Preparedness Lifestyle vs. Preparedness Event - ITS Tactical

Shop the ITS Store!


Preparedness Lifestyle vs. Preparedness Event

By George Matheis

It was 30DEC99 and my son was a patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He had been born in September with a serious heart defect. My wife and I were very anxious for several reasons, since he was stable my biggest fear was being stuck in the ghetto of Baltimore for Y2K.

I had secured leave from the police department so that I could take my family to my parents house and watch the world from a safe distance. What worried me then, as it does now with major social events, is not the danger of the events themselves, but the actions of those who are unprepared and desperate.

As we know, Y2K turned out to be a non-event. Either way we had been discharged from the hospital and traveled to my parents house to enjoy the new year. The interesting thing about Y2K was that unlike any other event it was scheduled. We knew the exact time and date and were given time to plan for it. For many, it was their first time dabbling in the survival community, which is now known as the preparedness community.


Survival is defined as the act or fact of surviving, esp. under adverse or unusual circumstances and diversity.

The following is only my opinion based on my own life, that of my close friends, and conversations with some students.

Whenever there is a climate of uncertainty in society, there is a very small percentage of the population that realizes for the first time that they need to prepare. For many this means rushing for the first time to buy guns, gear, flashlights, knives, you name it. Using the Internet and friends, they seek advice as to what they should purchase. What they usually end up with is a big pile of gear that they have either never used before, or even know how to use.


As with anything, you first need to inventory your needs and exposures. Too many family men purchase and train like they are going to be the lone survivor walking down the street decked out with MultiCam with their tricked out M4 in hand. How long do you think any one person would last like that in reality? Even though, romantic as it may be, the truth is that lots of guys would be just like me if they had to bug out; that is in a mini-van with crying kids and a bitching wife.

We have all been there; a family road trip, the kids have to pee, the wife is hungry, and you are stuck in traffic. Do you think things would be any better if you were driving to an unknown location in an emergency with a bunch of other people running from the same thing? Life will go on, your kids will get cold, they will puke in the van and they will want to eat. Everyone will begin to miss their creature comforts. What about the pets? Yeah, I know there are lots of tough guys saying forget them. Try to put that one by the kids. What about prescription medications and coffee? Yes, they are the same to me.


You also need some place to go. This is a fundamental tactical rule. Never leave a location without having another location to move to. You have to consider time, distance, and terrain. If it is an apocalyptic event, will traveling only increase your exposure to threat? The farther the distance, the more exposure. On your route, are there likely choke points or checkpoints? Will you be crossing jurisdictions where what is a legally owned firearm at your home, is an arrestable offense in another? These are questions that come to mind for a preplanned location.

What if you are in refugee mode and traveling with the masses? What if the unprepared on your route see something you have in traffic and decide to take it? I know, you will shoot them. What if they shoot you in return, and you are killed or injured? Does your wife know how to use your high speed gear? Does she even know enough first aid to save you? Can she do it with your kids screaming because blood is pumping out of your chest? Unfortunately, any of us may face these situations if there is an incident that makes our current location uninhabitable. Everyone should have a place in mind to move to if necessary.

I like to use a town, county, state approach. Have somewhere to move in your town, out of your town, in another county, in another state. The most important one to me is the one in town. They should be people that are like minded. If you have kids, it would be helpful for them to have kids. If you have pets, they will be more welcome by someone else who has pets. The shorter the distance you need to move increases your survivability with a lesser amount of exposure.


Preparedness is like physical fitness, the little things you do every day matter more than the big things you do once in a while. You will need a flashlight or first aid kit before a firearm. All three can save yours or someone else’s life. You just need to admit to yourself that possession of an item has nothing to do with proficiency. To me it is more important that my wife can deal with an arterial bleed or perform CPR on my kid than be able to do transitions from a rifle to a pistol.

Don’t get me wrong, I love gear. Especially useful gear. Now that I am retired and teaching full time, I live out of the Bag of Evil. This is to the point that instead of packing my shaving kit to travel I just use my shaving kit at home. It makes it easier not to forget anything. I do the same thing with the Bag of Evil. When I am home, most of what I use from my digital camera, to spare batteries, to medications is in my bag. This has achieved two things.


One is that I always know the status of my gear. Secondly, I can find anything in the bag in the dark or send someone else for something. I have been using the So Tech Mission Pack for over a year and do not see myself changing. The design of the bag allows me to use the front two pockets for everyday items and the interior mesh pockets for lesser used items, like my first aid and tool kit. The main compartment is left open except for my RMJ Shrike Tomahawk. Since the rest of the pack is full of EDC items, the main compartment can be filled with things that are mission specific or needed in an emergency.

The bottom line is “know your bag”. Work out of it, live out of it, carry it. There is nothing worse than picking up a stuffed pack and carrying it for the first time in an emergency. Work with your bag. If you find you need something more than once, just add it.


If you need to balance a preparedness life style with being a normal person, do the little things every day. You’ll be more aware and better able to recognize your options. It’s easier when you know what you have to work with.

Editor’s Note: George Matheis retired in 2008 after nearly two decades of civilian and military law  enforcement. He is the founder of Modern Combative Systems LLC, providing training to  civilians, military, and law enforcement. He  is also currently writing a book  on open hand combatives and is considered by many to be a subject matter expert in the use of  force and edged weapons. Please join us in welcoming him as a guest writer on ITS Tactical!

Are you getting more than 14¢ of value per day from ITS?

Thanks to the generosity of our supporting members, we’ve eliminated annoying ads and obtrusive content. We want your experience here at ITS to be beneficial and enjoyable.

At ITS, our goal is to provide different methods, ideas and knowledge that could one day save your life. If you’re interested in supporting our mission and joining our growing community of supporters, click below to learn more.


  • Thanks for having me. I look forward to my increased involvement with ITS.- George

  • Great article! I love the inclusion of more guest writers. What is the name of the book George is working on?

  • Jerry

    This is a great article…definitely worth printing and sharing with others. Great work ITS!

  • That was a fantastic writeup from someone who isn’t stuck in the tacti-cool mindset. You and Jack Spirko’s (of The Survival Podcast) philosophies of preparedness are very grounded in reality, and push me to improve my own preps.
    Look forward to having you write for ITS!

  • George,

    Very good article. As you know, I have in years past chewed a lot of dirt in Murderland as you have. This article sort of grabbed me instantly because my Wife and I had to take our (then) five day old son to Hopkins. People that don’t know the area would be surprised to discover that the world-renowned, and it is for good reason, Johns Hopkins Hospital is in the middle of a warzone for the most part. I spent a lot of time up in those neighborhoods in the middle of the night working for a nationwide alarm company. Bad places.

    Just a great article, though. Hope you write more.


  • Thanks for all the kind comments. Good to see you here Don.
    I am working on a book on open-hand combatives and have been for some time. Not enough hours in the day, I am traveling more now than ever to teach. I would like to invite everyone to check out my blog and to become a fan of Modern Combative Systems on Facebook. Again, thanks for the warm welcome.- George

  • Well done Sir

  • spenceman

    great article, definitely a good grounded mindset.

  • Kao

    Great article! I remember Y2K – I was in the WA Army Nat’l Guard.

    The first thing we trained on was taking care of our families b/c if we are worried about them, we won’t be any good to the guard.

  • Great Article, its good to see a positive approach to preparedness.

  • Paul

    Great article. I live in an tornado alley and have always have had a 72 hour kit ready to go for mre and each one of the family members. You may want to include the fallowing in this kit as well b esides the basics items. Your chance if getting medical or any other assistance willbe done much faster if you have some of these. With you anyhow here they are: Personal Documents and Money ($200.00) (Place these items in a water-proof container!)• Legal Documents (Driver license, CCW license,Social Security card, Birth/Marriage Certificates, Wills, Passports, Contracts(loan,car,and house, etc)• Vaccination Papers• Insurance Policies• Cash• Credit Card• Cell phone with two types of charger 10solar 2 hand cranlk on a survival type flashlight.
    Pluss not one but two Ralley ploints if the SHTF when everybody is seperated iE work scool or shopping.

  • Paul

    Also try to keep a level head don’t rush into anything remember anything you do illegal you can be prosecuted for when things calm down.

  • Great article! Most of all, I love how you talk about needs. Most people seem to think that all you need is an AR with 2,000 rounds of ammo but that really isn’t usually the case.

    I work in Washington DC and am working on building the contents of a “get home bag.” Getting out of DC with mass transit not running could be difficult and that will change what I carry/leave at the office.

    Things like socks and water and maps will take the place of guns & ammo (because it’s DC anyway!). It’s important to keep true “needs” in mind.

    Awesome article and I look forward to reading more of your stuff in the future!

  • Rick

    That is a great article, should be an eye opener for some people around me.

  • chadguy

    Great article! This is a great contrast to my other daily read website, survivalblog, which is more focused on living in a retreat than making the best of where you are. Since my wife and I are stuck in mid-atlantic suburbia due to jobs, I have to think about our preparations similarly to what you have written. My EDC bag is great for sustaining my needs for a 1-2 days but I really need to continue with some “get home” bags for both our vehicles. I look forward to seeing more articles from you in the future!

  • Reddog

    How grounded in reality is this advice? …”in a mini-van with crying kids and a bitching wife.” The kid is grown, but the pets are as big a reality as the wife. She won’t leave without most of them. Those were not in our travel plans. Our plan is to hunker down, creating a fortress neighborhood, with chosen friends coming to pitch in, with a country RP at another friend’s if necessary. But this article opened up a whole new area of thought. Plans mean nothing if they can’t be executed. My wife was voted counsellor least likely to survive summer camp 3 years in a row, and her idea of roughing it is the Holiday Inn Express. Getting her trained for more than band aids and neosporin might be a good idea. Thanks for jogging me into a better, more realistic plan.

  • TJK

    Excellent article, and great timing.
    As you may have heard, we had a massive earthquake in my country (Chile).
    8.8 in the Richter scale, followed by a Tsunami.

    During the earthquake, I thanked God for the fact that I was at home, able to protect my family. I have a full fledged emergency kit at home, and I think I’m trained and prepared for this kind of event.

    Experience showed me that my Emergency kit was not optimal for the circumstances. Some stuff was not needed and other stuff was missing. I’m currently redesigning my whole “emergency response gear”, from my Kit, to family emergency plans, to skills I think I need.

    One thing this experience showed me, is that only once you have had the need to really use your kit, in a real emergency, you will be able to evaluate its usefulness.

    Most of the people however, are not prepared. People were in need of water, flashligts, foods, shelter, etc.

    The days after the earthquake, supermarkets and convenience stores had sold out all of their bottled water and batteries.

    And then the looting started. With 16 millions living in the country and only 450,000 registered gun owners, you can guess how it went. The police and decent citizens were unable to control the masses of looters. The military had to take charge of the affected area and had to establish a curfew.

    Now the country is slowly returning to its daily life, and I only hope that people learned their lesson and start to build a preparedness mentality.

  • Terry

    A good test of your emergency kit is to take it on a weekend camping trip, while trying to take as little other stuff as possible. It’ll soon highlight any deficiencies in your setup.

    If a camping trip seems a little too much, try living out of it at home for the weekend, without relying on the microwave, electric lights and running water.

    Most people don’t have anywhere near enough potable water stored (you should aim for at least one gallon per person, per day).

  • George, great seeing you on here, you’ve got a lot of experience and I eagerly await additional articles both here and at your site.

  • Great post, The only reason I can see leaving one location without a clear destination is if you are sure staying in the current location is going to greatly reduce your life expectancy. The concept of going vaguely “to the country/ woods/ mountains” is a bad one but it beats dying in place. The implied task is to have a place lined up before hand to go to should you need to leave your current location.

  • robert herbert

    a book i highly recommend. “patriots” james wesley, rawles has some great thought provoking ideas in it.

  • Cynthia

    A bit late to the party here, being a new fan of ITS Tactical.

    Thanks for the heads-up on the ‘hood around Hopkins. I am going there in April for a consult for my son who is a pediatric brain cancer patient. From the map they sent with our application paperwork, you would think it’s a nice little college town.

  • Evan

    Just a quick water tip. ..Your hot water heater contains about 40 gallons of potable water

Do you have what you need to prevail?

Shop the ITS Store for exclusive merchandise, equipment and hard to find tactical gear.

Do you have what you need to prevail? Tap the button below to see what you’re missing.