Preparing for a Level 1 Situation

FEMA emergency accommodation for Katrina victims at the Houston Astrodome.

Preppers often fail to give enough attention to preparing for ‘simple’ Level 1 situations (see our definition of Level 1/2/3 situations here).

It is much less ‘macho’ to be thinking of things like keeping an extra supply of flashlight batteries than it is to be thinking about laying in a twelve month supply of freeze-dried food, and we also tend to think that we don’t need to bother about Level 1 situations if we are already well prepared for a Level 2 or full on Level 3 situation.

But for the fully prepared person/family, a Level 2 or 3 situation almost certainly involves moving away from your normal residence and going to your retreat, whereas a Level 1 situation is all about staying where you are and managing as comfortably as possible through a relatively short-term situation.

It is reassuring to have the added comfort and security of Level 2/3 preparedness, but in a relatively short-term Level 1 scenario, it may be less convenient and more disruptive to evacuate away from your main residence.

In addition, in a Level 1 scenario, you reasonably anticipate a quick return to normalcy and also a return to your primary residence, so – if there are, or threaten to be elements of social unrest – you might be better advised to stay at your main residence so as to protect it from intruders and looters.

It is also possible that your normal employment obligations remain in force, and so if at all possible you want to be able to work during the day as well as live as comfortably as possible out of work hours too.

These factors all support the concept of staying where you are during a Level 1 event.

One more reason to be sure to focus in on Level 1 events.  They are probably more likely to occur than Level 2/3 events; and much of what you do to prepare for a Level 1 event can also be used in response to a Level 2/3 situation – especially during any initial period of ambiguity while you’re trying to decide if you need to evacuate and bug out to your retreat location or not.

So for all these reasons, and with Hurricane Sandy fresh in our minds, we should all spend some time and thought (and money and effort) in preparing ourselves for Level 1 events.

What Types of Level 1 Events Should You Prepare For

Level 1 events can take many different forms.  It is hard to make a list of exactly everything that might occur that makes you need to resort to your Level 1 preparations, but it is possible to identify at least some of the things which could occur – and also, happily, to identify some lesser risks that, depending on your personal situation and location, can be dismissed and ignored.

A lot of Level 1 events are natural type events, to do with the weather and local conditions.  For example, some parts of the country have higher risk of earthquake than others.  Some parts of the country are more likely to flood, some might be potentially at risk of tsunamis, while some regions will never have water problems.  Some places may be at risk of forest fire.  Some places have to consider tornadoes, and some have to consider hurricanes.

Other types of risks quickly become either much less likely (volcanic eruption, nuclear power station leaks, etc) or else more specific in nature – your house burning down, for example.

In addition to the direct risks which impact immediately on you, there are all the risks from events ‘higher up the food chain’.  For example, something – it could be anything – causes the loss of one or more of the basic utility services.  If you’re in an isolated area, maybe the road leading out of your region goes out of service due to a landslide or who knows what.  And so on.

Or, for that matter, a regional event somewhere else has a flow-through effect to you where you live.

Responding to Level 1 Events in General

Whatever the risk and event, your response revolves around addressing your various immediate needs to sustain life, and then, secondarily, to make it more comfortable and convenient.

The big three requirements you must have fully addressed in your Level 1 response preparations are ensuring continuity of adequate shelter, water and food, more or less in that order of priority.

Shelter is the biggest of these three requirements.  As you may have seen from images of destruction as a result of hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, and so on, our primary residences may well be at risk of partial or complete destruction, resulting in the loss of our primary shelter.

We’ll consider issues to do with hardening and protecting your current residence, which is probably your Level 1 shelter, in a subsequent article.  We’ll also discuss the type of preparations appropriate for ensuring an adequate supply of water, food, and other essentials in subsequent articles too.

Is Your Insurance Sufficiently Comprehensive?

Do you have insurance against all the risks you’re considering?  And will it cover your temporary accommodation until such time as you can rebuild or in some other way restore your primary residence?

Don’t just assume that because your policy is called a ‘comprehensive’ or an ‘all risks’ policy it is, in reality, actually what its name implies.  Most insurance policies have major exclusions, no matter what they are described as.  As your insurance broker what is excluded, and go through the list of things you are concerned about and see where in the policy each item is specifically included or excluded, and what the coverage limits are.

There’s a positive thing about insurance.  The less likely the risk, the lower the cost to insure against it, so it makes sense to add various types of catastrophic coverages that standard policies usually exclude.

Insurance of course won’t prevent problems from occurring, and neither will it provide an immediate or instant solution to your problems.  But insurance can make it very much easier for you to accelerate a convenient return back to normalcy after you’ve stabilized your immediate essential needs (shelter, water, food).

One more thing about insurance.  Sometimes you’ll get premium reductions for having ‘hardened’ your residence and making it more resilient (and therefore less likely to be damaged, reducing the chances of you needing to make a claim).  Be sure to check what rebates you might get on your annual premiums if you are mitigating your risks.

How Long Will a Level 1 Event Last

A Level 1 event, by definition, tends to be short-term in nature.  It is reasonable to expect that within a week to two weeks, most Level 1 events will have been resolved or at least their impacts will be sufficiently mitigated as to no longer be life-threatening or massively inconveniencing, and people will have adapted to the new situation.

There are occasional exceptions to this.  Major earthquakes, for example, may level parts of an entire city and destroy utility services for large percentages of the residents, and due to the extent of the damage, the repairs might take months rather than days or weeks.

But the key thing in such longer events that tends to keep it more as a Level 1 rather than Level 2 event is that society, its social support and law enforcement mechanisms all remain intact, and there is clearly ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, with restoration clearly underway, and it is a regional rather than national event.

If an event is more open-ended in duration, and particularly if no temporary responses are in place, it risks being elevated to a Level 2 event.  Clearly also, at the other end of the scale, a brief power outage lasting only an hour or two is hardly worthy of consideration at all.

For us as preppers, it is reasonable to plan for perhaps two weeks of ‘being on our own’ and needing to be self-sufficient in all things.  At the end of two weeks (and assuming the matters haven’t been fully resolved), either there will be emergency support resources available to us meaning we no longer need to be fully independent and self-reliant, or else we will need to accept the grim reality that what we’d hoped to be a Level 1 event and response is in fact a Level 2 event, requiring us to consider major changes including possibly a move to our retreat location.

The Impact of a Level 1 Event can go Up and Down

Here’s an interesting additional point.  Beware of ‘false hope’ being raised and then squashed again during the response cycle to a Level 1 event.

It is common to see the aftermath of a Level 1 event go through several cycles and stage.  At first, everything is disaster, with the expectation of government and private charity organization type assistance.

Then assistance starts to arrive, providing some comfort for some people and annoying other people who haven’t yet received any external support.  The assistance improves and extends.

But then, there may be a disruption in assistance, as the providers switch from deploying their immediate short-term response and need to instead start calling on reserves for a more substantial and extended level of involvement, and simultaneously, more people are running out of whatever supplies they had at the start of the event, causing for massive escalations in the amount of external assistance needed.

After the chaos and confusion of the immediate few days after a disruptive event, the cold reality of its actual extent becomes more clearly known.  Maybe the reality is not as bad as was originally feared, and a mood of optimism takes hold of everyone.  But equally likely, the reality turns out to be much worse than projected and guessed at, and the stark discrepancy between the problems and the ability of support services to address those problems satisfactorily and quickly becomes depressing.

This period of growing need and faltering support can be disheartening and disquieting, and may cause increased social unrest and protest.  As we’ve seen in the aftermath to Hurricane Sandy, some people expend all their energy in negatively complaining about not being assisted, rather than working more positively to help address their problems directly.

Furthermore, any type of disruptive event is responded to in stages.  The fast easy steps are done first.  For example, with a power outage, you’ll see that the number of families without power starts off high, but then quickly reduces down to half and a quarter of the initially affected total.

At this point, it ceases to be headline grabbing news.  The underlying story becomes old and stale, and the number of affected families has drastically reduced.  Unfortunately, for the people still without power, they become an overlooked and almost forgotten minority.  There’s no comfort in knowing that 95% of affected families now have their power restored if it is two weeks later and you’re still without power yourself.

And as preppers, we always need to be concerned about the 5% worst case scenarios, rather than the 95% best case scenarios.


Just because they are not Level 3 or Level 2 events does not mean that Level 1 events are not extremely unpleasant for some of the people impacted by them.  Level 1 situations can even be fatal – at the time of writing, less than a week after Hurricane Sandy, there is already a reported death toll greater than 100 as a result of the hurricane.

Preparing for a Level 1 situation is every bit as necessary as preparing for Level 2 and 3 situations.  Level 1 situations may call for different types of preparations and responses than those appropriate for Level 2/3 situations.  It is not enough to say ‘I can handle the worst Level 3 situation possible, so I’m therefore obviously and automatically able to handle a Level 2 or 1 situation too’.

One Reply to “Preparing for a Level 1 Situation”

  1. Janet McCue

    I found this to be a very interesting article, thank you.

    I am actually considered to be “new” to the idea of prepping; however based on everything I have read, I am prepared for a level two, medium term length. I am still going over things here on this helpful site.

    The entire site is useful, even for a single person.

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