The Essential Preppers' Dictionary

Have you ever read a blog post or an article by a serious prepper and found yourself at a loss to understand some of the terms used? Preppers have their own lingo, often condensed into military or government-style acronyms. Here’s your (more or less!) definitive guide to prepper jargon and terminology.


ABAO—“All bets are off.” Who knows what will happen next? Chaos and confusion may reign, and you will have to look out for yourself and your family. This refers to a situation roughly equivalent to TEOTWAWKI (see ‘T’) or YOYO (see ‘Y’). ALPHA STRATEGY—A survival strategy involving storing extra supplies for one’s own use, for bartering, or for charitable donation in case of an emergency situation. Some recommended items to store for bartering include:
Don’t forget that you can also barter with useful skills such as carpentry, welding, farming, well-digging, sewing, ham radio operation, medicine, home schooling, hair cutting, and more.


BIB—“Bug-in-bag.” A collection of necessary items such as emergency drinking water, food bars or MREs, essential medications, first-aid supplies, a light source, emergency blankets, ponchos, etc., for hunkering down and sheltering in place during a time of danger or emergency. BO—“Bug out.” A term meaning to evacuate quickly, to head for safer territory or a pre-determined safe house or hideout. BOB—“Bug-out-bag.” A backpack or other carrier filled with emergency food, water and water purification/filtration supplies, a map, extra clothing, meds, tools, sleeping bag, etc., meant for a time when quick evacuation from your home is necessary. Also known as a 72-hour kit, grab-and-go bag, emergency kit, etc. BOL—“Bug-out location.” A pre-determined destination to head to if you must evacuate. A safe haven to head for; a retreat. BOR—“Bug-out Route.” The route you’ve determined would be best for you to take if you had to evacuate. You might have more than one possibility. BOV—“Bug-out vehicle.” A car, bicycle, or other vehicle to transport you and your gear to your BOL. (See above).


CACHE (pronounced like “cash”)—A stash of necessary items hidden in an out-of-the-way spot or buried where only the owner knows of it. May include food, water, clothing, meds, weapons, ammunition, cash, tools, or whatever the person feels he or she may need, packed in a water-tight container. Many preppers hide caches along their expected evacuation or bug-out route or at their BOL (see ‘B’). CARRINGTON EVENT—A natural EMP-like event caused by a large Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) (see definition below) of the sun, directed toward densely inhabited parts of the earth, so that our electrical grid and components are “fried,” or rendered useless. Named for Richard Carrington, a British amateur astronomer who in August of 1859 observed unusually bright spots on the sun. They heralded two of the most powerful geomagnetic storms in history, just days apart, which caused fire and sparks to shower from telegraph machines and colorful aurora to be visible all over the world. Such an event today would cause extensive damage to the grid, with resulting social and economic disruption for years, costing an estimated 1-2 trillion dollars to repair. CDC—“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. National center where medical scientists and microbiologists study viruses, bacteria, poisons, etc. that cause disease. They issue warnings of potential epidemics, pandemics, and advice on how to avoid illness or contamination. They also study health-affecting conditions such as obesity and diabetes. In addition to the headquarters, 12 other locations exist in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. CME—“Coronal Mass Ejection.” A large, destructive solar flare that if directed toward densely populated areas of the earth, could wipe out all electronic components, including the World Wide Web, telephone service, cell phones and towers, radio stations, etc. COMSEC—Communications security. Difficult to achieve in our cyber society, this refers to the security of our phone calls, emails, radio and other transmissions of information.


DH—Dehydrated, referring to a food or product from which the majority of the water has been removed by exposure to moving air and warmth, as in powdered milk, dried fruits and vegetables, jerky, etc. DHS—Department of Homeland Security. The arm of the government that oversees all threats to our homeland, especially from terrorists who would attack and destroy from within or without. DLP—Defense of life and property. A right of free people in the U.S. and most other free countries to exercise when either life or property is threatened, subject to individual laws and statutes in different places.


EDC—“Everyday carry.” The items you carry with you on a daily basis—your wallet or bag, keys, pocketknife, weapon or other personal defense item, etc. Can include emergency items you usually have with you or in your vehicle, such as emergency food, water, meds, paracord, etc. EMP—“Electromagnetic pulse.” If a nuclear device were exploded high in the atmosphere, the resulting EMP would take out all electronic devices, including the power grid, cell phones, computers, appliances, cars with electronic ignition, etc. for hundreds of miles. The result would be similar to that of a Carrington Event (see ‘C’).


FARADAY CAGE—a shielding device made of metal and anti-static materials to protect electronic equipment from an intense eruption of radiation following a destructive solar flare or an EMP attack. Can be as large as a building or smaller than a microwave oven. (See ‘E’). FD—Freeze dried, as in prepared just-add-water meals or individual components of meat, cheese, fruits, vegetables, etc., usually packaged to last for at least 25 years. The freeze drying process includes flash freezing, then changing the moisture to vapor before it can liquefy. This process preserves the nutrition, size, shape, color and flavor of foods better than simple dehydration. FEMA—“Federal Emergency Management Administration.” The government’s first line of defense when the homeland is threatened by natural or man-made catastrophe. They deal in disaster mitigation, preparedness, emergency response, recovery, education and references. They are not intended to be first responders, but after terror attacks or natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tornados, they assist in providing temporary housing, food, water, and clothing to those who are displaced. FEMA works with other agencies to determine what and how much assistance is necessary to get the affected area rehabilitated. FIFO—“First in, first out”—a good policy for rotating food storage. FOOD GRADE—A term used for plastic containers, bottles, tubes and hoses, etc. used for food and water intended for human consumption. Storage pails and buckets made of dense polyethylene plastic are considered food-grade, and containers labeled HDTP, PET or PETE, #1, or #2 are safe to contain potable liquids—water, milk, soda pop, etc. FUD—“Fear, uncertainty, doubt.” A triple threat that renders us less than effective in difficult situations. “Sally told Peter that FUD had overtaken him as soon as the volcano erupted—he stood rooted to his tracks.”


GENNY—Slang for “generator,” either gas or solar-powered. GHB—“Get-home-bag.” A bag filled with items you’d need to keep in your car or at your workplace to aid you in getting home safely in case of a catastrophe. May include emergency food, water, meds, first-aid supplies, flashlight, tools, weapons, etc. GMO—“Genetically modified organism.” Not the same as “hybrid,” this refers to plants or animals in which a gene from one species is transferred to another, creating something artificial (not found in nature). Though hotly contested, many people believe that GMO foods and seeds are not safe for human consumption. Tests in mice have shown that after 2 or 3 generations of being fed GMO diets, they became sterile, and some actually grew hair in their mouths. Many preppers store non-GMO seeds to ensure the possibility of growing healthy, sustainable food supplies that don’t cause these problems. GOLDEN HORDE—Named for the Mongol hordes that overran and terrorized parts of the world in the 13th century, this refers to a mixed mob of desperate, lawless refugees and looters that would pour out of large metropolitan areas WTSHTF (see ‘W’).


HAM—A type of radio or also used to refer to an amateur radio operator—an extremely useful individual in shortwave radio communications who can often receive and send messages when no other way to communicate is available. HEIRLOOM SEEDS—seeds that are NOT hybrid and NOT GMO (see ‘G’). They come from plants that stay “true to form” planting after planting, from which new seeds may be gathered and kept for future plantings. Pumpkin seeds will produce the same kind of pumpkin, not an inedible pumpkin-like creation, and green bean seeds will continue to grow green beans. Also known as Millennium seeds, survival seeds, sustainable seeds, or preparedness seeds.


INCH—“I’m not (or never) coming home.” Coded message for family or housemates letting them know not to wait around for you, because you’ve “bugged out.” ISOLATED RETREAT—Another name for your BOL (see ‘B’). A privately-owned spot where a person could be almost completely self-sufficient in times of social lawlessness and trouble.


JIC—“Just in case.”


LARDER—A cool place to store food. Early American homesteaders had their larders in the coolest, shadiest part of the house. Preppers often have hidden or divided larders so that all of their store is not immediately obvious to potential intruders. LRP—“Long-Range Patrol.” A military term for an excursion in which the soldier is away from base camp for an extended period and must take food along. Ready to eat LRP rations are similar to MREs (see ‘M’). Many hikers, backpackers, and those who are prepping for possible evacuation purchase these. People who want a no-cook, ready to eat supply of food at home also purchase LRPs.


MAG—“Mutual aid (or assistance) group.” Individuals in a specific geographical location who meet for the purpose of sharing preparation ideas and planning for emergencies. MRE—“Meal Ready to Eat”. Military-style packaged entrees, side dishes, crackers or bread, desserts, etc. Popular as take-alongs for bug-out situations, hiking, camping, backpacking, or shelter-in-place food options. No cooking or water required.


OPSEC—Operational Security. The practice of keeping enemies from discovering your tactical plans. Sayings: “OPSEC is everyone’s responsibility.” and “Loose lips sink ships.” ORGANIC—Grown without benefit (or harm) of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. OTG—“Off the grid.” Self-sufficient, able to survive and thrive without participating in any community utilities or services such as water, sewer, electricity, or gas.


PEAK OIL—The point in time when the world’s oil supplies go into an irreversible decline, and people are forced to find other sources of energy. POLLYANNA—A person who is in denial about potential dangers of catastrophe, and always optimistic that nothing bad will happen to them. (Named for the title character of a popular children’s book series and movie, who always tried to find something positive in any situation.) PREP—Slang for “prepare.” PREPPER—One who prepares for any eventuality as best he can; a survivalist. PREPS—Preparations. PSK—“Personal Survival Kit,” aka PEK (Personal Emergency Kit). PTB—“The powers that be”—those in charge in any group, country, or community, including government and law enforcement.


SAFE ROOM—A fortified room or closet built into your home, preferably hidden, to which you and family members can run in case of intruders. It should be bullet-proof, have a good lock, an air source, a communications source, a flashlight, a store of emergency food and water, and comfort items as desired. SERE—Acronym for “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape.” SHEEPLE—People who allow themselves to be herded like sheep by the PTB (see ‘p’), who never question authority or prep for the future, believing that the government will always take care of them SIP—“Shelter in place,” bug-in, stay where you are when an emergency strikes SOLAR FLARE—A Coronal Mass Ejection or CME (see ‘C’). The danger would be in a massive solar flare directed at an inhabited part of the earth, where it would knock out the electrical grid and destroy all electronics.


TEOTWAWKI—“The End of the World as We Know It”—a time when all around us changes dramatically, including our way of life. The extreme situation for which all preppers try to be ready. This term was coined by James W. Rawls, who wrote a popular book called How to Survive the End of the World as we Know It—Tactics, Techniques, and Technology for Uncertain Times.


WROL—“Without rule of law.” A potentially lawless state of society. WTSHTF—“When the “stuff” or “expletive” hits the fan.” This refers to a time of extreme societal disturbance caused by widespread natural or man-made disaster, war, or famine. Panic, chaos, and looting will be prevalent.


YOYO—“You’re on your own.” A situation in which the government, at all levels, ceases to provide essential services such as water, utilities, fire and police protection, and phone service


ZOMBIES—the unfortunate people who did not plan or prepare for disrupted conditions WTSHTF (see ‘W’). They would be a direct threat to preppers because they’d be desperate and willing to attack for food, water, and shelter. They may appear famished and have sores and scabs from injuries or malnutrition, hence the name. Also a term in fictional novels, movies, and TV shows for dead people who come back to life and exist in a half-living/half-dead state. Sources:,UnqDT77n8ps

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