Three Principles of Preparedness

grayscale photo of man standing on ground
This guy looks pretty prepared for whatever might come his way. Photo by abhishek gaurav on

I’ll admit it: I’m not a hunter or prepper. I’m not much of an outdoorsman or a survivalist, either. I spend most of my time in urban or suburban areas (though outdoors, when possible). However, I find the study of preparedness, regardless of location or circumstance, very interesting. When most people think of prepping, they think of guys carrying around bug-out bags in the middle of nowhere up in Idaho or Montana. However, prepping is not exclusive to the worst-case scenario of an EMP attack or nuclear fallout from World War III. While those are things to consider, we should all first consider our preparedness for everyday events.

Are you prepared to fix or change a flat tire if you have one on the highway? What if someone breaks in to your home in the middle of the night? What will you do if a snowstorm knocks your power out for three days straight? (It’s happened to me and my family in Texas, believe it or not.)

In the spirit of thinking ahead, here are what I believe to be the three crucial principles of preparedness.

1. “Be prepared.”

This is the Boy Scouts’ motto. It’s simple and easy to remember. In any situation you can imagine yourself in, this is the starting point: just be prepared.

If you run the risk of being assaulted on the city streets or in a parking garage, be prepared. Carry some mace, a kubaton, or even a roll of quarters in your fist with you. Know how to use whatever you carry. (That means practice!) Mentally run yourself through the situation of assault so you can visualize how you will respond defensively.

If you’re going on a road trip and there’s a possibility you might break down in a remote area, be prepared. Have AAA or roadside assistance through your insurance provider. Consider a satellite phone if you find yourself outside of cell service. Bring some food and water along so you can survive while waiting for help if it takes a while.

2. “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”

Many proponents of gun ownership and concealed carry argue their case with this phrase, and I think they’re right, regardless of what liberals think. This doesn’t just apply to firearms, though. Going back to the street assault example, the chance of being mugged might be very low, maybe even negligible. But, in the event that it happens to you, because it does happen, you want to have a defensive weapon of choice on-hand. The last thing you want in an adversarial situation is to pull out your keychain and realize that your kubaton isn’t attached to it because you left it at home.

In the roadside breakdown example, a can of Fix-A-Flat might be enough to get a flat tire inflated long enough to get to the nearest garage. A portable jump starter might keep you from having to wait on a kind motorist to pull over and give your dead battery a jump. A flashlight and a jacket are two great things to have after sundown, with the flashlight in the glovebox and the jacket in the backseat or the trunk.

3. “Two is one, and one is none.”

This comes from the Navy SEALs, and I’ve already written a little about this in one of my first posts, On Redundancy, but it’s worth mentioning again. (I’m actually applying this principle in writing this post!)

I look at this phrase in two ways. First, have two of the same item on-hand in the event that one doesn’t work, or is misplaced, or gets borrowed—you get the idea. Keep extra batteries near battery-powered lanterns. Have two flashlights readily available. Carry two water bottles.

The second way I look at this phrase is this: take two different items that accomplish the same thing. For example, when camping, carry two or three different means with which to start a fire: flint and steel, matches, magnesium, maybe even a magnifying glass or eyeglasses, if you have them. Carry two different ways to purify water, such as purifying tablets and a LifeStraw.

A more everyday example would be having a GPS and a map or atlas in the car. On a family vacation to Fredericksburg last year, I ditched Google Maps in favor of a trusty Texas state map because Google routed us along US-67, which was closed for construction outside Cleburne.

It could even be as simple as having both an electric can opener and a manual one at home, or carrying cash as a backup to a card. (Another tip: some hole-in-the-wall restaurants and small businesses might not accept plastic, so always have cash available just in case. Don’t be the guy who has to leave his date at the restaurant and walk to an ATM, as someone I know once had to do.)

car road snow winter
I’d make sure I could dig this SUV out of the snow before getting out in it. A collapsible shovel and traction mats would be great to have. That guy probably needs a license plate, too. Photo by Chris Peeters on

In summary: have it, have it even if you don’t think you’ll need it, and have two.

Apply these three principles of preparedness to your life and you will feel more confident should the stuff hit the fan, regardless of what that stuff is. As you prepare, you may find yourself, as I did, envisioning “What if?” situations that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. If you believe Murphy’s Law holds true, and I tend to think it does, you can’t prepare for every possible contingency, but you can take steps to prepare for a worst-case scenario, whether that’s at home, on the job, on the road, in the air—anywhere.


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