The government uses ‘conditions’ or ‘levels’ in many plans to indicate a state of readiness or alertness. It is impossible to stay in a heightened state all the time as the resources, time and effort would be exhausting. Therefore there are things link Defense Conditions (DEFCON), the state of readiness of military forces in general – we all have heard of these in movies. There are also levels for continuity of government (COGCON). In each plan there are “triggers” or events that would cause a level of alertness to be raised. In response to the level being raised there are actions that are taken.
If you have watched the movie WarGames, made in 1983, then you will have seen that DEFCON 5 was “all is fine” and in response to what they thought was an attack by the Soviet Union DEFCON was raised (I think to DEFCON 3) and nuclear bombers were launched. When they thought an attack was imminent then DEFCON 1 was declared, the NORAD command center was sealed and all nuclear forces were put on imminent launch.
The highest the real DEFCON level has been raised to is DEFCON 2 – in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and included the scrambling of the Strategic Air Command bombers, and in 1991 during the initial phase of the Gulf War, the last time that US Battleships were in combat.
While trigger events that would cause DEFCON to be raised and actions to be taken are classified we can look at continuity of government plans and see what responses there are to increased COGCON levels. Looking at Federal and local emergency plans can help us in developing our own preparedness and emergency plans and creating our own Preparedness Conditions – PREP-CON.
Current DEFCON level
from https://www.defconlevel.com/current-level.php is:
Determining trigger events for each level is going to depend on our situation, where you live, what rises you have, etc. You should also factor in any levels that other organizations may have. If the government raises the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) level and it is something that might impact you or your family then it might be appropriate to raise your PREP-CON level.
If you live in an area prone to tornadoes and it is tornado season then you might what to raise your PREP-CON level, or a weather advisory might be your trigger. The same rule applies if you on the east or Gulf coasts with hurricane season.
A good indicator you can monitor for communications is the AmRRON communications conditions – AmCON. They monitor events likely to impact communications, both regional and national. Their AmCON chart gives actions you should take on your communications plan based on the condition.
It is important that you and your family determine and agree upon the triggers and the actions that you are going to take. By determining the triggers ahead you are not having a discussion WHEN something occurs, you already have decided what to do, so you take action. This will put you ahead of 90% or more of the rest of the population.
A great example of this is the recent impacts of COVID. If you have a trigger that was met in late December of the events going on in China and your action was to build up additional supplies of personal protective and cleaning items then you were way ahead of the 90% of the people who went and panic bought as much toilet paper they could. Their late panic actions caused a temporary shortage, not because there was a real shortage. You need to understand the way the logistics network works for stores these days. When you buy something the computer scans the bar code and then adds that item to the ‘order’ list. It is sent to the warehouse and loaded on the truck for delivery in the next day or two. The warehouse creates a similar list and that is sent to the warehouse of that particular manufacturer. The logistics network can handle the impacts of a local or regional disaster, such as a hurricane. It cannot, however, handle a rapid increase in demand from every store in every part of the country in a matter of days. And so we saw stores with empty shelves and in many cases it took weeks for supplies on the store shelves to get back to normal. In addition we saw the shutdown of a significant portion of shipments from China, where a very large number of products come from.
Now look at current events across the country – we have people rioting and demonstrating, including blocking interstates and trying to pull drivers from vehicles. We have people trying to defund police departments. Truckers have stated they will not deliver to places where there is no law enforcement or there are riots. This has the potential to cause shortages in some areas. So your triggers should include events like civil disturbances, truck strikes, damage or blockages of the interstate highway system and impacts to international shipping.
Preparedness Conditions (PREP-CON)
I created the preparedness conditions (PREP-CON) after what started as a joke with some friends at work a few years ago. Somehow we got on the discussion of indicators and triggers when we were discussing continuity planning (ensuring that the essential functions of your business or operation, things that must continue to occur during any disaster or emergency). Just as the government has COGCON and DEFCON, I was asked if I had something similar for preparedness, which I did, but I had never put it in the context of “conditions.” The next day I came in with the mind map – they called it “MEACH-CON” (Meacher’s conditions) 🙂 During a briefing I was giving in our EOC in the early days of COVID my senior VP walked in and asked; “Are we at MEACH-CON 3?” I responded; “Have you looked at the map?” He responded, “Yes.” “Uh huh” was my response. No one else in the room knew what we were talking about 🙂
MEACH-CON still exists, with specific triggers and actions for my family & group plan.
PREP-CON 5 is the lowest level, close to normal (BLUE SKY). There are no specific triggers but actions include rotating supplies, adding to supplies where needed, training and exercising skills such as medical, communications, etc. Planning actions include developing our communications plan, including one-time pad skills, making sure our family plan is up to date and, of course, re-evaluating the THIRA and our area intelligence assessment (see the offers on the affiliate page)
PREP-CON 4 is an increased level or INCIDENT POSSIBLE (ORANGE SKY). Triggers include severe weather events or possible future events. Actions include increased monitoring of various sources and maintenance and testing on equipment.
PREP-CON 3 is INCIDENT PROBABLE (BROWN SKY). Triggers include persistent widespread cyber attacks and recall of all USGOC non-essential personnel and families from foreign countries (one on the PREP-CON chart is the recall of missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, something that occurred in March of 2019 and had never happened before). Actions include notifications to our MAG, standing up a local net (radio, secure voice/data) and checking all Get Home and Bug Out bags.
March 2022 update: with the Russian invasion, the sanctions, the shortages of supplies, supply chain issues, challenges with oil, cyber and all the other threats I would argue that PREP-CON 3 should be your condition right now. Depending on how you perceive threat of direct conflict between Russia and the U.S. and NATO you might what to be at PREP-CON 2 or should be in a position to immediately escalate your condition. You should have your family & group plans done and updated, all your comms should be squared away, brevity codes updated and shared with your group, OTP’s distributed, and more.
PREP-CON 2 is INCIDENT IMMINENT (GRAY SKY). Triggers include rapid devaluation of currency, widespread terrorist events, outbreak of deadly contagious disease and recall of all USGOV personnel. Actions include distributing additional OTP’s, reviewing all communications procedures with MAG and family, purchasing any last minute supplies and maintaining level 1 personal defense readiness.
PREP-CON 1 is an ACTIVE INCIDENT (BLACK SKY). Triggers at this level are no-notice events such as an EMP or sudden announcement of marshal law, travel restrictions, etc. Actions include immediate bugging out or sheltering in place depending on your situation, initiating “go-code” with MAG if part of your plan, and establishing communications nets with MAG.
The PREP-CON mind map, that you can use to build on for your own plan, is available in the store.