The 5 R’s: These Strategies Are Essential for Resilience


by Toby Cowern



The Five Strategic Rs comes from the original Urban Preparedness Workshops I used to teach many years ago. The Five Strategic R’s focus is to get people to think more into the overall impact of severe situations and aftermath. Once we look at preparedness, people tend to fixate on just the preparations.

The model we’ve built with the Seven Pillars holding up this Roof of Resilience says, “What your preparations will do is buy you a certain amount of peace of mind and “survivability” in a serious event.”

That’s great. However, you need to think about the likelihood of what type of events are going to happen.

In the “Dehydrated Blueberry Muffin Syndrome” video, we highlighted that people tend to anchor and fixate, never moving beyond the First Strategic R (Reduce impact on your Routine or lifestyle).

People tell themselves, “Yeah, I’m so well prepared. Nothing’s ever going to affect me. I’ll carry on as normal, no matter what.” And, that’s it.


Are You Putting All Your Energy and Resources Into the Wrong Thing?

I’m not even trying to put this nicely. To put it bluntly, we can allocate a considerable amount of time and effort into sometimes the wrong direction. And a classic I’m going to address here is firearms.

Let’s say you have $5,000 to spend on firearms. You begin thinking, “What should I buy?” (We get asked this question all the time.) The internet discussion will go around, and you will literally end up spending every dollar and cent of that $5,000 on hardware. (this rifle, this scope, this ammunition, these accessories, etc.)

First of all, divide your budget down. Look at spending $2,000 on a firearm and $3,000 on training. Having the correct use of it up to the level that you need to get depends on the circumstances you’re anticipating.

Related: 3 Reasons Why Prepared People Need Guns

Very often, people throw money at the problem in the physical purchase sense. They don’t think about knowledge and training or engagement with expert advice. We see this all over social media, “What should I do?” The simple and BEST answer is to see a lawyer. See a specialist. Pay a professional to give you the advice you need.

You are asking a very serious question and facing a severe dilemma. The consequences are monumental. Sure, solicit opinion in your Facebook group and look for support.

However, be prepared to put money on the table for an expert to answer the question for you. If you need a lawyer, pay for the best lawyer that you can afford. If you need professional advice, get it.

The vast majority of things that happen do fit within that first category. However, because we’re into preparedness and want to be smart in preparing, we MUST plan. It shouldn’t be an arbitrary list of items to purchase, either. We need to think in a bigger, better, more logical scale on that.

All of the empirical evidence and case studies show that things can move beyond that stage very quickly. We designed the remaining R’s to address that and get you in the headspace to plan and prepare for those things.

Following is a breakdown of the 5 Strategic Rs.


First Strategic R: Reduce

Reduce impact on Routine and/or lifestyle. A vast majority of efforts go into this R.

Example:You have made your assessment of reasonably foreseeable incidents. You have prepared yourself accordingly. Even if these events occur, you should be able to get to work or the kids to school. It would be best if you also had a contingency plan, so you are not too interrupted in your overall routine lifestyle.

Anticipate a relatively short-lived event, three days maximum, and get back to normal very quickly. Either maintain normality or a sense of normalcy throughout and/or returning to normal very quickly.

Related: Planning-What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


Second Strategic R: Repair

When prepping for the incident or issue, ask yourself the following:

Related: How to Survive a Flood-What I Learned in Venezuela

Insurance Checklist:

  • Have you got your inventory?
  • Have you got the ability to document the damage?
  • Have you got the ability to communicate that as necessary?
  • Are you capable of being as smooth as you can to get the authorization to get the work done as quickly as possible?

Because again, what we want to do is try to return to normal always. Always.

It is very easy to fixate on repairing in the physical sense, “My water system got damaged, the place got flooded, and I needed my carpets replaced, or the floors replaced.” But we want to think in broader terms.

BUY: The Prepper’s Book of Lists 


Repair can also mean in relationships.

It has been fascinating within the pandemic so far. We’ve got a slow-burning virus with very little damage to property. Even the central infrastructure is holding up very well. But what many people find is relationships, near family and even work relationships are becoming incredibly strained to the point of being stretched or broken. On the back of an incident or a disaster, damages occur within the family unit or the extended circle.

When looking at the most effective way to repair those relationships, where do you rate in the following:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Empathy
  • Active listening
  • Reasoning and understanding of other people
  • Motivated to do what is necessary

This could be an opportunity to flush out the deadwood.

Is it: “Well, I’m glad those people revealed themselves, and I’m not interested in repairing that relationship.”

or: “Wow, this was an unexpected occurrence. It doesn’t feel good at all. I need to take an active role in trying to fix that. “


Third Strategic R: Rebuild

Example: Total or catastrophic damage. You have a devastating, catastrophic event that’s massively impacting your lifestyle. (It can be total devastation, either in the physical terms, the buildings damaged, or in terms of damaged relationships.) You will not be returning to normal anytime soon. There is no fixing or repairing this.

Now, you need to look at rebuilding.

  • Is that something you want to do?
  • Is that something you can do?
  • Who’s paying for that?

Begin to look at the seriousness of the event and drift into the fourth and fifth strategic Rs. Ask yourself, “Am I going to undertake this total rebuild project? Or am I moving through to level 4?” (re-role or retire)


Fourth Strategic R: Re-role | Retire

If you are anticipating a re-role or retiring, seek expert help. Career coaches exist. Professionals that help you identify your skill set and employment opportunities exist. Get the help you need with preparing your resume, letter writing, interview style, and presentation. Maximize your chances by using these resources.

Be sure to make this investment in preparedness. We liken it to just another form of Insurance. You know, you pay your insurance premiums to offset the impact of things as they regrettably happen. It’s worthwhile investing in professional support and assistance if you’re getting to this stage.

Example: You have gone to review your entire asset and allocation pool after losing your job. Or, looking at late in life or not even late in life, you could be young in your career, but exceptionally wealthy. You want to see if you can escape the rat race and retire. You want to speak to an accountant about the best way to protect your assets. You don’t just throw it up on Insta, “What do you think, guys?”

Related: How to Prepare for What Comes Next

Numerous times in our lives, Selco and I have both gone to the lawyer, accountant, or the Career Coach with a specific question or concern. Paying them for their time has always been a worthwhile investment. I cannot think of a time when I’ve regretted making that payment purely because it’s either assuage my concerns or giving me a credible action plan.

Once we get to these advanced levels, people start to do weird things. One thing some of us tend is not to invest at all, and that is a mistake. Some of us have worked on the assumption, “I’m going to finish my education and work until I am 65. Then I am going to retire.”

The workplace is dynamic and ever-changing. Retirement might be an option; semi-retirement might be an option. But, if we had said nine months ago, a large percentage of the world could work from home, we would have been laughed out of every management conference and briefing in existence.

Yet here we are, that’s what happened. The workplace now offers all sorts of incredible opportunities in certain sectors. At the same time, other sectors are just getting decimated. Re-role / Retire is one of those items when we discussed it in previous workshops, was kind of ethereal, and people couldn’t visualize it. Whereas now that’s a reality that has come home to roost for some people.


Fifth Strategic R: Relocate

Example: Your region is devastated, and your area is compromised. We could be looking at either Chernobyl or Katrina style events. Or even your employment. It could be the principal employer that supported your entire existence in town has gone bankrupt. It has become clear that economic devastation is happening or is coming.

What do you do now? You have made the conscious decision, “I am going to move somewhere else.” That can be a temporary displacement. I.e., “I’m going to move there to come back here.” Or it could be, “Nope, I’m packing it up. I’m shutting it down. I’m relocating.”

Ask yourself:

  • Where am I going?
  • What am I doing?
  • How is ‘this and that’ affected?

Your real social network starts to bite in here, not superficial social media. We are talking about: what options do you have within the network you’ve created? Who can help you? Who can support you? Who can advise you? Is there anyone that can give you opportunities? Do you have anyone who can help you relocate and resettle?

Related: Leaving the City? Here’s What to Look for in a New Community


Quick Summary of The 5 Strategic Rs

  • First R: Reduce
  • Second R: Repair
  • Third R: Rebuild
  • Fourth R: Re-role / Retire
  • Fifth R: Relocate

The 5 Strategic Rs are aimed at people new to preparedness. We want to help you have that broader perspective. Don’t just have your shopping list of things to buy from a big store and believe you are prepared.

However, even if you have been preparing for a long time and haven’t factored in the Five Strategic Rs, this is an excellent opportunity to sit down, take stock, and go through these sequentially. Think about their impact, their likely impact, or their potential impact on you. Not only now, but in the future and work your game plan from there.

Hope that helps.

About Toby

Toby has an extensive background in the military, emergency services, risk management, and business continuity, combined with applied wilderness and urban survival skills. He discusses personal safety, security, and the crossover of military skills to the average civilian.


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