Prepping and Preparedness Level 1 – 4 Series Overview

Preparedness Series Overview

( jump to series article links )

First, there are about 2,000 articles on Modern Survival Blog which cover a wide variety of topics! Use the SEARCH functionality (in the MENU area) and browse the categories.

This series however is designed to specifically address the most important topics within preparedness. And I have split the series into four levels ranging from Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert.

Get started at Level 1 preparedness. It’s easy. And move on from there (Level 2 is easy too).

There really is no clear road map out there. Though I am attempting to provide one here! You might be wondering about priorities or maybe you just don’t want to make any costly mistakes that you might regret later.

Well here’s my own guidelines for preparedness. I will be writing an ongoing series of article topics as we progress.

Here’s the basic overview for each level:

Prepping & Preparedness Level 1 (Basic)

Being prepared for 1 Week

This is the most basic level of preparedness and the easiest to achieve!

In fact it’s so easy that you have little excuse not to get it done. It won’t cost much money. It won’t require any special skills beyond having some common sense.

Level 1 preparedness will cover you for the majority of the “most likely to occur” emergencies or disruptive events in day-to-day life.

Sadly, the majority of Americans are not even up to Level 1 preparedness. Most of modern society live a lifestyle of “here and now” consumption and keep only enough food on hand (and consumable supplies) to last just several days. That’s it…

Additionally most people have a strong normalcy bias that supplies and services will always be readily available. The thought of preparedness does not enter into consciousness. Don’t let that be you!

For the newbie I recommend the simple guidelines as linked below within a series of tailored articles for Level 1 preparedness.

Prepping & Preparedness Level 2 (Intermediate)

Being prepared for 1 Month

There are disasters that come along once in awhile that can be very disruptive and affect someone (or a region) in very difficult ways. While these events may be less likely to occur, the fact is they can happen, and do happen.

I compare this level to being prepared for something like a major weather event that leaves the infrastructure of a region badly damaged for a period of several weeks, or even up to a month.

No electricity. Supply chains disrupted into the area. People maybe stuck in their homes for awhile without a working infrastructure. Things will get fixed, but it’s going to take some time. It’s not the end of the world. But it won’t be easy for several weeks or longer…

A major regional earthquake could fit into this category too. I wonder how many who live along major earthquake fault zones are adequately prepared? Probably not too many…

There are a number of additional and important concerns beyond Level 1 preparedness when considering disruption for several weeks or a month. I will be discussing them within article topics related to Level 2 preparedness.

Prepping & Preparedness Level 3 (Advanced)

Being prepared for up to 1 Year

The period of time ranging from 1 month to 1 year is a very wide range. I chose this wide range as one preparedness level. When you are preparing for disruption (collapse) beyond 1 month and into 3 months or more, you are essentially in the same mindset and same “mode” of survival.

If you’re reaching into your preps due to a Level 3 event, there has been some serious collapse / SHTF that has occurred! It may seem VERY UNLIKELY for this to occur. But one never knows…

This will be nothing like Level 1 or 2. It will be downright dangerous. The uncomfortable reality will be that many, many people around you may lose their lives.

I believe that many current preparedness-minded people who have been at it for awhile are somewhere within this category, Level 3. When preparing for contingencies during a period of societal collapse, there are lots of very serious topics of concern. I will be writing about them as we delve into Level 3 preparedness.

Prepping & Preparedness Level 4 (Expert)

Time period: Self-sustaining (or as close as one can get)

Self-sustaining (definition) : maintaining or able to maintain oneself or itself by independent effort | a self–sustaining community

Level 4 is the ultimate in preparedness. To transition from being supplied and secured for 1 year to actually being relatively (and truly) self-sustaining is huge, and VERY difficult.

To prepare at this level implies that you’re preparing for a colossal disaster.

Level 4 preparedness may also be motivated by the desire to live a self-sufficient lifestyle and the satisfaction that goes along with being independent from external systems that everyone else relies upon to literally keep them alive!

When you think about it, many of our ancestors were Level 4 preppers by default! It was just the way it was if you wanted to survive. Today, most everyone in current modern society would surely perish without our current infrastructure, and wouldn’t have a clue what to do if that infrastructure went away…

Articles within Level 4 preparedness will get into the topics of “getting off the grid”, self reliance, self sufficiency, and the major issues surrounding what it actually takes to make it on your own (or as close as one can get).

Preparedness Series

Links to Articles in this Series

Preparedness Level 1 OVERVIEW
Water & Food
72 Hour Kit
Kids & Pets
First Aid & Medical
Seasonal Considerations
Safety & Security
Consumable Supplies
Planning & Documentation

Preparedness Level 2 OVERVIEW
Water Storage & Availability
Water & Food
Electrical Grid Down For 2 – 4 Weeks
Security & Situational Awareness
Additional Supplies & Gear
Dealing With The Unprepared

Preparedness Level 3 OVERVIEW
Water Source & Storage is Critical
Enough Food For A Year
Location & Security
The Walking Dead

Similar Posts


  1. This is going to be a very interesting series of Articles, much looking forward to your thoughts and ideas.

    FYI, I for one realize how much ‘work’ and research this will involve.

    Thanks’ Ken for doing this series.


  2. And maybe a sub note about not keeping all your eggs in one basket Ken?

    It matters little to have much put away in say your basement to have flood, fire OR FEMA to take it all away (for the common good of course). A small 2 week supply out where you can use/rotate supplies could satisfy common thieves like FEMA or your never do well neighbors who know more about you than you might think. Screw top olive barrels hold a lot and are easy to bury IMHO.

    NH Michael

  3. I know where I fall on the 1-4 range, it will be interesting to compare my current thinking and revise if needed. Thanks for the effort.

  4. I agree that most people are in this level 3 of preparedness, if they are doing preparedness at all. Many of life’s events last 3-6 months, such as job loss,and economic challenges of loved ones’ returning home.

    To get to Level 4 is so comprehensive, there are many aspects. Many of us are working toward it, however slowly, and have a long way to go before self sufficient or even barter compatible with our neighbors who may have things we are not able to have.

  5. What’s interesting I was, (note; was), working on an article just about the same topic. I had a few different Names for the levels though, I do believe my categories were more colorful… LOL

    1. The OMG what ‘he!l’ happened? I need to run to the store.
    2. I got some food in the Kitchen; I’m good for a few days. AKA FEMA Prepared.
    3. Sure the powers out, I got a Generator, need gas though.
    4. Got Food and Water for a couple of months, I’m good as long as I get ‘some help’.
    5. I have everything I need for 6 month, well except for medical, dental, TP, may need some firewood, and another way to get water.
    6. Got it all, I’m good for a year, as long as I don’t go crazy/er.

    And the last category on my Article would have been;
    7. World, leave me the heck alone, I do NOT want OR need your help.

    Was thinking of adding one more;
    8. The ‘Underground Bunker’, ‘Doomsday Prepper’, ‘Survivalist-Nut-Job’ crowd, AKA Over the Topers.

    But, Ken trumped me… HAHAHA


  6. I am definitely excited about this series!! Since I am pretty much in this on my own, I really have no clue where I would fall in the steps. On NRP’s list, probably 4 or 5!! LOL Thanks Ken for this series!

    1. If you are at a 4-5 level you are so far ahead of most people they can’t even see you. I am at a 6 with some 7 going on but i am not sure anyone is at a true 7 unless they have lived a few years with that lifestyle. I am not saying just growing their own food ect but having not seen other humans for that period of time. I don’t think 99.99% of people realize what that lifestyle would entail.

  7. When I started prepping I asked myself what I needed to survive a week without power. I wanted to live “normally”. – showers, toilets, heat, light, water, laundry, cooked food, sewing. These are all the normal things I would do in the course of a week.

    I looking forward to “Prepping One” to see how it matches up.

    Thanks, Ken
    Stay frosty.

  8. “…To transition from being supplied and secured for 1 year to actually being relatively (and truly) self-sustaining is huge, and VERY difficult…” That is so true!!!

    I think Level 4 requires being able to live totally off-grid without electricity or running water for a long time or even for the rest of your life. To grow all of your food and live without electricity, running water and indoor plumbing is bad enough but you also have to be able to protect what you have. This, all together would be a daunting task to say the least.

    Living without electricity, running water or indoor plumbing for the rest of my life is certainly not something I look forward to, especially at my age (70).

    All of you old preppers need to seriously think about this because eventually the diesel will run out. It is hard enough to put in a big garden to supply your own needs, using a diesel farm tractor and heavy farm implements but when the fuel runs out it will be back to the basics. I think about this a lot the older I get. The hardest part would be putting in the same sized gardens we have in the past using only hand tools, or slaughtering and cleaning a deer, hog or beef and having no refrigeration, and then come home to no electricity for air conditioning or even a fan, and no fresh water shower to wash off all the muck, blood and dirt and then have to eat with the flies and mosquito’s and sleep with a mosquito net when the temperature is above 90 degrees at night (If you even have one). Then, add to this mix a bunch of armed bureaucrats or gangbangers trying to take it all away from you under the color of law or at gunpoint just because they can.

    That lifestyle is a completely different paradigm of self-sustainability than simply putting in a designer garden and being prepared for a few months. Just because I can doesn’t mean I want to even though we are better positioned for the transition than many, it’s no longer an adventure without 21st century amenities.

    1. I know you’re referring to diesel for farm tractors…but if they can be converted to gas, think about all the gallons in the community’s cars.
      A community garden is a must in most situations if someone is smart enough to organize it..oh, no work, no food.

      1. So I had an idea a few years ago. Over some beers, I started talking with the town public works director about converting one of the blocks that the town owns into a community garden. We’re now going into our sixth season. Big project this year is adding in fruit trees. 😉

  9. @crabbeNebulae

    I agree with you. Almost seventy and can’t imagine all the work to be self sufficient. We use to “order in” meat chickens and piglets. I can’t imagine having to start at square one. I used to pasteurize our milk but without electricity it would be quite a formidable activity. Feed for the animals was purchased. We weren’t really self sufficient. We just thought we were.

    I guess it was very different when children remained at home as adults and gradually took over the homestead.

    1. @ Pieface

      We have a lot of tools, equipment and materials for self sustainability, including water storage capacity for rain water run-off of over 1,000 gallons. We down-sized our gardens last year because the amount of work involved with cultivating and irrigation was beginning to be a drag on our sensibilities.

      We still grow a lot of food in the smaller gardens but that is nothing compared to a half acre or one acre plots in the fields behind our home. We were going to put in another big garden this fall but after being away from it for two cycles (fall 2016/spring 2017), we both are having second thoughts about it. It’s hard not to because we’ve been doing that for such a long time, but then again, the relief of going two cycles with no big garden has been nice. The adventure and hobby aspect of it wore off a long time ago. We did it for sustainability mostly and it worked. At least we still have the equipment and the property if I had to plow up an acre or two to put in another big garden to feed friends an neighbors I could be up and harvesting in six to eight weeks, weather permitting, and we have enough to easily get us through that transition period. The problem we see, both now and on the horizon is nobody wants to work… and I’m not John Smith, so, I think the concept of “He who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat”, is best handled by not having to deal with a bunch of idiots who still think they are eating at McDonald’s and having it their way. I did get a lot of inquiries this spring from people who were used to seeing my huge garden in the pasture, wondering what happened. Its absence definitely didn’t go un-noticed.

      Ken is absolutely right about Level 4, putting in a garden big enough to feed a bunch of people over the long term is definitely a big job. It’s not for the faint hearted.

      1. An older friend of mine who has been working his “hobby farm” just converted to a CSA (community sustained agriculture). Now people pay him a small fee, sign up for scheduled time to take care of certain tasks, and get a share of the harvest. Apparently, this model is all the rage. Might be worth considering…

  10. You find out your at level 4 the hard way when you move. Did this six months ago and it was a two week full time job. It did give me a great way of going through ever item and making sure we were good to go. The move was only 120 miles one way but with loading and unloading that makes a full day out of each run. Wife was following in car and told her on two runs to stay back a few hundred yards. With that much ammo a bad train crossing would be a site to see. Did see some short spots and have taken care of the previous problems.

  11. I can’t wait to read these articles Ken! I’ve been kicking around this site for about a year now, and it took me this long to almost be at prep level 2. I would like to thank the kind folks here that did not laugh when I asked what a wheatberry was, and what it was for..??

    I appreciate this site, and the hard work it takes to inform people.

    Have a good day y’all!

    1. Cograts on getting to level 2. just keep plugging along and you will get there. as far as the wheat berry question,the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask. In my business I have people tell me all the time ( I sell auto parts ) that the don’t know anything about cars. My answer is I don’t know anything about cutting hair,doesn’t mean either of us are stupid. No one know everything.

  12. I want to be at 4…am definitely at 2…and have solid elements of 3. The reality is I will have to settle to be at 2.75 but will hopefully be learned enough to get to 4.

  13. I guess for us we are around level 3 1/2. We were slowly getting to level 4 when serious health issues started us going in reverse. At this point I don’t think that we can make it to level 4. The best I can do at this point is to try and make sure that we are at a solid level 3.

    The biggest problem with a sustainable lifestyle is having to grow such a huge garden in order to be able to put food up during the winter. I think a greenhouse would definitely alleviate some of the excess work of preserving the extra harvest. You would be able to extend your growing season by a few months. So hopefully you won’t have to can, freeze, or dry as much of your produce.

  14. I think this is going to be a really fantastic exercise. I’m going to wait till after #4 to determine my status on Ken’s ‘prep-o-meter’. Hopefully he will do a follow-up article on how to advance plus include the ‘skill’ levels associated with the presumed preparedness levels.


  15. I would like to add something more to what has already been touched on. KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS! In my area of Rawles Land, near the WA-ID state line, people are just as clueless and self-absorbed as they were when I lived in Southern California and on the Southern Oregon Coast. Thoroughly vett anybody before you take them into your confidence. If there is a major environmental disaster or “economic correction”, most of the Sheeple will go into full panic mode.
    Don’t run to the 24-Hr Wal Mart like the rest of the drones. Have a plan. Shelter in place or move to your prearranged bug-out location. Keep your preps secret. Practice marksmanship. Stay fit. Watch and listen.

  16. Very excited about this series of articles! As someone who has lived for many years in stage 1, recently went through stage 2, and is working on stage 3, I will be very interested to analyze where I have missed some obvious things and where I need to back up and reconsider my plan. Thank you!

  17. Hi all …. Hope better late than never works OK, much to do in the nice weather. Off grid does not mean going with out electricity, maybe not as much as your use to, but certainly not ever. I’ve been off grid for most of 40 years and always have had it available. You just have to think differently and adjust for it. As for today’s topic, I don’t think anyone could go level 4 for any length time. We are just to interdependent on each other. There is so much to know and do, I need you to fill in what I don’t know and likewise what I know that you don’t ……no man is an island. OK stay off my part of the beach, the fishing good here ha ha

    Time to form a tribe

  18. Perhaps someone a little far along in yrs. to keep a garden could make a deal w/ a younger person to tend and keep it if they are willing to put up the harvest. Good article Ken, treat yourself to a cup of fresh roasted coffee on us :)

    1. I have often thought the same thing about having younger people handle the heavy lifting on trying to grow a garden big enough to sustain a group of people. I am in my 60’s and not sure I would be up to the task( my pride says I am but the body not so sure) The problem I see here is at the end of the day what stops this group of youngsters from just taking what you have? If it was a WROL situation you could just shoot them but I doubt we will go mad max so killing someone will still have consequences

  19. A major war lasts more than one year. The world wars were 6 and 4 years. The various “unrest” in the middle east has been a decade or more. Preparing for a war event is more than just being stocked for a year, and probably more than being self sufficient as well (rationing, conscription of service etc.)

    Achieving level 2 really isn’t hard to attain. I recently moved town, and the first week, I was going to the shop every day. Then I switched to weekly shopping, and now I’m on a monthly shop routine – except for a top up on fresh fruit/veg every fortnight.

    Honestly, doing this is more a matter of economy (cheaper to buy in bulk) and laziness (don’t want to walk to the shops every day), so I have no idea why people persist in making their lives busier than they need to be.

    My aim is the three-month independence – I think that’s all I can do with the space available to me.

  20. Level 4 will separate the men from the mice; the haves from the have nots; those that can from those that cannot; the strong from the weak; the young from the old; the sick from the healthy. Level 4 will thin the herd, so to speak and bring modern humanity to its knees. Nature has a way of letting us know who’s the boss.

    By Ken’s definition I think I’m beyond level 3 and have been there for awhile because I believe I could last at least a couple years beyond 1 year at level 4, but I don’t consider myself at level 4 yet because I’ve never really been fully tested. I’m getting tired and would have a problem sustaining that lifestyle over the long term… it’s something to think about if your are 70 or older, especially if you have no capable extended family.

    I feel like an old horse put out to pasture, or an old Indian who can no longer keep up. Guess I better go and stock up on a good supply of firewater or something that will let me talk to the smoke, listen to the moon. LOLOL…

    1. @ CrabbeNebulae

      “Guess I better go and stock up on a good supply of firewater or something that will let me talk to the smoke, listen to the moon. LOLOL…”

      Sounds like my ideas….. FYI, if ya listen well enough, the moon has some GREAT stories to tell.


  21. Well after reading this introductory Article on stages of preparedness I took a good hard look at ‘stuff’, equipment, readiness, and the training/knowledge I believe I have acquired.

    Is there going to be a negative three (-3) number for just tossing everything out and starting over from square one? :-(


  22. According to this scale, I am at level 3 ( like most people within this site’s group of Regular Posters. )

    Somewhere between level 2 to 3, people begin to take notice and you can either become an evangelist (preaching the word of preparedness) or you will be considered an apostate ( an outsider/voice crying out in the wilderness.) I will be living within a society as I age in place. My niche job is in the medical field and the idea of an individual farm or ranch being entirely self sustaining has been disproven by my grandparents during the Great Depression.

    Growing up I knew my grandparents were farmers during the Depression. All of the other farming families and cattle ranchers also knew my grandparents because they traded with each other extensively during the times of shortages and hardship. ( Meat for vegetables, Hard labor for tools or large quantities of food etc.) As a young man asking permission to hunt on various ranches, I found out just how extensive the trading network was back in those days. Everybody knew my grandparents.

    Oldhomesteader has it right: No man is an island. We may be borrowing the neighbors tractor in order to till 80 acres or move a small hill of compost from point A to point B. in a field or community garden. There will be jobs that need to be filled like fixing and maintaining the tractor and trucks, manufacturing bio-diesel for fueling the diesel engines, putting new wood handles on axes and shovels, clearing weeds and rattlesnakes from irrigation ditches, etc. ( Yes, as a farm kid, I HAVE done just about all of the above ) There are not enough hours in a day to do all that needs to be done on a truly independent operation. This is why farms and ranches trade with each other.

    Lastly, our grandparents encouraged us kids to go to college, get a degree. “We did not come to this country to see our grandchildren working in the dirt.” I’m not a huge fan of Universities but I am an evangelist for trade schools.

  23. We are a solid Level 3, with some Level 4. We had operated at a higher Level 4 but after the death of our son a few years ago, and then homeschooling 1 grandchild, we had profound life-changes which impacted both our outlook and lifestyle. (I went into NRP’s level 7 mode for self-preservation and deep introspection to keep me from hitting some aspect of NRP’s level 8.)

    Within a year, we will be facing a different set of life-changes with full-on retirement and the homeschooling that will be ending, so we will return back to more self-reliance at a Level 4. Of course, all of the plans can be interrupted at any given time — that’s the basic SHTF rule. :-|

    Looking forward to reading the upcoming articles.

  24. Just turned 70..level 3. First, makes a HUGE difference where you live.
    Retired, built new energy efficient home in boonies. Left the urban environment – crime, everybody knowing your business,(and your “stored” assets)Own well, 2000+ – gal propane, propane gen, so heat (winter), water, and some luxuries avail. Dogs for alarms, wife well versed in guns, ammo and guns, a shop with the “crude” farm tools, parts, and a year of canned, dried, and some frozen.(eat this first.) Local game to supplement food.

    This is fairly easy as the location makes it possible. Location is 90%.
    If you are in urban areas, fema, military rule, roving gangs, sneaky individuals, long lost “family” members — all will need their “fair share”.
    Individuals and couples WILL be overwhelmed. You will NOT be able to defend your stuff..Honesty and fair-play only applies to the well fed!

    Suggest if you are really into prepping, and live in dense population, prep level 1 for short term problems, keep “bug-out bag and car (with sufficient gas) for escape to prepared level 3 shelter far away from “civilization”
    Simple trailer stored in a garage or pole barn with a well and small Gen and supplies, or from the basics to whatever you can afford.

    Simple suggestion (from earlier years) Bury a concrete septic tank – pour a slab over it (retaining the entrance) build garage/pole barn on slab. Store all bug-out supplies in tank (locked and camouflaged – pile block on the lid.) Pound down a sand point for surface water with a manual pump. Bug out with camper trailer in tow, park inside, keep yer head down.

  25. I think I’m somewhere in the 3 range. Definitely not up to a 4!

    I could survive three months with no outside input. Beyond that, a year with no outside input except water. Heat (electricity or gas) is problematic in the long term, but with a secure shelter it’s doable.

    Somewhere between NRP’s level 5 and level 6, I suppose.

    I’ve considered turning off all “outside input” for a few weeks just to see how I do, but that’s not an option at this point. Although the suggestion might be enough to nudge my sister into moving out…

  26. I know darn well that I’ll be on my own at 60, 70, whatever. My parents put up garden boxes that could be weeded without bending. Last fall I rebuilt half of them and I’m putting in a greenhouse where the other half was. I’m trying to establish the whole yard so it will take minimum maintenance. Takes more work now, but it’s going to pay off when I can no longer do the work.

    If I ever get another place, it’ll be structured for minimal maintenance as well. Groundcovers, edible landscaping, raised boxes, greenhouse, and whatever else is necessary so that when I reach the point that I can’t, I still can. :)

  27. “Most people have a strong normalcy bias that goods and services will always be readily available and that societal safety nets will always be there if needed. ”

    Wow, you must know my wife. She about threw a conniption fit when I told her I wanted to by five cases of water (6 gallons each – family of 4) to keep on hand just in case something happens to municipal water. “Why can’t we just buy it if there is a problem?” Sure, us and the other 350,000 other people who live here I guess…

    I’ve found it’s OK for me to prep as long as I keep it stealthy. In other words, I don’t talk to my wife about prepping supplies, I talk to her about “camping” supplies. Goes a lot smoother that way LOL…

    Except for the water situation, I’m between level 1 and level 2 on your prepping level scale. Looking forward to seeing more of your posts in this series.

    1. “In other words, I don’t talk to my wife about prepping supplies, I talk to her about “camping” supplies. Goes a lot smoother that way LOL…”

      +1 to that porcupine.!

  28. Hey Ken:
    This is a GREAT series, any chance of continuing onward?
    And yes I know you’re very busy, but this information is invaluable to a lot of beginners AND as a reminder to others….
    Thanks buddy.

  29. Thank you Ken for placing these links in a prominent location. I am reading and being reminded of holes I have permitted over time. 1st order of business tomorrow is to print out my contacts off the computer. I usually do this and review before the holidays and then after. I update with info and return addresses from holiday letters. Now I have set up to do this monthly even though I do full backups regularly and all my devices synch providing duplication. For some things, paper is better. BTW I am also a lover of binders to organize hard copies.

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