Introduction: Gamify Your Apocalypse Preparedness Training

This is a gamified apocalypse preparedness training program for individuals or groups. It is based on a scenario where you start from and plan to stay near your home, rather than wilderness survival. It's about being aware of what's around and how to use it rather than starting from scratch. And it's about using your imagination to immerse yourself in a variety of situations, now, while you have the luxury to do so, so if you experience it for real, it won’t be the first time and will be immensely less stressful.

This program attempts to provide a balanced introduction to post-apocalyptic survival, however, the activities and rewards can and should be customized to meet your experience level and individual needs. Constructive feedback and ideas for improving the program, or updates of your own progress, are welcome and encouraged!

Step 1: Things to Know Before You Start

  • Consult a physician before altering your eating habits and starting an exercise program, and use common sense for everything else. You haven't learned how to do something until you've learned how to do it safely.
  • This training does not address weapon use for personal protection. Martial arts can be a great fitness activity, if you want to incorporate it into your training. However, our focus is on personal and environmental awareness and readiness. While chaos does cause some people to "re-wild" (think post-disaster looters or Black Friday shoppers), most people will just be trying to figure things out. This training program will pre-expose you to circumstances and mindsets that will give you an advantage and possibly establish you as a leader in that situation, without weapons.
  • Throughout your training activities, try to limit your use of electricity. If you don't know how to do something, find out the old fashioned way. Talk to people, research it at a library, or experiment. For example, in your first stage of training, you’ll need a map. Get one from a store or draw one on paper – no printing Google maps or relying on GPS. It will be a challenge, but good practice. However, if you've tried everything else, take advantage of the resources you have while you have them, and go online. But only when necessary to advance or for safety reasons.
  • Rewards are an important feature of this program, as they give you something to work towards and add ongoing fun to what could otherwise be a stressful experience. Near the end of the instructable, you'll find suggestions for your rewards system. Decide on one, or several, ahead of time and prepare them before you start training so they're ready and waiting to be enjoyed once you accomplish each level's final challenge.
  • Considering making a t-shirt that says, "If I'm doing something weird, it's because I'm training for the apocalypse. (It's an internet thing.)" Immediately, everyone will realize that you're awesome, not crazy. Regardless, the consequences of your actions are your responsibility.

Step 2: The Basics, or FEMA

This training program is divided in to 6 levels, with activities and goals that will help you train in 6 different areas. Each level uses skills learned or tools acquired in the previous levels. Each level takes about 1 month, with a final goal or challenge to pass by the end of the month. More about that later.

Your training will also include 3 ongoing activities designed to prepare you for a new way of life. You should start out slow and then increase frequency/intensity throughout the program. Biting off more than you can chew can be a death sentence in the apocalypse. Minimums will be given for each activity, but you'll need to stay aware of your own abilities to ensure the appropriate level of challenge.

The basic activities are:

  1. Fitness
  2. Energy Management
  3. Awareness

These activities will be abbreviated from now on as FEMA. FEMA must be performed every level in order to pass the level.

Step 3: Fitness

You want to be ready for anything, and being fit is critical for long term survival situations. Regular exercise will prepare and sustain you physically and mentally. However, the type of exercise you get is an often ignored factor. Lifting weights with both feet planted in a gym will not prepare you for carrying a flopping sick child 2 miles to a doctor. Running on a treadmill will not train you to be a better runner through natural terrain.

If you want to train for an activity, do the activity. Hike, canoe, run, climb walls or trees, swim in moving water. Seek a variety of muscle toning, cardiovascular, and flexibility elements for balanced fitness. Research military-style workouts or functional exercise programs like MovNat. Once you find the workout that's right for you, commit to make it part of your apocalypse training. Aim for at least 2 workouts a week (4-5 is best), or whatever the workout plan prescribes.

Remember, the purpose is to feel ready, and be ready, for anything.

Step 4: Energy Management

When the convenience of grocery stores and restaurants are gone, you'll realize that food is a valuable and limited resource. To train for this reality, you must learn to eat to support your activities (and this doesn't mean eating popcorn because you're watching a movie). Try to only eat when you're hungry -- a good indicator is your stomach growling -- and then eat nutritious foods that make you feel recharged and healthy.

Pay attention to how YOU feel, not how other people say you will feel, after eating foods high in protein, fats, fiber, and carbohydrates. What makes you feel satisfied and ready to keep going, and what makes you feel like sitting on the couch? If a food is the latter, try to stop eating it. Yes, it's that simple. You'll feel better and be able to accomplish more, and may find that you don't even miss it that much.

As your fitness level and activities evolve, and your awareness of your body's actual needs improves, you'll find what kind of foods should be in your diet and in what amounts. Do all this now, while you have the luxury to experiment and pay attention, so you won't have to think about it once you're in crisis mode. Start with weekends, if you'd like, working up until it’s a part of your daily life.

Step 5: Awareness

If you've ever played paintball or even hide and seek, you know what awareness is. Awareness is about using all your senses (including, and maybe especially, your 6th sense) and keeping your brain engaged with what's happening, using your adrenaline to your advantage in order to survive.

Pick one day a month (or more, if you want) to work on your awareness and ability to act under pressure. Paintball is a good activity for this, but doesn't provide enough variety to really prepare you for all situations. Mix it up by creating your own scenarios. First, go out for a walk through a moderately crowded environment (like the mall or a busy park). Leave all your devices at home to experience what it's like to not even have the option to lean on them. Then, let yourself get immersed in an imaginary survival scenario that you've decided beforehand.

To create a basic scenario, decide on a unique characteristic that you will look for in the people you encounter and an action you will take. For example, imagine you need to hide from people with stripes on their clothing until you reach your destination. When you come across someone in stripes, wherever you are in your environment, find a way to avoid them seeing you. Go around a corner, step behind a tree, have a friend create a diversion. If they see you, you've failed and have to try again. (This may sound silly, but remember, the apocalypse will have no mercy for your ego. Besides, this is where that t-shirt will come in handy.)

Another example -- imagine you have a message to pass on to someone carrying a bag of food, but you only have 3 minutes to find them (you'll need to use a watch - no phones). Look around, see who's carrying what, and find your target before 3 minutes is up. Just get close enough to smile at them -- no need to freak anyone out with imaginary apocalypse messages.

This type of drill can obviously be done with friends if you don't want to stalk strangers, or you can use buildings or cars. But the goal is to get your mind and body used to having a purpose -- staying focused and aware, so you can stay alive and achieve your goal efficiently. It can be an invigorating activity, and a fun addition to your training. Good for kids, too. Pick one day each month for your awareness training. If you don't achieve your goal on your first day, try again (the same day or another day) until you pass.

Step 6: The Levels

Each of these levels is designed to be completed within 1 month, giving you enough time to experiment and learn, as well as maintain your non-apocalyptic life. The format is a list of activities and skills to learn (choose some or all of them) that will prepare you for a final challenge that you must complete by the end of the month in order to pass the level. Feel free to adjust the time limit as necessary, but then stick to it.

Whenever possible, I've offered suggestions for more advanced survivors or those that repeat the program for further development. Feel free to adjust this program to your skill level, making sure that each level really does challenge you in a different way.

To receive your reward for each level, you must continue to follow your fitness plan, practice energy management, and pass your awareness test (FEMA), in addition to completing the challenge. You will have one month.

If you fail to complete any part of the training within the time frame, you can not advance to the next level and must repeat it until you pass. Some of the work you complete for the level can be reused, but you'll have to do another month's worth of FEMA. Skipping one workout=an extra month of workouts. Motivated?

Step 7: Level 1 -- Evaluate Your Surroundings

The first step in any mission should be to evaluate your surroundings. You'll need to do it again in the case of an actual apocalypse, but you'll have a big head start after completing these activities.


Find or draw out a map of your surrounding area (within a day's reach on foot, 1-10 square miles, depending on density of development and your comfort level). Make it large, as you will be using this throughout the training to mark key resources. Start by adding any natural landmarks, then add man-made landmarks. Mark things like potential shelters, or places where there may be a lot of tools, weapons, or other supplies. Think through it thoroughly, and continue to add to it as you learn more during your training. Finally, draw out the safest and alternative routes to get to these places, as well as entry/exit routes that could be used to escape the area on foot and by vehicle. You may also choose to identify buildings/services as priorities for securing or rebuilding, or the homes of people you might need to reach.

While working on this, limit internet research. Familiarize yourself with your area first hand, ask people where to find things, and use off-grid resources like phone books and newspapers (advertising sections will list current businesses and their addresses), travel guide books, and signs.


Test out your new map by walking from home to your key locations and trying your escape routes (one or more). Use only your map, memory, and directions you receive verbally from other “survivors.”

For a harder challenge, walk to and between several locations in a single trip before returning home and/or set a time limit.

Step 8: Level 2 -- Firemaking

Matches will probably not be in short supply, but learning how to maintain a fire will allow you to use it as a light source, heat source, weapon, signal for communication, sterilization method, stove, and so on. Even if you're not in the wilderness, fire will replace electricity in numerous ways. It's also one of those skills that increases your perceived value to a group in a survival situation, which can be invaluable.


Research how to build a fire, and identify items in and near your home that will burn well for a small cooking fire, a lasting heat source, and smoky signaling fire. Collect and test various tinder, kindling and fuel materials to learn what burns best and for how long in each situation. If you'd like, try to start a fire in a more primitive way as a back-up to using matches (magnifying lens, flint/steel, etc.). You can also learn how to make these tools yourself (create a drill from found wood, locate the right types of rocks for fire starting, collect pitch or make char cloth). Remember to practice this outside, away from trees and with water nearby, and learn about and obey your local burning restrictions.


Build 2 fires using matches. First, you must be able to start and maintain a fire under normal, ideal circumstances. Second, use the same technique the day after a rain storm (or under similar less-than-ideal conditions where your materials may be damp). You must maintain a hot, usable fire for at least 15 minutes.

If you’re more advanced, create fire using 1 or more primitive methods.

Step 9: Level 3 -- Water Sources

Water is one thing most of us take for granted. But dehydration isn't just something that happens in the desert, and the effects of it can compromise your health and performance in subtle ways long before you die from it. And drinking tainted water could be even worse than drinking no water. In an apocalypse, after utilities begin to fail and you run through your stockpile, your survival will depend on your ability to find and purify new sources of water.


If you're fortunate enough to have a well for your household water, you must learn how to get water from it when there is no electricity. As a back up, and for those without wells, identify water sources in your area and mark them on your map.

Not all water sources are the same. Your priorities will be clean & clear (bottled water, springs, clean flowing rivers & streams), followed by water that must be filtered & disinfected before using (low output flow lakes and ponds, dirty rivers & streams). Keep in mind that appearance is not an indicator of purity. Most rivers that flow through populated areas will need to be disinfected before drinking.

Non-drinkable water sources, but still probably worth including on your map are things like chemically-treated ponds, swimming pools, and polluted lakes, rivers & streams. Research different ways of capturing water, both clean & clear water and water that needs processing. Acquire or make any equipment or additives you need in order to process water safely and practice using them.


Obtain 16.9oz (or 500mL or 1.05PT) of potable water from somewhere other than a tap or store. (This is the size of a standard water bottle.) You can include rain water, trapped condensation, or natural water sources that you collect and process. To ensure safety, you must create a fire and, in an appropriate container, bring your water to a boil for 1 minute.

As you get more advanced, learn to process different types of water with different methods in increasing quantities.

Step 10: Level 4 -- Food Sources

Depending on your community, food resources could be plentiful or scarce. Find out now so you’ll know where to head first to secure food for yourself.


Mark all food sources on your map and plan out the best ways to reach them (you may have done some of this in Level #1). Good long term food sources are reliable & renewable, such as farms, personal or community vegetable gardens, and large fishing/hunting areas. Short term caches will be grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, food banks, and similar establishments. Most houses will have limited supplies and likely already be spoken for, so ignore those unless you know they've been evacuated.

For your own long term food source, collect materials to build or improve on your own food garden, either outdoors or indoors for off-season growing or if you don’t have a yard.

You should also learn how to identify and prepare foraged foods growing wild. When you find a food source growing in the wild, you can collect the seeds, and learn to store and plant them properly, or barter with them.

Finally, don't forget to learn how to store and cook your food without electricity!


Prepare a meal from foods you grow/hunt/scavenge, cooking it entirely over a fire you start yourself.

Note: Fishing and hunting usually require a license, and some may oppose killing animals unnecessarily for training purposes. That’s fine. If you don’t have sufficient means to harvest your meal, compromise. Try bartering for your food. Or, walk to a grocery store, use cash to purchase only unprocessed foods that you could have collected from the areas on your map (e.g., no lobster unless you live near the ocean or a seafood restaurant), then prepare it over a fire.

Step 11: Level 5 -- Scavenging & Organizing Supplies

If you've put it off in the past, now is the time to collect basic preparedness materials for everyone in your household, including pets.


Research what makes up a good household disaster/survival kit and create one. Keep in mind what types of things will still be available in your area and the effort involved in retrieving them (refer to your map). In fact, this is an ideal opportunity to practice and update your supply run routes. Utilize them to build your kit.

To customize your kit, observe what you (and anyone else in your household) use on a daily or weekly basis and include those items in the kit.

If you already have a supply for your household, aim for a community supply. Group like items, and organize them for appropriate level of access and easy inventory tracking. Or prepare individual "to-go" kits that can be given to fellow survivors in need, if you don't want to bring them into your group.

You should also start thinking about items that can be re-purposed/upcycled, and where you might find them. (Remember, there's no trash or recycling pick-up in the apocalypse.) If you demand 3+ different uses of something in order to have it, you may find you don't need as many "things" as you thought.


Prepare your bug out bag, which contains everything you need to survive for 72 hours should you need to leave home. It may contain a subset of the items your put in your main kit, as well as portable versions of things you can't take with you. For supplies you'll need at home, create a manageable system for storing them until you need them, and a plan for tracking their usage and replenishing them when needed.

As a small ongoing test (advanced/optional), choose a trash item (paper plate, old sock, etc.) and challenge yourself to re-purpose it as much as possible until you find a permanent use, there is nothing left, or you've fully exhausted its usefulness.

Step 12: Level 6 -- Skills of Value

Don't underestimate the value of learning a variety of skills before an apocalypse situation. You will greatly improve your value to a community, which can help secure your position in a group and make you a resource worth saving if things go south. You can also use your skills to help barter for things that you need but can't otherwise obtain.


Learn a skill that can be used during a long term survival situation or to barter for things you need. When choosing a skill, remember, no or limited electricity will be available while you're using it. Also, there won’t be much value in making things that will still be available for a while, like clothing, or unusable for a long time, like computer software. Think of immediately valuable skills -- medical/veterinary, teaching (especially survival prep and general education for young children), auto/small engine repair, law enforcement/security, fishing, hunting, resource scouting (see Level #5) or chopping firewood and other labor. Other skills will become more valuable once rebuilding starts, for example, construction, carpentry, boating/boat making (if near traversable water), farming, foreign language translation, and entertainment.


Create one thing or learn one service skill that improves a survival situation.

If you continue your training, next try to get someone to barter for your skill or service, though the demand and value will be very different post-apocalypse. Either way, continue practicing and improving to increase value, and then try to learn something else.

Step 13: The Rewards

This program incorporates a variety of psychological motivators, but when spirits are running low, sometimes it helps to have something more tangible to work for. What motivates you? Consider these options for rewarding yourself after you complete each level of your training..

Achievements/Badges: Create 6 badges and assign a badge to each level. If you continue the training, purchase a pack of ½” gold star stickers (you know you want to) and add a star each time you re-earn a badge.

Reaching levels/Earning titles: (especially good if you plan to repeat the training) Begin as a mere survivor and then rise in rank after completing all 6 levels. If you fail to complete a level on time, try again the following month until you earn the level. So, you go from Level 1 Survivor to Level 6 Survivor. Once you complete the 6th level, you become a Level 1 Badass. Repeat the course to then become an Expert, Master, Hero and Legend.

Saving lives: Decide if you want to find survivors to add to your group, or start with a group and try to keep them alive. Create 6 survivor personas (Jim the Hunter, Alicia the Nurse, Bobby the Boy Scout, etc.) and assign one to each level. Each time you complete a level, you "find" the new survivor and add them to your group, and/or, if you have a group and don't complete a level on time, that level’s survivor dies.

Earning prizes: Allow yourself to purchase or upgrade six of your own survival items, earning them one by one after completing each level. For example, after proving that you can map and navigate your surroundings in Level 1, purchase a high-quality compass to make life a little easier next time. Other suggestions:

Level 1=binoculars

Level 2=fire-starting tools, windproof matches

Level 3=filtration straw, canteen

Level 4=MREs, wild plants guide

Level 5=backpack, first aid kit

Level 6=skill-related tools or equipment.

Choose your items beforehand and post a photo each month for the most effective motivation.

Step 14: Conclusion

This concludes the guide for creating a gamified apocalypse preparedness training program. To further assist you in your training, download the attached file which contains worksheets for tracking your training and examples of the reward systems. Feel free to use them as-is, or as templates to customize for your own needs and preferences.

Please comment if you have suggestions for improvement or to share your experiences using this training. Have fun & good luck!

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