How to develop realistic scenarios to prep for?

The approach of this site ist generally to focus on broad categories of emergencies, not highly specific scenarios. This is generally sound, I beleive. However: One broad scenario is bugging out. What a good bug out bag looks like is highly dependent on the reason *why* you bug out. As Eric Bunny pointed out in the thread on wildfires, a vehicle bug out can turn into a bug out on foot quickly. In this specific situation a fairly light bob is crucial, a level 1 bob will be better than a level 3!

This is just an example to show that there is value to think through the possible *whys* of bugging in and out and tweak ones preps accordingly: Develop a plan to work from, obtain specific gear and skills for that. How do you think through possible scenarios?

The only approach that comes to my mind is listing possible scenarios (urgent trip to the hospital, house fire, in my specific location: unexploded WW2 ordnance, pandemic, brown out or other grid down event …), guesstimate the likelyhood and possible effect and then decide how to prep, or tweak ones preps. 

An other angel that is, IMO, harder to think through logically is broad tendencies that will affect our lives and make some disasters more likely or severe: Climate change => More extreme weather events  & heat waves, worse quality of public services including health 

So what do you do to think through scenarios? How do you avoid traps like biases (you can probably deduce something about me, from that crime and terror don’t feature big on my list …)?


  • Comments (10)

    • 1

      Excellent question that goes to the heart of what makes ThePrepared different (and better IMO) than most “prepper” communities. It can also be broken down into a bunch of smaller questions like why focus on general vs specific, what role specific still plays, and how to identify which scenarios are worth considering. I’ll respond to each of those questions separately so we can keep the conversation more organized.

      Here are two resources I highly recommend for getting started on an approach to preparedness that is more general and realistic. Because we don’t know which emergency we will face but would still like to be prepared for it.



    • 2

      “What a good bug out bag looks like is highly dependent on the reason *why* you bug out.”

      So true. Unfortunately, I don’t know those details in advance, and I’m convinced that I need to have one main go bag that will be good enough for a variety of situations. And I just accept the downside that it won’t be optimal for all of them.

      My main “priority 1” bag is the one item I’m definitely grabbing from home if I need to run out quickly in an emergency. It’s hard enough keeping one bag well stocked and ready – much harder to do the same for several scenario-specific bags. It also lets you move faster by not needing to decide which bag is best for this scenario.

      “In this specific situation a fairly light bob is crucial, a level 1 bob will be better than a level 3!”

      My priority 1 bag is level 1. That’s already 20 pounds, and adding much more would make it hard to carry. I honestly can’t imagine putting the level 3 list all into one container. At 45 pounds it would be difficult to even drag that out to the car. Here’s the bug out bag list that breaks down gear into level 1 (20 pounds), 2 (35 pounds), and 3 (45 pounds).


      If you feel that more than 20 pounds of gear is needed, consider putting that in several containers. One of those should clearly be priority 1 in case there’s only time to grab one thing. I filled a backpack as my priority 1 bag in case I need to go on foot. Here’s a discussion about having multiple bags with clear priority order.


      • 1

        I completely agree that it would be very hard (and expensive!) to keep several scenario specific bags ready. We can’t prep for (or survive) everything, we can’t predict the future, but we can make educated guesses. For example a BOB level 3 contains quite a few wilderness survival tools. In most cases you will try to bug out to a safe location. Is there a likely scenario where I will flee into or through the wilderness? TBF, the only case I can imagine right when I would flee into the woods *on purpose* was when someone was specifically after me (highly unlikely I hope). So one could leave out the tent and axe and saw and gas stove, or one could keep these in the car (and then possibly go for lower cost, higher weight items).

        Another aspect where I think specific scenarios are useful is planning. Say I have a water filter and other treatment options. A possible case when I would need that would be a complete grid down scenario, when the water works are without power for longer than my home supplies last. What else is without power in such a scenario? Wastewater treatment plants. So I need not only the filter, a car, and containers to gather water, but also a clear idea (or better a map) of water sources that are likely to be uncontanimated (Even if I filter the water, my filter will last longer when starting with reasonably clean water). 

        I think TP did a great job of identifying gear that is useful in many scenarios.  But gear is only one part of the equation, skills & community are others and last not least – you need a plan to work from. This is where thinking through specific scenarios becomes very useful. 

    • 1

      “The approach of this site is generally to focus on broad categories of emergencies, not highly specific scenarios.”

      Why focus mostly on general preparedness rather than specific scenarios? There are several reasons. Note that it’s not 100% one way or the other – spending 20% of resources on specific scenarios that are important to you is reasonable. This is just why most effort/resources should be general in nature.

      1) You don’t know which scenario you will actually face. Spend too much effort on a specific scenario, and you’ll be unprepared when something else happens.

      2) Efficiency. Suppose you have three likely scenarios. If you build three specific kits then you are splitting effort and money three ways. Better to put your resources into one kit that’s higher quality and works for all three scenarios. If your number of scenarios goes up to 10 the decision becomes even more clear.

      3) You might be wrong about which scenario. What if you did a great job on 10 different scenario-specific kits, and then an 11th type of emergency actually happens? All that effort – still unprepared.

      4) One simple plan is easier to remember and follow during the emergency. And easier to communicate to others such as family members or emergency contacts. One plan for which items to grab. One plan for where to find safety. (I’m exaggerating here. I have more than one plan. But a plan for each scenario would just be too much.)

    • 1

      What role should specific scenarios play in preparation?

      While specific scenarios shouldn’t be the main focus, they do have several important roles to play.

      1) Use specific scenarios to check if your general preparations are effective. Take one scenario at a time and check if your general emergency kit and plans would help with that scenario. If not, what can you improve that would help with several very different scenarios?

      2) Create smaller supplemental kits and plans as needed for the most important scenarios.

      3) Specifically prepare for one scenario that is imminent. When a hurricane is on the way, of course everyone in Florida should focus on ironing out hurricane-related preparation for a few days. And in early 2020, it was time for everyone to improve their readiness for a pandemic.

    • 1

      Which scenarios to consider?

      Start with the most likely scenarios.

      If something has happened to you or your neighbors before, or is happening right now, those are the best places to start. Unemployment, common health problems, natural disasters that actually happen in your area. Listen to your neighbors about what has actually happened to them or their friends, and be ready to face the same yourself. Check top 10 lists for how people are killed, injured, or end up on the streets.

      “More extreme weather events”

      Here in USA, FEMA and Risk Factor are good resources for what natural disasters are important in each region. FEMA covers a broader range of disaster types. Risk Factor  distinguishes current risk vs 30 years from now risk across some key disaster types and also distinguishes risk of your particular home rather than just the broader area.

      • 1

        FEMA’s National Risk Index is a good resource for thinking about what risks are worth preparing for in your area.


        There’s lots to explore in this map, but I especially recommend everyone try out this one exercise:

        Zoom in on your part of the map. Click the place on the county where you live. A sidebar on the right will show some information about your county. At the bottom of that sidebard, click on “create report” to create a report for your county. Scroll down the report to the section called “Expected Annual Loss for Hazard Types”. These rankings are based on expected monetary damages associated with each type of disaster. The top few risks on that chart deserve extra attention in your preparedness plans, because those are the disasters that you and others in your community are likely to actually face.

    • 2

      The car, which my husband refers as my “purse” has a packed BOB, and an empty backpack which if needed, I can pick and choose from the other supplies in my car should I have to “hoof it.”   After I broke my leg in 2020, I added a collapsable luggage cart with wheels so that I could bring more stuff if needed.  Temperature, situations, air quality and how far will determine what all gets to come and what I will leave behind. 
      Overall, I still feel that “general” prepping and tweaking as needed makes sense for me.  
      Higher possibilities like extreme heat, fire, earthquakes and electric withholding get more attention as they are common occurrences where I live.  
      Stockpiling and maintenance fit most scenarios, as does having a solid financial base and investing in one’s physical fitness and health.
      I USED to think that living rural severely lowered the odds of Radom violence, but not too far away, there was a mass shooting at a Walmart distribution Center and another at a rural community, where  some whack job went on a rampage after killing his wife.  He was driving around headed to the school where their lockdown process saved lives and frustrated the shooter to move on.  The county to the North of us is having an alt-right political sh*tstorm and their spring election will be something to watch as they voted out the Dominion machines in favor of hand counting which the state just outlawed.  There’s a bunch of 2nd A itching for fights  about this and other stuff so there will be times and places that I will avoid when I go for biz to the north.  
      My “supplies” goal since Covid has been to have a years worth of food, water, meds, house supplies etc.  2 months ago, Carolyn wrote a great post with an excellent link to a lecture Dr. Emily Schoerning.
      Dr Schoerning advises prepping for 3 days, 3 weeks, and  when you get to thinking about 3 months, it’s necessary to have community if you expect to survive.  After thinking and praying on this for awhile, I think maybe it’s time to do a BLOCK PARTY to build community.  I mean we’ve been here over 20 years so….
      So, I am with Eric as far as general and realistic making sense.  For example, imo, self defense skills and weapons should be in everyone’s “tool kit,”  but I can guarantee you that if you don’t practice and maintain your weapons, including yourself, they have little to  no value and in some instances will be used against you. AND, even if you have an arsenal, if you are alone, you can only do so much.  So, it doesn’t matter if you are defending against locals, invading aliens, zombies or what not, you will need to practice and to make allies.
      It’s not possible to think about EVERYTHING.  As best I can, I try to pray for the best and prepare for the worse. 

    • 2

      Excellent points. I think the specific scenarios really help with preparation. Starting with likelihood also helps you focus.

      My most likely scenarios are short-term utilities outages – so preps include disruptions to water supply, electricity, heating issues during cold times, etc. As you can see, these preps help with general preparedness for less likely but more impactful scenarios. P

    • 1

      Many good points and responses already posted. An additional dimension of the scenarios to prep for are the size of the impact (number of people). For example, European mentions short term power outages. If it’s just your neighborhood, it’s likely getting worked immediately. How would preparations and responses change if it were the entire US state or European country? Even for the same amount or even less time?  How would you pivot?  Another example is how we prepare to deal with illnesses at home.  We have some diagnostic tools like thermometers and OTC medications with the expectation to seek medical attention if symptoms get serious.   COVID-19 had a much larger impact which affected home needs (Pulse oximeter) and medical attention availability.