Last year I did a 10-day test of my preps. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) It was the most important prepping activity I’ve every done and a real eye-opener to say the least. I found it an enjoyable experience that required a lot of problem-solving. For 2024, I highly recommend such a test of our preps, even if only for a few days. How about during a week’s vacation? I promise it’ll be one of your most memorable and educational.
As the test began, I quickly I discovered I only had a very fuzzy idea of what I’d do during those first few hours and days of TEOTWAWKI. It’s not that I didn’t have the preps, it was more a question of getting into a whole new mindset and trying to prioritize what needed to happen in those first few hours, and what exactly I needed to do with all those preps. As Jim Croce sang, “Your life has changed, confusion reigns, what have you become?” How true it was.
By the end of Day One I decided to avoid that confusion from happening again, and to prevent the waste of resources such as freezer contents, I needed an action list, an instruction booklet if you will, of how to handle Day One and Week One. After the first week when the most important priorities have been taken care of and changes of habit will have started to take effect, the manual will no longer be necessary as we transition to the “new normal” mode.
This article is a look at the actual manual I prepared and an explanation of why each section was included. I call it my Day One Manual (DOM). It assumes a scenario where the grid is lost and the SHTF with no prior warning. I refer to this type of SHTF event as instant, while slow-motion refers to those few weeks during which it’s become almost certain that Day One is nearly upon us and it’s time to take some final actions, similar to how the events unfold in JWR’s novel Patriots. For me, a second manual will be prepared for that type of event as some of the priorities will differ.
Why a Manual is Necessary
A construction crew might have all the necessary skills and supplies to build a house but without a blueprint, time and resources would be wasted due to backtracking, arguing, and redoing. The house would still get built albeit inferior to what it could have been with a plan to follow.
The same concept applies to those first few hours and days after an apocalyptic SHTF event. When building a house wasted materials can be replaced, after the SHTF our prep supplies cannot.
It can’t be emphasized enough that on Day One we don’t want to be thinking much, just doing. Troubleshooting should be saved for later on in the days and weeks following Day One. For things to run calmly and efficiently, those things with the highest priority should be thought out well ahead of time and written down in your manual. If not, it’s guaranteed that confusion will reign and time and irreplaceable resources will be wasted.
A Personal Example
As an example of why we need a DOM here’s one of the first events from my 10-day preps test.
I started the test at 7:17 PM with no prior knowledge of the date and time when the test would begin so I had no time to make last-minute preparations. I’d been trying to decide for months how to select a random start date with no luck. Then while writing an article for SurvivalBlog and mentioning the importance of testing our preps, I knew the moment had arrived. I went straight out to the street and pulled the lever which turned off the power. The grid was gone in an instant.
I’d been working all day and hadn’t eaten. After doing some preliminary things to get organized I felt hungry. I found my backpacking stove and steel cup I use as a mess kit, dug up an ancient package of Ramen noodles from the late Cretaceous and started cooking them for dinner. I wanted a safe place to put the stove so I put it on top of my regular stove. About then it occurred to me that I had specifically bought an off-grid stove that runs off propane and 8 AA batteries. I felt pretty stupid to say the least and the situation was so incredibly ridiculous I burst out laughing. A manual with a “What to Do First” section on page 1 would have been a huge help to get me thinking straight about how to navigate the 10,000 grid-down variables.
By the end of Day One of my preps test, I had already started roughing out the contents of this DOM.
The Importance of Testing Our Preps
This manual only came about because I was testing my preps in a serious way. It never would’ve occurred to me otherwise and I didn’t realize until then how much discombobulation I’d experience that first day. If we’re preparing for TEOTWAWKI it can’t be overstated the importance of testing our preps at all levels: test out that camp toilet for a month, haul water from the creek for a week, wash clothes manually in a sink or tub for two weeks. Testing for a day or a weekend won’t give us adequate time to grasp the realities of what some of our preps are getting us into. Only later when the SHTF will we realize we should’ve tested some of our preps more thoroughly when that camp toilet only holds up for three weeks of daily use, hauling water from the creek sucks big time and puts serious limitations on our water usage, and washing clothes in the bathtub for the rest of your life isn’t for sissies.
Writing Your Own Manual
Writing a manual ahead of time will reduce the number of post-SHTF expressions like “so soon old, so late smart” and “hindsight is 20/20.” I can see Mrs. Prepper now: “If anyone says hindsight is 20/20 one more time you’ll be on latrine duty for a month!”
Rough out your DOM ahead of time as a fun project beginning with a table of contents of topics to be covered. When going about daily activities like taking a hot shower, washing clothes, using the toilet, and emptying the trash, think about how you might handle each of those in a permanent grid-down world. As each of those ideas is formed write a rough draft of that section for the manual, then further refine it over the weeks and months that follow. My own table of contents below may represent a good place to start with some of the basics for your own.
While writing your manual it’s important to number each section by their priority. As an example, for those on municipal water systems and those without a water tank, water sourcing will be one of the highest priorities. Each prepper will have to order each section in their own particular level of urgency.
Since most post-SHTF households will consist of more than one member, these first-day urgencies can and should be assigned out to individuals ahead of time. This will get everything organized more quickly on Day One, keep people from tripping over each other, and go a long way towards getting everyone unified and bonding as a group pulling together for that day they’ve spent so long prepping for.
Your manual will evolve over time as you realize there are topics you overlooked. A consideration when reading daily SurvivalBlog articles is to think about whether or not the subject should be something worth adding to your DOM. These additions should only be high-priority items for your Day One to-do list, not general prepping information. My own manual still has some topics that need development. Reading Anon-6’s article on nuclear preparedness (Part 1, Part 2) indicated a hole that needs filling, as did J.P.’s recent heads up on Reuniting Your Family After a Black Swan Event.
My Day One Manual (DOM) as seen in the lead photo to this article is a very condensed version of this article, consisting mostly of the bullet points in each of the following sections. I have explanations for each bullet point for three reasons. First, to allow the reader to understand my thinking behind each item. Second, since this manual would possibly be distributed to select friends and neighbors at the appropriate time as discussed below, it has to be in a form understandable and usable for them. Since most are not likely to be preppers, they’ll have little idea of what the top priorities are and how to deal with them without wasting their precious resources. Third, to hopefully inspire other SurvivalBlog preppers to add some of the preps mentioned here to their own preps.
(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)