Planning Basics

You’ll notice that the word “plan” comes first in our name.  Here at Plan | Prepare, we are of the firm belief that you must plan before you prepare.  Preparation without planning, while not entirely useless, is considerably less efficient and effective.  If you prepare without a plan, how do you know what you’re preparing for?

We discussed The Rule of Threes in one of our first Basics articles.  Here we will discuss another Rule of Threes.  This Rule of Threes is specific to planning.

The Planning Rule of Threes: Have a plan.  Have a back-up plan.  Have a “hell-in-a-hand basket” plan.

This multi-tiered approach is common across a number of industries and disciplines.  The military, as you might expect, has their own version of this with all the requisite acronyms.  Good project managers – in all walks of life – follow a similar discipline.  What we’re discussing here is not something new.  It’s tried and true and highly recommended.

Now, let’s discuss three principles of planning.

The First Principle of Planning: There are two types of plans; those that may fail and those that have failed.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that plans are made with incomplete knowledge.  No matter how good your intel, no matter how much of a subject matter expert you are, no matter how good you are at looking into the future and seeing potential pitfalls … something – maybe several things – is going to happen that your plan simply did not, could not address.  That’s life in the real world.

The Second Principle of Planning: Plans must be flexible.

Plans that work in the real world must be flexible.  There is nothing static about the real world.  Things are constantly changing.  It’s impossible to anticipate everything that will change, when it will change and how it will change.  A rigid plan is destined to failure.  The first change may not run the rigid plan off the tracks, but one of the wheels on the locomotive may begin to wobble.  As more changes take place, the trains becomes less and less stable.  Pretty soon you have a derailment.  Putting derailed trains back on the tracks is very difficult and dangerous work.

The Third Principle of Planning: Two heads are better than one.

If you’re making a plan that involves a dozen people and you don’t discuss the plan with any of those people … how long do you think it will be before that plan becomes a failure?  If you’re relying on someone to help you execute your plan, involve them in the development of your plan.  This principle does have a law of diminishing returns, however.  If your plan relies on dozens, hundreds or thousands of people, involving them all in the development phase will not be efficient.  Try to divide your involved parties into groups and ensure that you have representation from each group.  Make sure that group representatives go back to their groups and get their feedback, funneling it back into the overall plan.

So, how do you plan for a disaster or an emergency?

Excellent question.  There are a number of ways to get started.

First, you should take a good hard look at the realities of your life.  Do you live in Tornado Alley?  Is your home built directly on top of the San Adreas Fault?  Are you on the bank of a river that floods nearly every spring?  What disasters are most likely to occur in your area?

Second, there are some disasters that are geography-independent, i.e. it doesn’t matter where you live, you’re as likely to experience this type of disaster as someone in another state, another country or on another continent.  Home fires are a good example.  Home fires, unless you live in an area regularly ravaged by fires, are not particularly specific to your location.  A home fire is more likely to be caused by careless activities or poor construction than it is because you live in Oregon or Zimbabwe – unless, of course, you’ve chosen to live in areas that are particularly dry and prone to wildfires or forest fires.

Third, some disasters have nothing to do with location or any other element within your control.  For instance, you do not have direct control over your country’s nuclear warfare policy.  Sure, you can participate in the process of electing your leaders (assuming you have that option) but the policy is not within your direct control.  Economic disasters are similar.  There is very little that you can do, personally, to prevent a country-wide economic disaster.

As you plan you must consider all types of disasters.  Then, you must prioritize.  What type of disasters are you most likely to experience?  Planning to survive these types of disasters should be your priority.  Are there common elements of planning and preparation amongst disasters regardless of how likely you are to experience them?  If so, by all means include the common elements of planning and preparation.

Overwhelming?  Perhaps.  Fortunately, there are a number of helpful resources available to those who are new to planning and preparing for disasters.  None of these resources are perfect.  Remember the First Principle?  None of these resources will be specific to your situation.  You will have to make your own assessments of these resources’ viability and make changes as necessary.  No one else can do this for you.  It’s called self-reliance and it’s one of the main keys to survival.

Here are a few links to helpful resources:

Educate Yourself a brochure (Keep reading here and at the other sites listed in our Blogroll to educate yourself further)

Family Emergency Plan from

Recommended Supplies List from

Coping with Sheltering in Place from The Red Cross

Stay tuned for more information on planning.

Plan | Prepare

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