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Survival “Tent” Routine: COVID-19 (Part 4)

By April 2, 2020 No Comments

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

            ~Seneca

While in uniform, I was introduced to the concept of a PACE Plan. Pace is an acronym for: Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency. This equates to a hierarchy of sub-plans or means & methods to accomplish the mission (or elements thereof). 

Typically, it is used for communication planning, however the idea can be applied to almost anything. PACE planning is also prevalent in the emergency preparedness, disaster relief, and backcountry camping communities. 

Throughout my military career, I deployed to three disaster relief operations and several war zones (former and active). In each case our forces were tested, sometimes severely. None of our initial plans ever fully survived contact with either Mother Nature or the enemy.  Our plans and how we executed them needed to be flexible, with back-up options. We prepared. We rehearsed and rehearsed again. Little was left to chance.  

PACE Planning is one of the best things you and your family can do to make your own luck when a crisis hits. 

[Representation of the Gasparotto Food PACE Plan: P – Fresh food, A – Takeout, C – Canned / dry goods and military rations, E – Garden and forage]

Primary

Primary is often the most efficient and effective way of executing that element of the plan. It is your Plan A. Primary deals with the probable, the majority of likely scenarios. It involves means and methods that you use most often and, therefore, have a high degree of competency. 

The plan must be simple for ease of execution and yet specific enough to adequately guide people’s actions.

An example of this theory in practice is how to communicate with your family. During a developing situation or a crisis, family members will use their phones to communicate with each other. In this day and age most people will have a cell phone and few still have landlines. Unless living off the grid, everyone or family unit has a phone of some description. Phones are the means—the What. 

The Primary plan must also specify the methods by which members contact each other—the How. Is it a free for all? Is it a group call and if so who initiates? Is there a fan-out, whereby one person calls several others, who then in turn each call several more? Also, there should be two ways to retrieve the phone numbers. I suggest the contact list in your phone and a print out.

Alternate

Alternate is your immediate back-up. It’s your Plan B. It should involve means and methods that are still relatively easy to use. If you explore the most likely ways that your Primary Plan can fail, even temporarily, then your Alternate Plan covers off those risks. 

Again, using the family communications example, should cellular networks fail, become spotty, or for those who do not have cell access, an easy backup is to use internet enabled communications. This opens up the possibility of using computers and tablets as well as relying on transmitting via non-cellular means (i.e. phone lines, TV cable, fiber optic cables, microwave towers, etc.). 

The same considerations for the methods remain. Who initiates? Who is responsible to contact who? For the vast majority of people this is as far as they go to plan. This is where their overall communications plan would fail in a significant and/or prolonged crisis.

Contingency

Contingency Plans are activated when your Primary and Alternate are no longer viable or temporarily unavailable. Contingency measures are typically less effective and much less efficient because they do not rely on conventional means and methods of operating—they offer redundancy specifically because they do not use the most cutting edge ways of doing things. 

Here you need to think about the events that could render your Plans A and B invalid and devise ways to counter. 

Consider what events could disrupt both phone and internet communications. A Contingency plan could be face-to-face communications by driving, biking, or walking to someone else’s home to talk. You could leave a note if they are not home. Or you could consider a central location to meet after a certain amount of time to check-in. In the military we call this an “RV” (short for rendez-vous). These measures only work where the distance between members is short.

Emergency

Emergency Plans are what you activate as a fail-safe. They represent the most flexible option regardless of the situation. They should rely on the least amount of resources and outside-of-your-control assets. As a result, these means and methods are typically very inefficient and are the least practiced. 

These measures often require the most thought, training, and preparation.

Adding onto the family communications example, if all phone and internet means were knocked out for an extended period of time and your family members were located in a distant location, how could you contact them? Possible emergency means could be the mail or other parcel delivery system. Some communities still communicate using amateur radio. Perhaps messages could be passed that way.

Below is my family’s PACE Plan. Some of these measures are pre-COVID and some are a direct result of adapting to the pandemic. The lists are mostly the means, describing what we use. To keep the table tight, I have not included the methods or how each item is used.

Additionally, I’ve created one for my business as part of the Gasparotto Group’s Business Continuity Plan. Also find one Microsoft Word document here that you can use as a template to create your own PACE Plan.

Category

Shelter

Water

Food

Cook

Primary

House

Tap

Fresh groceries

Stove

Alternate

Relative in town

Bottle

Take-out

BBQ

Contingency

Tent

Camp filter

Cans/dry goods, military rations

Camp stove

Emergency

Truck

Boil

Garden, forage

Wood fire

 

Category

Heat

Sanitation

Electricity

Communications

Primary

Gas furnace

Toilet

Hydro

Phone

Alternate

Electric heaters

Relative

Generator

Internet enabled

Contingency

Camp stove

Portable toilet

Battery

Face-to-face

Emergency

Fire

Outdoor pit

Solar panel

Mail

 

Category

Hygiene

Laundry

Light

Medical

Primary

Soap

House washer & dryer

Hydro

Doctor / Hospital

Alternate

Gel

Relative

Lantern

Walk-in clinic

Contingency

Wipes

Laundromat

Flashlight

First aid kits

Emergency

Bleach

Washboard

Candles

Household items

 

Category

Fire

Fire Escape

Money

Transportation

Primary

Lighter

Stairs

Credit card

Truck

Alternate

Matches

Escape ladder

Debit card

Cab / Uber

Contingency

Ferro rod

Sheets – rope

Cash (CAD, USD)

Bike / Ski

Emergency

Bow drill

Jump

Barter

Walk / Snow-shoe

 

Category

Physical Fitness

Data

Data Processing

Primary

Crossfit gym

Google

Laptop

Alternate

Home gym, TRX

3rd party cloud back-up

Phone

Contingency

Run, bike, etc.

External hard drive

Old laptop, rental options

Emergency

Body weight exercises

Paper print-outs

Pen & paper

Understanding your environment is the first step to any plan. Coming up with ways to deal with the most likely scenario and then the most dangerous will enable you to devise means and methods to populate your PACE Plan. You then need to resource the plan and rehearse each option. 

Enacting your Contingency or Emergency measures in chaos will likely result in failure. You need to test your responses to failure and beyond in a safe-to-fail training environment before the crisis.  

Be prepared and make your own luck.

About the Author

In 2006, then Major Mark Gasparotto deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan as the Commander of 23 Field Squadron. The Squadron provided combat engineer support to the 1st Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group during Canada’s second rotation in theatre. Upon his return home, Mark and 12 of his former officers and soldiers wrote the book Clearing the Way: Combat Engineers in Kandahar, now an award winning documentary film. 

Retiring from the Canadian Armed Forces in 2017 at the rank of Colonel, Mark is now the President of the Gasparotto Group.

The Gasparotto Group helps organizations create cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams. 

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