Preparedness Mistakes and How To Prevent Them

Preparedness Mistakes and How To Prevent Them

Many of us watch videos and read books about preparedness. Most of the information is insightful and useful for us. But what about inaccurate info? Or the ones that perpetuate an ideal that isn’t truly helpful? In this article, we will help dispel this you discern good information from bad information.

  1. Firsthand Knowledge

When you watch a video or read a book, it's a good start. But unless you perform a task yourself you're not really going to "get it." For example, there are books and videos about sharpening knives. But unless you have done that task firsthand and put it into action, you will not truly be able to do it. The same is true for dressing a deer, cooking over an open fire, and many other tasks.

The problem will come when you are put in that situation and it absolutely needs to be done correctly. Although you’ve watched a video on it, you most likely will not retain the information completely unless you have done it. Repetition is best, so doing this task more than once is better than just reading a book or watching a video of it being done.

In order to remember how to do something, you need to see it, watch it, and do it. Memory requires us to do certain things that imprint skills into our brains. Do not think that just because you’ve seen it done that you’ll remember exactly how to do it.

Buy the book, watch the video, then do it yourself a few times just to make sure you have a handle on how it's done.

  1. Prepare for the Most Likely Case

Most videos and books will prepare you for some "worst-case" scenario. You will learn what to do if something catastrophic happens, like China taking over the USA, or a huge EMP hits and disables all our electronics.

But what we really need to be preparing for is the "most likely" case. For instance, if you live by the ocean, you should prepare for hurricanes, tornadoes, or tidal waves. If you live in the mountains you should prepare for blizzards along with long-term power outages.

Preparing for what could happen is vital; not necessarily preparing for the worst-case scenario. Being more precise about what it is you are preparing for will help you know what you really need in order to be ready for that particular event.

Preparedness means you carry jumper cables in your truck, along with various other items like an axe, tools, and a first aid kit. Having items on hand in the event of an emergency can make an impossible situation; like a fallen tree in the road on the way home; to something more manageable. 

  1. Linear Thinking

We’ve all heard this in our favorite YouTube videos and books. They say, “if you are stuck in a ditch, all you have to do is….” There is no such thing as “all you have to do is.” Most of the time, situations arise and there isn’t a clear answer what to do. There are variables in every emergency situation.

We get many emails about situations that people thought they were prepared for, but they weren't prepared for the variables. In many cases, the situation will provide you with more challenges than the one you had in mind. It is hard to prepare for these variables, so just keep in mind they can happen. You will need to think through what could happen if one of these variables occurs.

  1. Bug Out Bag

Many times, you will hear people say “I could survive with what I have in my bug-out bag.” This is not the case. The truth is, you will not be able to build a shelter, have a continuous fire, or have enough water in your bug-out bag for you to survive for any length of time.

You will need to find a place that has the wood you require, water to survive, and hopefully some back-up protein you can get if necessary. Sure, you will have the axe, containers, and rope; but you will not have everything you need in your bug-out bag.

Preparedness means knowing where you will go, and having a backup plan if you cannot get to the original place you intended to go to. It means that if either one of those places are not available for some reason, you have solutions ready.

Sure, bug-out bags are essential and have many important items in them, but you cannot survive on a bug out bag alone.


  • Christophe A Ridley

    Thank you for this post. “Prepare for the most likely” and “Linear thinking” will make the difference between success and disaster. It’s not being prepared that makes survival a success, it’s more having the ability to adapt and improvise.

  • Mark A Hill

    The more I read and contemplate, the more I agree with you. The average person thinking about the “bug-out-bag” as salvation is underinformed. I do a “Personal Preparedness” presentation to groups of people that I know are “like minded” here in San Diego CA. I can’t present every facet of preparedness, so I always let them know that they have to do some research of their situational details as well. I think your website is very informative and will advise my students to check it out.

  • Jerry

    Spoken like a true Marine. Be prepared; improvise, adapt, and overcome. Semper Fi.

    I have had a problem with reading much of the stuff on many “survival” sites on which people “know” what is going to happen. “22 cal. rounds will be like gold.” And such.

    Here, if there is enough room to print it, is a copy of a response that I made to Survivalblog.com in 2012.

    USMC retired.

    Letter re: Why I Hate Preppers, by Allen C.
    September, 2012

    I greatly enjoyed reading the letter forwarded by Allen C. It mirrored many of my own thoughts, mostly not vocalized, that I have had about other “preppers.” I do not like the generalization implied in the word, itself, for it establishes a bias either for or against a whole group of people who seem decidedly and individually different.

    It brought to mind the much-repeated phrase among preppers: “like-minded individuals.” Now, having met face-to-face with a number of other people who are concerned about uncertain times and are preparing in one way or another for those eventualities, I found that huge differences exist in the ways of going about this task and the philosophies surrounding it. Thus, to put out an advertisement to join “like-minded individuals” in the “prepper community” is, in my view, about like making the same exhortation to a group of professional football fans on the assumption that they are “like minded,” when all they have done is to root for the same team that we do.

    On the subject of paranoia, Allen repeats the oft-used phrase: “I wouldn’t be so paranoid if everyone wasn’t out to get me.” This reminded me of a meeting I had in a public place with a few other local preppers whom I “met” on an online prepper network. These were supposedly like-minded individuals, who, during the course of the meeting appealed to those present to provide their addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for the purpose of networking, “early warning,” passing the news, etc. Of course, I found this proposal astoundingly foolish, and said so. I was accused of being overly paranoid. Are there degrees of paranoia? Anyway, I refused to provide such information to complete strangers, and chalked up having talked myself into such a meeting to my own foolishness. There are few enough “like minded individuals” within a tightly knit family, or even in a pretty tight military unit, much less in the population at large. People should dispense with the notion that such a fantasy exists.

    Concerning Allen’s frustration with preppers being “know-it-alls,” this statement particularly rang true to me: “Later the same evening suburban grandma is in a user group regurgitating a half digested piece of prepper knowledge she picked up on another web site without ever having to actually fight anyone, kill anything, or spend a week in the woods.”
    This brought to mind the image of my teenaged grandson, who, while very bright and seemingly able to absorb any sort of material that he reads, or hears, or sees on TV, has a terrible habit, in my view, of saying “I know….” such-and-such. I have repeatedly reminded him that he does not “know” anything, nor does anyone else, unless he or she has actually done it or experienced it. Reading about, seeing, or listening to others who read about, talk about, or otherwise expound on any subject does not constitute a reason to say to oneself: “I know.” There is only one way to “know,” in my opinion, at least, and that is to know by the experience of doing. One does not know how to fell a tree, slice it up with a chain saw, haul it, split it, and stack it, much less burn it, unless one has done it. One cannot say that he knows how to make a cherry pie just because he owns a Betty Crocker cookbook.

    And Allen’s comments further lead me into the frustration I have with preppers who are constantly writing on various blogs a presumption of what “will” happen under certain circumstances, such as a societal collapse. Zombie biker gangs will roam the countryside, stores will be out of food in hours, gasoline will be unattainable, .22 caliber cartridges will be like gold, etc. Some of these events might be likely to happen, of course, but for anyone to say beforehand, and in the absence of any evidence, whatsoever, that they “know” what will happen is ludicrous. No one actually knows what will happen until it happens. Detractors have said “history repeats itself,” so we can take from history that we actually do know what will happen. But we really can’t. We know there is a likelihood of a similar event happening again, human nature being a constant through time, but we still do not know what “will” happen in a given event that takes place in the present times.

    In the popular literature, there is only one person whom I can say (because I haven’t read everything, to be sure) actually knows about what it’s like in an economic collapse. He is Fernando Aquirre, who, in his book about the collapse in Argentina (2001-present), relates what he actually saw and did in that country during that collapse. What we have in the American literature on the subject, as entertaining as it is to read, is fictional speculation. Some of it substitutes well enough for instruction and even education, and sometimes reflects what appears to be very good research, but it is still fiction, causing one to caution oneself, once again, the “no one knows what will happen.” Examples of such works that I have read and enjoyed include the novels Patriots (Rawles), Lights Out (Crawford), One Second After (Forstechen), Holding Their Own (Joe Nobody), Apocalypse Law (Grit), Feathers on the Wings of Hate (Grit), Enemies Domestic and Foreign (Bracken trilogy), The Pulse (S. Williams), The Rift (W.Williams), American Apocalypse (Nova), Lucifer’s Hammer, (Niven and Pournelle), Ashfall (Mullen), Molon Labe (B. T. Party), The Old Man and the Wasteland (Cole), World Made by Hand (Kunstler), The Third Revolution (Lewis), Half Past Midnight (Brackett) and Dark Grid (Waldron), among others. There are yet many that I haven’t read. Yes, I do love reading these books. But they cannot say, and should not purport to say, what will happen, as do so many whom we see writing on the blogs.

    Yet, in spite of our differences, we continue to prepare because it seems wise to do so, even though we are not really sure of anything in the future except more uncertainty. However, I do feel that preparation is more of a lifelong challenge than one that can be accomplished in even a few years. Some people have had a “survivalist” mindset since childhood, and so “prepping” is second nature to them. As Allen (and my father) said, they didn’t even call it that. It just seemed a way of life, indistinguishable from other often-practiced habits.

    Further, Allen’s letter got me to thinking of a Persian proverb, which led me into thinking of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

    “He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool – shun him.
    He who knows not and knows that he knows not is simple – teach him.
    He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep – wake him.
    He who knows and knows that he knows is wise – follow him.”
    (Persian proverb).
    Dunning-Kruger Effect:
    According to studies published in 1999 by Dunning and Kruger, there is a difference between what we know and what we think we know. People are notoriously bad at rating their own competence at a whole variety of tasks.

    Dunning and Kruger found that people who were not very good at a subject also tended to lack the skill to rate themselves at that subject. Such people often figured that the limited information they had about the subject was all there was to know, and that they were consequently more knowledgeable than the average. Hence we are skeptical when we read of so many “experts” on so many subjects on so many blogs. Take, for example, the case of a “rifleman” who espouses that it is futile to learn for himself or to teach others how to hit targets at 500 yards, arguing that his 250 yard carbine (e.g. AK/AR) will do all that needs doing. Well, the ignorance extant in such a statement is near to astounding. Assuming that a majority of our foes are not riflemen, but carbine-men, would it not be wise to prepare to hit them outside of the maximum useful (lethal) range of their own weapons? But raising such a point in public (Internet) conversation is akin to banging one’s head repeatedly against a brick wall and asking for a great argument, considering all of the opposing views on that subject. There do seem to be a plethora of people who know not, and know not that they know not. And they might just retort that I am one of them.

    Dunning and Kruger also found that people who really were quite knowledgeable about a subject tended to underestimate their ability, perhaps because they knew enough to be aware of how much more there was to know.
    Further, they refer to a “double curse” when interpreting their findings: People fail to grasp their own incompetence, precisely because they are so incompetent. And since, overcoming their incompetence would first require the ability to distinguish competence from incompetence, people get stuck in a vicious cycle.
    But one need not be obsessed with Dunning and Kruger. The same effect can be seen in other writings. Perhaps a few preppers will read this before posting their next expert “knowledge” to a web blog.
    Charles Darwin: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”
    1 Corinthians 8:2, King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
    “And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.”
    Bertrand Russell: “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”

  • Kevin Roberts

    " “I could survive with what I have in my bug-out bag.” This is not the case. ".
    This in fact true, not false.

    “You will need to find a place that has the wood you require, water to survive, and hopefully some back-up protein you can get if necessary. Sure, you will have the axe, containers, and rope; but you will not have everything you need in your bug-out bag.”

    Most people who say they can survive with what they have in their BOB, generally do NOT mean they will sit in the middle of a parking lot with no wood, no means of starting a fire and maintaining it, and no materials for shelter, no nearby water…

    They state that, as a fact… I can survive with what I have in my BOB (notice I did not say luxuriously,… survive), and I mean that to include seeking a location near water, with materials to build a shelter, build a fire and maintain it, to have alternative food sources, including fish from that nearby water…..

    I like most of the articles provided, but this one seems dishonest.

  • FR>Chuck

    A good to follow, viz., “It is better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it.”
    Learned on active duty: “Situation Awareness,” “Know your enemy”
    Should be obvious at this point…."beans,bullets, bandaids, water supply and, “home security.” No white horse rescue in sight. I call it YOYO,,, You’re on your own, Bible: "The prudent man sees the danger and prepares…the fool waites and….(fill in the blank)

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published