t ignore a key principle or overemphasize another. History provides us with an abundance of these examples. For example, while most people think about stocking up on food, when it comes to “preppers” such a principle is no where near as critical as access to proper medical care. No one gets into a car accident and immediately dials for pizza delivery, right? So strengthen your self-reliance efforts by focusing on the natural way that vulnerabilities will unfold in times of distress and take actions according to the level of importance to such priorities.

Here’s a list of 10 Principles of Preparedness in the order of their prioritization. Try as you may, you’ll be hard pressed to switch their order of influence in your life. Ensuring that you address all of them with the proper level of prioritization, will give you a balanced self-reliance result:

1: Spiritual Preparedness: Your core values and belief system will be the first point of strength in the face of any challenge and will no doubt determine how you respond to those challenges.

2: Mental Preparedness: Your level of knowledge, skills, and fortitude to endure a challenge will be closely linked with the first Principle of Preparedness. All of the tools and supplies and protections in the world won’t help a person without the mental ability to exercise the use thereof.

3: Physical Preparedness: Your level of physical mobility, fitness, and how you’ve prepared to address your physical vulnerabilities is crucial. A fitness guru can be just as compromised as a person who’s seriously overweight if they lack the muscle memory, dexterity, and physical skills needed to travel or defend themselves in the face of a challenge.

4: Medical Preparedness: Something as simple as a hang-nail, minor scrape, or running out of critical medication has killed a person more than once. Preparing for such instances in the form of first-aid knowledge, alternative methods of care, battle field triage skills, and stocking up on essential first aid supplies can eliminate a host of unpleasant possibilities.

5: Clothing/Shelter Preparedness: Personal and structural soundness, safety, and protection. You may think of water as more important than most anything, but you can perish from heat exhaustion or freezing to death much sooner than you will thirst. How will you control your environment if you lack the luxury of electricity or gas?

6: Fuel Preparedness: Light, heat, travel, cooking, sanitizing, and environmental control all require some form or another of fuel—whether it be your own physical energy or that provided by a resource such as propane, batteries, or wood.  Do you have alternative resources along with the equipment to use such resources?

7: Water Preparedness: While it’s not accurate that 72 hours without water will kill a person, it is accurate that 72 hours without water will begin to damage vital organs in the body. Be sure you have reliable water sources in your shelter, easily accessed, as well as plans for filtering and treating other resources of water.

8: Food Preparedness: Be sure that you also have the knowledge and resources to prepare and serve food with absorbable nutrition. Simply storing food is only the first step. True self-reliance only comes in this area when you’re able to produce food as well. Also, don’t underestimate the need for familiar foods for your family, as well as comfort food.

9: Financial Preparedness: Ridding yourself of debt and having the ability to purchase what you need under a wide set of circumstances is critical, as is having 6 months reserve of your monthly income and setting aside items with which to barter.

10: Communication Preparedness: When trouble strikes, the first thing you want to know is that your friends and loved ones are well, however, there are many circumstances in which your traditions communication methods are compromised, so prepare for alternatives. Coordinating efforts, commerce, and safety are also compromised without sufficient low-tech communication alternatives.

Kellene Bishop, The Preparedness Pro, has been educating on panic-free, practical preparedness information for over 12 years. You can find more information at or Kellene’s Facebook and Twitter pages.


  1. MorePowerfulThan
    February 9, 2012, 6:15 am

    Very interesting and informative article!

  2. RK
    February 10, 2012, 8:09 pm

    You don’t the heaviest items on the top shelf. If you are in earthquake country or not!!! Do you plan on having your back going out, when you grab the water cases ??? Tote binds work just as good or better. Sometime prepping gets out of hand, or just turns into hording. You can not take it all with you, if you have to BUG-OUT. The question is HOW PREPARED IS BEING PREPARED???

  3. Opinionated Chick
    February 13, 2012, 7:39 pm

    I see a lot of items in this picture that give an illusion of having more food than is actually there. Canned fruits and vegetables are nice, but in an emergency situation I would love to see shelves stocked with carbohydrates and proteins, with the water on the lower/bottom shelves, and water purification tablets or the like to boot. Unless you have a few hundred gallons of drinking water stored, any prolonged emergency will have clean water becoming your most important asset. Dry goods like oatmeal and raisins will give you more energy than a can of green beans and a can of peaches, and things like dry milk, salt and sugar, can be added to water to make more nutritious drinks or basic electrolyte solutions. Just having “stuff” isn’t being prepared. Having stuff that works for you, that you like and feel comfortable preparing and consuming, and that is organized well, is always better. If you can’t make it to the store, which would you rather have for dinner: spaghetti and pasta sauce, or a can of corn and a sports drink?

  4. Harold Mills
    Salt Lake
    February 13, 2012, 8:19 pm

    Please tell those people with there food in glass bottles
    to protect the bottles from falling on the floor in an earth quake.

  5. MGySgt, USMC~Ret
    Albany, GA
    February 14, 2012, 6:13 pm

    Shelter, medical, medicins, water, food are all important. However, if you do not maintain the necessary means to protect your catche from others, you have simply provided them with a good stock pile of the means to survive. While weapons, ammunition, and training may not be #1 it can not be left out of the top five.

  6. john
    murfreesboro, Tn.
    February 15, 2012, 12:06 am

    I LOVE this show! I started putting together my bugout bag about a year ago. I found out that 2 of my friends are doing the same. Like the girl from Houston, I have a small apartment and it’s hard to store a lot of supplies, but I’ll make do. Good luck to all of you!

  7. Jane
    Biloxi, MS
    February 15, 2012, 6:26 pm

    What about prescription meds that you cannot live without? What if you are on oxygen?

  8. Elaine
    February 15, 2012, 8:42 pm

    Being a “prepper” isn’t a hobby for us, it is the way we live. We have taught many classes and conducted many demonstrations to help those interested around us get ready. We are not preparing for a certain, definable event as some on the show are, but we are preparing for anything that might happen. American society is very precarious and for it to keep working everything has to run like a well oiled machine. We do think the imaginary value of the dollar will come to be realized probably in our lifetime, but until then we have to survive daily events like ice storms, forest fires, animal attacks etc.

    After watching several episodes of “Doomsday Preppers” I have some advice I’d like to share with the so called experts. We live in a very remote area of Colorado and especially in the winter everyday is survival. We plan for winter as if we are sheltering in place for a year, every year. It is the way of life here. Some food for thought:

    1. Bugging-in in the city is a death sentence even with food stockpiled. If any of these “preppers” are really serious about survival they need to relocate now. No amount of ammo will protect them from the hundreds of thousands in the city who are unprepared for anything. New Orleans should be the glaring example that even today water and power has not been restored in some places.

    2. The idea that they will travel to the bug-out location where they have invested a fortune in shelter, food water and ammo is also false hope. I know from living in a rural area that there is already a plan in place here, developed and calculated by the fulltime locals to keep travels out of the area if it all goes south. It will be impossible for anyone to enter this area, short of the military. It will not matter if you claim property in the area, if you want to be on the team, you need to get involved now so you can be vetted. No city fools with too much money, testosterone and grand plans they bought needed. Out here, we are not into surviving: we plan to thrive!

    3. What is the idea behind “buying” a stockpile of food? Very few of the preppers on this show actually grow, can, dehydrate, smoke or ferment their own food. They haven’t gotten their heads around taking ownership of their own lives. What is the plan, the economy tanks and then they’ll open the survival seeds and see what grows? What they are preparing for is a slower starvation. It takes years to master growing; years to master seed selection for every micro climate; years to master seed saving. You don’t just pull it out of your……..#10 can.

    4. Guns! Guns! Guns! Really? It is far better to have several guns that use the same ammo, might exchange parts, and they you know how to break down and repair. Stockpiling every type of gun and the unique ammo for it is the sure sign of more money than brains. Running to the local gun shop for springs might not be an option. Pick a gun; buy parts for that gun; learn how to repair it; and stockpile ammo for it. Beyond that, learn how to make weapons, traps and devices that will help you harvest food or change the odds if you are encroached on by other humans.

    5. In many states there are legal ways to buy guns without registering them with the gov’t. Check estate sales, newspapers ads, etc. and buy guns that the gov’t doesn’t know you have, and keep them in a separate location form the guns the gov’t does know you are suppose to have. If times get bad the gov’t will take all the guns they know you have. Don’t leave yourself exposed and unprotected if that occurs. And again, think beyond guns.

    6. Last, but most importantly, learn how to forage for edible and medicinal plants in your area. Humans have survived the ages by learning what is all around them and how it can be used. Even today, without impending doom, most natural foods and remedies are healthier, with fewer side effects than processed food and synthetic drugs. Learning to live closer to nature will improve your health and prepare your whatever happens. If you want to change your life, you have to change your mind.

  9. merton
    February 16, 2012, 1:52 am

    I like this show as it shows me that there are a lot of people that use “stuff” instead of real survival skills to ease their minds. There is no making up for real survival skills and the ability to live without all that stuff. After all people have been around a lot longer than that stuff and any apocalypse will probably outlast any supplies they have gathered and stored only prolonging the enevitable for the unprepared.

  10. R.M.
    February 16, 2012, 6:51 pm

    Elaine: Thanks for the tips and taking up the ‘prepper’ way of life is inspiring.
    One Doomsday Prepper said something about going with her gut. That phrase stuck because in the past year, I’ve strongly felt compelled to move into this lifestyle, despite what the ‘experts’ say, catastrophe or not, this lifestyle is becoming more attractive for personal reasons. Although seasoned ‘preppers’ may not consider it as a hobby, I’m going to have to treat it as such in the beginning and continuously transition into it as a lifestyle. It’s definitely a process, which can not be accomplished overnight. There are so many skills to learn and this article/blog helps prioritize the areas.

  11. Survivor Mike
    February 18, 2012, 5:37 pm

    This is very informative and helpful. As a dad and husband in suburbia, my site has been focused on prepping my family for the day when the SHTF.

    By failing to prepare, we are preparing to fail.

  12. Sol Day
    Los Angeles
    February 18, 2012, 8:38 pm

    During the 94 Northridge earthquake the one thing I saw people desperate to get was WATER!! I remember watching the news of people breaking into stores, or breaking the pipes of the outside vending machines to get the water. I am so grateful my parents had plenty of water, canned food, and tents. We camped in our back yard until all the strong after shocks were over (3 Days). the only thing my parent’s forgot to stock up on was batteries! so we were only able to watch the News when there was electricity. But now I am a Mom and living in Los Angeles I make sure I am also prepared.

  13. Engmed21
    February 19, 2012, 5:06 pm

    I have watched all of the episodes to date and think we can take good tips from all of the preppers. The first thing a prepper should do is educate themselves in all facets of survival. As a hunter I am confident that with my education in the wild, not only in hunting but also with foraging. I can live off of the land. As a medical professional, I do have a good stock of medical supplies and the knowledge to use them when and if necessary. Weapons/security are not an issue as I am proficient with several types and have a four or five to choose from that I keep an appropriate amount of ammo for. I have the knowledge to grow/can food and to buthcher/smoke/cure animals for food from my grandfathers. I, along with a few very close families have come together and began prepairing for SHTF scenarios. We all have a cemtral meeting spot within a couple of miles of our homes and have the ability to move togehter to our location that is being worked on right now. We all have a wide variety of skills and can cover pretty much any situation as of right now. We are in the process of cross training eacheother in some specialty skills as well. We all believe that the econimic structure in our country is going to fail and we need to be prepaired. Just my two cents. Thanks for all of your thoughts and ideas.

  14. Phil
    February 20, 2012, 8:49 pm

    Interesting article, yet I’m kind of dumbfounded by the whole series as these people are trying not to “publicize” their own supply/arsenals yet here they are on Nat Geo…true preppers are clandestine…these people have become greater targets when it all goes south…just remember he who has got the greater firepower generally wins…thanks for showing us all where the stash is if the God forbid happens…

  15. Casper
    February 21, 2012, 7:48 am

    Remember “a cave is a grave”, even if it is your basement.

  16. daveixoye
    February 23, 2012, 5:38 am

    I have found it interesting that nobody is really using logic in recommending which guns are best. Some people have WAY too many guns! Elaine mentions this. It isn’t wise to have too many with such a wide variety of ammo.
    For survival, portability is a key factor! Think it through…I have watched the show and it seems most people have M-16’s/AR-15’s. It would be one of my last choices! The rounds are fast and strong, but large. One round of .223 is equal to about 3-4 .22’s. While the .22 doesn’t have the range, it generally has enough for most survival situations. If the range of the M-16 is important, I’ll have a .300 Wby Mag. or Barrett .50. But for most game the .22 is so lightweight and versatile, and there are a range of ammo in .22 from hyper-velocity to the nearly silent “super colbri” to snake shot!
    If I were in a fire-fight, I would want to be the one with the most ammo, not the one with the biggest. A .22 round will get someone to duck just as well as a .223 and wounding is about as important as dropping a foe.
    A rational prep armory would be a couple of .22’s (I recommend the AR-7 for weight and reliability), at least one mid-range gun with good knockdown and superior reliability like the AK-47 or SKS. One long-range “counter-sniper” rifle like .300 Wby Mag, Barrett .50 (if you can afford it), or a .270 mag. A shotgun, for harvesting birds and intimidation especially if it is a “slug” gun. From there, a few handguns, again .22 will get you a lot of rounds off without much weight, one big bore…like .357 mag or .44 mag which can both drop a bear with a single shot, or shut down a car motor if needed.
    If I had to pick a single weapon, it would be my AR-7 which is a .22.. Small, light, compact, accurate, and takes the whole range of .22LR ammo.
    So while I won’t argue that the M-16/AR-15 is a superior offensive weapon, it just wouldn’t be such in a defensive survival situation. I will win in a fire-fight because I will have 3-4 times the ammo!
    Another suggestion that I haven’t seen talked about is the distinct ranges of weapons.
    If you are in the city and in fear of your life remember this, guns are for ranges of more than 20 feet! If an unarmed person is closer than that, you are in jeopardy! So keep your distance. If you cannot, be hyper-alert and be adept with “blade” and improvised weapons.
    Elbows and knees are for the closest/tightest combat strikes and are the most punishing to an opponent. Punches for a little more range. Kicks are for further range.
    Finally…invest in a good compound bow! They are inexpensive, incredibly accurate, quiet, legal about anywhere, easy to use, and versatile. Don’t wait and try to make one out of PVC pipe and fiberglass.

  17. daveixoye
    February 23, 2012, 5:44 am

    Oh, and one last tidbit of philosophy. It is better to have a weapon and never need it, than to NOT have a weapon, even ONE TIME, when you really NEED it!
    And this mantra works for most all prepping…

  18. Robert
    Washington State
    February 24, 2012, 1:28 am

    This is a great show! It shows the extreams of prepping and is very eye opening. I truely believe that a balanced approach is important. And location for Plan A and where you need to go for Plan B is extremely important. I understand there are many preppers moving to the PNW. Financially preparing is going to be a problem for many both in terms of reserves and storage of resources (food, water, fuel, etc) It would be good to find a way to reduced costs so more of us can be prepared.

  19. The Silver Survivor
    March 11, 2012, 9:17 pm

    Check out my down-to-earth tips and opinions on Doomsday survival. No ads, just me. Enjoy.

  20. First Aid Northridge
    May 9, 2012, 3:14 am

    Good post…………

  21. Justin
    West union Ohio
    November 18, 2012, 5:43 pm

    Doomsday prepping

    I have a small selection of prepping supplies from knives to a small amount of meds I try to acquire as much as possible but being unemployed is hurting my funds I have very little to work with but I also have a family to care for they may not feel the same about my prepping but I still want to keep them safe but again my funds are keeping me from doing so I have very little food no water supplies I have no fuel can the experts with bat geo help me or someone else help me I live in a location where prepping is a must living in a small town demands out here are very low it’s maybe 2 hours from the city and we have just a Walmart here I also am looking to find a place to bug out but that is not so easy again because of funds but I do have a good supplies of weapons but the down fall to that is I have maybe a handful of rounds for each weapon if not 0 rounds can someone give a helping hand or if not tell me what I have to do with out worrying about tryin to make money I love my family and keeping them safe is my number one concern what else is there that I can do

  22. Brittni
    November 29, 2012, 8:59 pm


    I have been so into the show and have been wanting to start prepping. I have a husband and 2 small children but we live all together with my mom and 3 younger sisters. I just really dont know where to start. We have 2 .22 rifles and 1 .22 hand gun and want to build food,water,weapons everything. Want to move away from florida just need some ideas on how to start. And tips and advise works!!

  23. Amanda
    December 20, 2012, 6:30 pm

    I’m just getting into prepping. There is a ton of info. out there but it gets overwhelming. A big question I have is why are people going to bug out and leave all their supplies that they have been storing? It doesn’t make sense to me. Also I’ve seen that you should have a group of people doing this so your not I’m wondering if there is anyone out there in WI that would be willing to help my family and have us work together. Thanks for reading and responding back.

  24. Helena
    United Kingdom
    March 31, 2013, 6:51 pm

    A great list of priorities. I particularly like “spiritual preparedness” at the top. Many people don’t think about that as a key value. I also noted your advice to set aside items to barter. I would add “skills” to barter as well. Being able to trade a skill for something is good. It build community and an economy that isn’t so reliant on money.

    Thank you very much for this list. I will print it out and use it as a guide to build up our preparedness.

  25. […] we learn while in prepping on the cheap mode does have it’s uses, after all it’s what get us through most of life’s […]