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The survival skills inventory: Assessing where you stand if things hit the fan

Posted 08/21/2017 12:04 pm by

Emergency Preparedness Checklist

When it comes to emergency preparedness there is a focus on having depth and breadth to stockpiles of supplies and equipment but with a balance of skills and knowledge. When taking this into consideration, the old axiom “knowledge is power” should at a minimum be entertained. For my own definition, I will include skills under the umbrella of knowledge for skills are but knowledge in action. That said, having an accurate inventory of individual strengths and weaknesses will facilitate recognition of areas to improve along with establishing a plan to be able to do so.


Before taking assessment of your own skills and knowledge, there are three major things that should be considered as part of the foundation of all preppers, homesteaders, survivalists, modern pioneers, etc.:


  1. Train your mind — Individual mindset will go a long way to keep you calm, resilient and situationally aware. Some of the key elements of the survival mindset include the ability to:


  • See things through a “worst case scenario” filter
  • Process sights and sounds quickly
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Understand world events
  • Develop multiple courses of action in short time
  • Understand others (especially those prone to volatile temperament)
  • See the value in “trash” or underappreciated things (even if they are not usable immediately)
  • Know when to stay and when to go
  • Identify routes of escape


  1. Train your body — As much as physical fitness can be torture for some of us, it is important to maintain the best physical conditioning that you can; not only for an emergency but for overall health as well. A focus on cardio-respiratory fitness and functional strength are great places to start.
  2. Go thin to win — Adapting to the idea of living with meager resources before a disaster can make surviving one much easier. I wouldn’t recommend just living without everything but, the ability to skip a few things here and there is not only good for emergency preparedness mindset, it can also be good for your wallet.
  3. Learn how to negotiate effectively — Don’t get walked on when you find yourself in a tough situation!


While it would be impossible to make a complete list of skills that may fall into one’s personal preparedness inventory, here is a list of skills (by broad subject matter) that should be considered.


  • Should you have it in you [the ability to lead and motivate others during trying times (right, wrong, good, bad or indifferent)]


  • Cooking and baking (with power, without power, over fire, grilling, etc.)
  • Alcohol making (beer, wine, mead, distilling)
  • Dairy production (milk, butter, cheese, yogurt)
  • Food preservation (canning, dehydrating, smoking, charcuterie, salt box, etc.)
  • Food rotation
  • Storage methods


  • Purification (bleach, iodine, boiling, filter, pool shock, tablets, etc.)
  • Storage (portable and permanent)
  • Rainwater collection
  • Palatable vs. potable

Sanitation and hygiene:

  • Waste management
  • Pest control
  • Where to place “facilities”
  • Laundry
  • Dishes
  • Disease management
  • Bathing


  • First Aid/CPR
  • Alternative medicine
  • Trauma treatment
  • Dental treatment
  • Medications
  • Supplies (obtaining, storage, building kits, etc.)
  • Veterinary skills


  • HAM radio
  • Morse code
  • Securing communications
  • Use of code
  • CB Radio
  • VHF
  • Family band
  • Cell phones
  • Meeting locations
  • Signals
  • Drop locations


  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Water
  • Generators
  • Fuel Storage and treatment
  • All about batteries


  • Marksmanship (rifle, pistol, shotgun, archery (bow and arrow and crossbow), slingshot, air rifle, etc.)
  • Self defense (hand to hand combat, knife skills, etc.)
  • De-escalation techniques
  • Non-lethal security options (taser, stun gun, pepper spray, etc.)
  • Perimeter defense (setting trip wires, traps, etc.)
  • Security lighting
  • Driving (defensive and evasive)
  • Tactical/combat skills (shoot/move/communicate)
  • Improvised weaponry (club, bat, spear, rock, etc.)
  • Bug-in vs. bug-out
  • Make a home defense plan
  • Assess and fix vulnerabilities
  • Reinforce structures
  • Build a mutual assistance group
  • Establish a neighborhood security plan
  • Be familiar with who you live around
  • Evacuation planning
  • Weapons storage, maintenance, equipment and ammunition


  • Hunting
  • Trapping
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Firemaking
  • Fishing
  • Foraging
  • Navigation
  • Tracking
  • Shelter Making
  • Wildlife Identification (animals, birds, fish, trees, plants, insects, edible vs. nonedible, etc.)
  • Improvised tools and weaponry
  • How to field dress animals and clean fish
  • How to disappear (if needed)
  • Put together a bug out bag, get home bag, medical kit, etc.
  • Traveling discretely
  • Circumnavigating obstacles


  • Barter
  • Precious metals
  • Jewelry
  • Storing valuables


  • Gardening
  • Seed saving
  • Beekeeping
  • Candle making
  • Soap making
  • Charcoal making
  • Homestead “projects” (how to build a chicken coop, rabbit hutch, root cellar, smoker, compost pile, etc.)
  • Blacksmithing
  • Keeping livestock (chickens, cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, ducks, turkeys, horses, pigs, etc.)
  • Horse riding
  • Animal breeding
  • Sewing
  • Repairing/making shoes
  • Knot tying
  • Butchering
  • Vehicle and equipment maintenance
  • Harvest/gather firewood
  • Aquaculture

Useful vocations and other skills

  • Welding
  • Woodworking
  • Mechanical repair (cars, trucks, tractors, small engine, boat, etc.)
  • Construction/carpentry
  • Farrier
  • Electrician
  • Plumber
  • Teaching
  • Negotiation
  • Equipment and vehicle recovery
  • Masonry
  • Gunsmithing
  • Equipment operator
  • Handyman/home maintenance
  • Leatherwork
  • Well drilling
  • How to interpret the weather
  • Language (the ability to speak, read and write another language)


In summary, there are obviously plenty of skills to learn and knowledge to be had (I am confident that there are dozens of other things that could easily be added to this list) but it is important to keep things properly framed. It is better to be good at a few things, than bad at many things. Being proficient in particular areas will make you much more valuable than being the person who can say that they remember reading some stiff about this one thing but can’t really remember how it is all supposed to work.


There is great value in learning now, but there is also something to be said about having a library of knowledge to fall back on later. By establishing a library of materials that contain lots of pictures and clear instructions can make unknown or hard to remember things easier to pick up in the future.


Lastly, take the time to assess yourself now and be familiar with everything that you are comfortable and uncomfortable doing. It will take you a long way in improving your situation and being familiar with your limits.


When it comes to being prepared, fight for yourself now while the fighting is easy.


“I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.”


~Cody Nickson, Marine Veteran and Big Brother 19 Contestant


Good Luck!



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