In my real life role I work in IT. I’ve worked for several companies on several different projects including Disaster Recovery and Contingency Planning and one of the most consistent risks was that very few of them have ever tested their contingency plans and tested them as if it was a real disaster. They can spend hundreds of man hours writing these plans and testing them on paper but nothing beats a real live test which shows some simple and fundamental errors. I had one instance on a government site where they had full marks for the DR plans, all the boxes ticked you see, and when I eventually talked them into testing it over a bank holiday we fell over on the first hurdle because the security guards would only let authorised personnel access the classified backup tapes and they were all off outside normal working hours. The plan had the simple milestone of â€˜Back up tapes will be delivered from offsite. Ring XXXX to arrange delivery.â€™ As you can imagine that went down well and it isnâ€™t unusual most backup plans fall over when tested for the first time on silly things. I have several more examples but you get the picture.
Plans usually fail on assumptions that you make about something. You assume that someone has all the passports, you know you need them but leave it to someone else. You assume that the car won’t break down. You assume that the shop around the corner has milk and that you have the eye of a SAS Sniper when it comes to hunting food. You may be right but when you can’t get someone to bring the passports or the milk or the RAC to pick you up or you cannot simply return empty handed with food and just have a pizza you need to be 100% that you have done everything you can.
The first thing you should do before you switch off the power is to run your plan through while you go about your daily business of living. Time for tea you would get your food from your stores. Check what you need for that meal and make sure it is all there in your stores. Do not assume anything. Check before you turn on the cooker that your survival gear contains a cooker and all you need to run it, fuel, etc. Then when you have cooked the meal what in your survival gear do you have to serve and eat it with? When you are finished how are you going to wash up? Is everything you need there? Time for the toilet how will you handle this? Everything you need in your kit. What about the cigarette you have after tea? Then start thinking about hunting for food. What have you got to hunt with? Is it a PCP and you only have the air in the weapon? Run everything through in your mind and on paper for a few days and physically check the stores. If you have paper tested everything without any issues and are confident you are ready then now is the time for a real test.
Now to actually testing out your survival plans. I think we can agree that it is folly to wait until there is an event to find out that you are missing critical items or that you have not really thought your plans through. Luckily for us we can test our plans very easily. Here are some suggested preparedness tests. Taking the first Test, the weekend challenge, as a starter we simply think of a duration. I suggest a weekend when nobody is working as an initial test. Simply stop using the infrastructure in place in your home, switch off the gas, water and power and live for a few days on what you have put aside. If you are looking at relocating to a retreat then go there and do the same. Just flick the switches and turn the stopcocks to start. Once that is done sort your stores out and set up your equipment. Leave your cars and phones switched off and out of the way. Include your games consoles and computers unless you have a power supply you can use which is not reliant on the main grid. It would be best if you all participate but kids are not always going to that appreciative of missing their friends and it is unfair. You can always pretend they are there and adjust accordingly. After all there is not that much difference if the kids are missing, in fact think of the peace you can have. That alone must be worth it. Farm them out to relatives or they can have a camping out party at their friends. That is miles better than a camping out party with parents.
However, if only it is as easy as that to really test your plans. For one thing it is not TEOTWAWKI and the others will want to be out enjoying themselves even if you can get them to participate and importantly we have to remember that it is only a test and need to be sensible about it. Let us not bring out the AK47 from our illegal stash and start shooting the lairds deer and pheasants for lunch. We cannot pull our stairs down to make it difficult for intruders and that microwave defence system you are working on will have to wait a bit longer before you can really test it on intruders. Be particularly careful when you have your stores buried or sealed inside something to keep your stash safe. You do not want to compromise your stores and you should use substitutes that you know is in your stash to pretend you are working from there. You do have a list of what is in your stash? Of course you do.
So using the stores in your stash and you, and your companions, will only use what you have in your stores and nothing else. Identify items that are missing and note if you have problems with anything at all. You will use these notes to refine your plans. Only if the problem is a show stopper should you fix the issue by, for example, getting a friend to deliver that item to you at a prearranged spot and leave without even meeting. This would need arranging before hand and I would suggest text messages rather than phone calls so you don’t compromise the test. Set up everything in your stash you would be using at any time. Look ahead, you may have food and water for two years but test beyond that; Till the land, a bit of it anyway, and pretend to sow the seeds and the plants, actually go hunting for your food, process your water, wash with what you have, use the toilet facilities you have planned. Make sure you try, or where you canâ€™t then at least pretend to try by acting it out, for example a twisted ankle or broken wrist, everything you have prepared for.
After a few days you should detect that;
- You have a list of minor issues
- You are bored senseless
- You wish you had some more luxury items in your stores
- You do not want to do this for much longer
If you are not learning anything new and it gets into a stressful routine then stop and consider what was wrong otherwise stop when you reach your target.
When you have completed your test;
- Switch on the utilities
- Have a nice relaxing bath (Rock/Paper/Scissors for priority if you want to be fair otherwise dictate)
- Have a nice meal
- Add any changes to your plans and/or stores list
- Replace the items you have consumed or used and add any new ones
- Let everyone else know what happened so we can learn from it
The last one is important. Here in the UK few of us have actually been through any sort of infrastructure collapse. We are reliant on others talking about their experiences and as each situation is different then you need to test the plan for your situation and donâ€™t just assume it is going to be OK because it works for someone else. Ray Mears contingency plan could be to take his big knife and head out to the wilds of Scotland. If we did that 99.9% of us would be dead in a month, including me. That is why I have my own plans.
I am of the belief that mindset is more important than anything else. However every useful item you have in your equipment and stores improves your chances considerable. The key word there is useful and you only really discover what are actually the useful items when you are in the situation using them. We want to know before we get there so we have to test it by living it to check. We will not assume we will verify and confirm. Everything.
Remember, never assume. It makes an ASS out of U and ME and in our world it can be fatal.
Let us know how you get on and if you want any help to prepare then just ask.