Establishing Your Threat Matrix


Establishing Your Threat Matrix

From bug outs to going lone wolf we strive to have the world in the palm of our hand. We use the bounty of the good times to prepare for the bad times.

In the Bible, Joseph had seven years of abundance to prepare for seven years of hardship. He was guided by God’s wisdom during a time of plenty enabling him to thrive in a time of suffering. While you may, as do I, believe that there are times of hardship ahead we do not have the clarity of Joseph to know when these times will arrive or what they will bring. We only know that we are driven to prepare. While Joseph was given complete clarity of what lay ahead the future for us is a bit foggier.

Threat Matrix

Clarifying the future – therein lies the difficulty. Do we sacrifice everything we have now just to be fully prepared for anything and everything by tomorrow? Do we take our time only to get caught ill-prepared? What is the prudent path? With all of life’s challenges we must find a sense of balance in our preparation efforts.

The first step toward balance is creating a threat matrix. At its core, a threat matrix defines the possible threats before you. It is simply a list of events that may cause disruption in your life presented in order of probable occurrence. A threat matrix will help you to put life challenges into perspective so that you can most effectively prepare for what may come.

Our Personal Limits

We all have limits. Due to personal circumstance some are more constrained than others, but they are always there. Joseph had the benefit of living in a temple and he had a nation’s resources to work with. Oh, and he didn’t have a mortgage and a cell phone bill. We have competing factors in our lives. Primarily we have limitations on our money, time, and sanity (emotional energy).

There are many rival factors for my hard-earned cash. From a mortgage to a car payment. From food bills and all the expenses associated with a teenager, money does not go as far as it used to. Every day there is greater competition for every spare dollar.

Likewise, there is competition for my time. To earn my living, I commute to and from a day job. I come home and shuttle a teenager to and from various activities. By the time the family is home, dinner is eaten, and the dishes are cleaned – homework must be checked and magically it’s time for bed. When the weekend finally comes, the to-do list has grown with all the items that did not get done during the week. It is truly a challenge to find time to maintain skills while learning new ones is barely an option.

Finally, we each have a limited amount of sanity. Simply put, we invest emotional energy into everything we do – our spouse, kids, jobs, hobbies, and our worries. Getting emotionally caught up is an event that has little chance of ever happening and can tip the balance toward the unhealthy. As the saying goes: “worry is money paid towards a debt that you do not have,” we must keep our fears in check if we wish to keep our long term sanity.

By balancing our resources against potential future events the threat matrix allows us to spend our resources wisely so that we are best prepare for what’s on the horizon. The question is, how do we fill out our personal thread matrix?

Evaluating Your Threats

Only you can best observe the world around you and determine credible threats. Start with high level categories then add the details. These categories should include: Global, National, Regional, Local, and Personal.


As the name states global threat affects all of humanity on Earth. There is no quarter – for anyone! Global threats include: nuclear attack between multiple nations with full reprisal and the radiological and ecological aftermath, global pandemic, meteor strike, magnetic pole shift, and all the prepper fiction goodies thrown in for good measure.


National threats include the country or hemisphere that you live in. The US would become a third world nation at the end of one of these events. What causes it? This list is as long as it is fantastic: currency collapse, sudden governmental change, pandemic, electrical grid failure, conventional war on US soil. Hundreds of millions are affected. These are truly once in a generation happenings. Be it the decimation of Europe by the Black Plague, or the fall of the Roman Empire these are rare events, but they effect huge portions of the global population.


Events of this nature affect multiple states in a region of the country. This list includes extreme natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes (Cascadia Subduction Zone), wide area flooding, blizzards, ice storms and man-made disasters including nuclear and chemical accidents. All regional events have the potential for large scale destruction and displacement. Compared to global and national threat events, regional events have significantly fewer victims. Regional events can be considered rare happenings, but we have already experienced a few in our lifetime (Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, Superstorm Sandy, and Fukushima).


Local threat events only affect counties, towns, and neighborhoods. These geographically small events impact few people and the entire nation remains as a support system. Local events include severe weather (tornadoes, snow storms, localized flooding), brush or wildfires, chemical/industrial spills, active shooter situations, and power outages. Municipal events can result in water issues, road closures, and shelter in place orders. While not as “prepper-cool” as an EMP each of local events still disrupt normality for those affected. Nearly every week, one of these events is reported in the media.


These are the events that happen in our daily lives. Job loss (unexpected layoff or a planned retirement) will happen to each of us. Long term illness or a death in the family will affect each of us. Weather events can cause personal disasters: flooded basement, a tree through a roof or a window, furnace or well pump goes out, sewage system fails, and you end up with 6” of waste tainted water in the basement. The neighborhood brat trips and breaks his elbow on your sidewalk and his overly litigious parents sue. Worse yet, you legally defend your family from a violent home invasion and some lawyer convinces the family of the ringleader (that was just about to turn his life around) to drag you through the court system. Any of these can put your existence on hold until normality returns. No prepper fiction will ever be written about the time Rambo had to shovel muck out if his basement in his fishing waders, but these things happen. They happen each and every day, to everyone. Big or small they all negatively impact your life.

Threat Probabilities

Pop Quiz: Raise your hand if a threat from the personal list has happened to you. Keep it raised if two have happened. How about Global Thermal Nuclear War? The event that affects the greatest number of people is the least likely to occur. Scary or not it will most likely never happen in your lifetime or that of your children’s. Layoff? Read the papers. They happen every day. That being said let’s take another look at the allocation of our resources based on the updated threat matrix.


Most preps are the same regardless of the size of the event: energy, shelter, water, food, community, health, and sanitation. What is in question is how you allocate your available resources to those survival needs. First, consider balancing your resources (money, time, emotions) with respect to the events that you are most likely to encounter.

Threat matrix 3

Everyone’s spare cash is limited. Is it better to put aside a few weeks of pay to guard against job loss or to put a down payment one bunker that may never get used? Should you maintain a rainy-day fund or buy a pallet of expensive freeze-dried food? Do we buy a bug out location or bug out bag? Ask yourself — are you more likely to encounter an INCH event (I’m never coming home) or sprint to the hospital because a loved one has been in a horrific accident?

Our time is limited. EMP vs a broken furnace – shouldn’t we balance learning and honing the primitive skills required for the ultimate blackout with the skill set required to manage simple home repairs.

Finally consider your sanity. EMP, nuclear war, a time without rule of law are all heavy subjects that can be dark places to visit. Recognize that while these threats exist, they also have their rightful place in our lives. Which has the better emotional payout? Reading, dissecting, and obsessing over yet another post-apocalyptic novel or a walk in the woods with your family?


Family time spent building the bonds that will cement your relationship through job loss, illness, or displacement due to a house fire. If you have each other – solidly have each other – then nothing will be able to shatter your world. Use your threat matrix to take make honest appraisal of possible future paths ahead, spend your limited resources wisely, and you will be truly able to say “Yeah. I can handle that.”

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AllOutdoor Staff is currently a writer for AllOutdoor who has chosen not to write a short bio at this time.

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