Survival Decision Game “Lights Out”

Test your skills and knowledge on how you would react to a situation involving a major event in our current modern world.  How much does your family rely on electricity?  Would your world come crashing down without it? Would you survive?  Would your family survive?

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By Mark P, a contributing author to


You, your spouse, and two young children live in a Metropolitan apartment in the Northeastern United States.  The week before Christmas you wake up with no power.  You Doomsday Preppersturn on the faucets and the water works but there doesn’t seem to be any hot water.  You step outside and your neighbors are looking out of their doors and you all are in the same predicament – no power, no hot water and it is supposed to be a cold day again today.

You hear via a neighbor that the entire state is without power.  Your car works so you drive to work but the doors are closed and there is a sign on the door that says the office is closed until the power is restored.

Now it is day 5, the water no longer works, no more food in the fridge or the pantry, no stored water, and your toilets are starting to back up.  From all reports you can gather via word of mouth, this is occurring nationwide – no power or running water and cell phone coverage is completely unreliable.  There are no estimates on when the power will be back on.  What do you do now?

By day 7 your location is no longer sustainable… your neighbors are beating on your door to see if you will share some food, you see groups of people scavenging through the streets looking for food, water and whatever they can steal of value.


Get out of dodge! ASAP!  If you can.

You have the following options:

  • Your 1st cousin is 1 hour away, West of the city… not really a prepper, just an Average Joe.  He lives in a small town that has an agriculture based economy.  In this town, he is an elementary school teacher.  You have never known him to hunt or own guns.  There are no large towns or cities between you and your cousin.
  • Your parents are 3 hours South of your location, your Dad is former military and has a few guns and is a big hunter and has a good Doomsday Preppersfreezer full of food, a wood stove and a generator.  They live in a rural area with few neighbors.  There are two major cities between you and your parent’s home.  You have never taken the back highway system to your parents home and the weather can be bad in December.  You are unsure about the interstate highway system.
  • Your close friend from college lives in the suburbs, 35 minutes North on a good day with no traffic.  He has been talking about prepping for years.  You haven’t spoken with him in awhile but you have been to his house within the last two years.  You know that last time you saw him, he was living alone with his dog in a small house.  You have no idea if he has extra food or weapons.  You just know he considers himself sort of a survivalist.
  • You have heard that there is a Government shelter seven blocks from your apartment.  You have not been there but your neighbor says Doomsday Preppersthat you can get blankets, water and warm food.  The downside is they only will give you enough food to feed a family for one day so you have to return the next day.  Also, you are unsure how much food they have.  All of the bad elements of the city are taking full advantage of the situation and things look grim around your apartment building.

What do you do???


Your main routes out of the city is a major North/South interstate on the Eastern Seaboard of the US or a small four lane highway that runs East/West from the city.  Discuss your primary and alternate route.  Discuss what you will do if your primary route is not sustainable, what will you do if you encounter a gang, a roadblock, and if you run out of gas

Administration and Logistic

You own two small cars.  One of the cars happens to be nearly out of gas and the other has 3/4 of a tank.  You have a total of 4 MREs from the Doomsday Prepperstrunks of your cars and some miscellaneous food from your kitchen, maybe enough food for two days.  You have one gallon of water and no purification kits.  In your apartment storage closet, you have one 5 gallon fuel can which is full and two bicycles.  You have no bike rack for your car.  You have a 9mm pistol with 120 rounds of ammo.  You have a basic 1stAid kit in your car and a cell phone charger.  You also have everything that a modern apartment would have in the city (bedding, kitchen utensils, furniture, electronics, clothes, luggage, limited tools).  Your children are ages 3 & 5.   You and your wife are in moderately good health but you are not triathletes.  You have no camping supplies.  You have a small amount of cash between you and your wife, about $120.00 – you also have credit cards and ATM cards with available credit exceeding $10,000 provided someone will accept them.  You have no gold or silver or other barter items.  It is December in the Northeastern United States, it is cold out.

Command and Signal

You have 2 handheld Motorola radios with working batteries and an extra 4 pack.  You also have a hand crank radio that your father bought you for Christmas a few years ago. You have a cell phone and charger – service has been hit/miss.  You have not been able to reach anyone with your mobile phone but your neighbor claims he spoke to his brother in Chicago with his mobile phone.  He has the same phone service provider as you, AT&T.


In 1000 words or less issue your “Get out of Dodge” or your “Stay Put” orders to your family!  Choose your bug out or bug in location.  Explain the situation, your mission – who what when where why you are going to get to your bug out location.  Explain how you are going to get there (or why you would stay put) – car, bike, by foot, etc. Explain what will happen if you get separated, if you encounter danger, if you have to change routes (you do have road maps of the area).  Explain your food, water, ammo, 1st aid and fuel situation.  How will you get more gas?  How will you get more food?  Explain how you will communicate.

Use the Military Warning Order Format.  (Google Marine Corps Orders process – OSMEAC, SMEAC, Warning Order, SALUTE, METT+T and BAMCIS) Keep the information brief, succinct and logical.  Ensure you address my requirements above and include any pertinent information while keeping in mind this is a Warning Order and not a full Mission Order.  When you are doing your planning always consider the following:

M     – MISSION,what is your mission and how will you ensure mission accomplishment?

E    – ENEMY, what is the current enemy situation?  How can they do you harm?

T     – TERRAIN + WEATHER, what is the environment you are working in?  How will the terrain and weather affect your movement, food, water, etc.  How will it affect your family (friends, troops, etc.) and how will it affect the ENEMY

T    – TROOPS + FIRE SUPPORT AVAILABLE, who is going with you?  What assets do you have?  Who else can you rely on?  What firepower do you have at your disposal to protect yourself?  What does the ENEMY have to kill you???

T    – TIME AVAILABLE, how much time do you have to do the following???
(See Below)

B    – BEGIN PLANNING – look at your possible courses of action and begin your planning – execution, administration and logistics, command and signal

A    – ARRANGE RECONNAISSANCE – if you can, recon the area, route, maybe you’ve done this already rehearsing your plans, do you survival bloghave assets available to do this and help you?

M    – MAKE RECONNAISSANCE – start your recon – individually or with others in your party.  What is the mission of your recon? Confirm your route?  Find a route? Identify threats – enemy, choke points, danger areas, etc.  What is the link-up plan if they don’t return?  Signal plan?

C    -COMPLETE THE PLAN – from your recon and course of action planning, complete your plan with the best information you have in the amount of time you have available. Remember an 80% solution issued NOW! Is better than a 100% solution issued hours from now!

I    – ISSUE THE ORDER – issue a clear, concise, order and prepare for contingencies. Ensure your order is not easy to understand, but make sure it is not easily MISUNDERSTOOD!

S    – SUPERVISE! The most important step in your mission planning.  Make sure your people are doing what is necessary to complete your mission – packing, checking and double checking gear, rehearsing, studying your route, studying your communication signals, etc.


A thorough METT+T analysis should be looked at and updated during your BAMCIS planning.  It is okay to revise your order, recon, route, etc. as the situation changes, evolves and dictates.

Don’t fall in love with your plan, especially if the environment and the enemy situation changes!  Don’t be inflexible.  Your life will depend on it!

Please send all responses for the Survival Decision Game to joel (at) – Subject Line “Lights Out – SDG” – All Entries must be received by March 31st, 2014.  Responses should be 300 to 1000 words.  The top three responses will be posted on Survival Cache under this post and receive the prizes below.  The responses will be judged by the team at

1st Prize – Parry Blade Survival Knife or a Gift Certificate for $300

2nd Prize – Parry Blade Hunter or a Gift Certificate for $240

3rd Prize – Cold Steel SRK Knife or a Gift Certificate for $95

Photos By:
Drew Gaines
Martin Lopatka

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12 thoughts on “Survival Decision Game “Lights Out””

  1. Excellent exercise!

    Just this past year, I had the chance to put a couple survival considerations into action and not just for fun.

    The first was a very important upcoming family trip. The flu was moving around fairly well knocking down many friends and neighbors. The schools district was reporting a quarter of the students out sick in some classes. We (I?) drew the line. We pulled up stakes, called the school, and left town to our secluded “other location” to ride out the week till we flew overseas.

    While there were no guarantees that the virus would not catch up with us at the airport or on a plane, but we took serious precautions while in crowds, watched what we ate, and what we touched. And yes, the trip was wonderful. Thanks for asking.

    The next situation that went real was when we had a fast, sudden, hard and vicious double-digit sub-zero snap. Some areas lost power, and there were plenty of frozen water pipes. Given the instability of predictable weather patterns lately due to climate change , I took a quick inventory of my heating options and noticed that almost all of them were not portable, and mostly independent of each other. Fireplaces, gas logs, furnaces, etc. are fixed. Camp stoves are poor sources of ambient heat, and I was facing the same connectivity issues as Apollo 13.

    In the past I was more likely to roll the dice on a situation like this, but with kids, elderly parents, and an increased pressure on resources, I took the situation more seriously then we usually do here in Montana.

    The remedy was to quickly acquire various propane hoses, fittings and regulators that would allow interconnectivity multiple propane sources from one-pound bottles to 20 lb. tanks all with mobility in mind. It also took some education to learn about the intricacies of propane hookups, pressure regulation, and above all, safety.

    Taking stock of the hopefully successful planning, the next step was to assess the stove aspects. With minimal effort, I now also had five stove and fuel combinations with butane (JetBoil), natural gas (kitchen range/furnace/water heater) propane (barbecue and Coleman), white gas (Coleman and MSR International), and gasoline (Coleman and MSR International).

    The final reality check was panning my bug out route. Actually planning is a misnomer. I had one route in mind. Three different events caused me to study the backroads and alternates because it was obvious that one main was not enough.

    The first event was a major forest fire. Due to the proximity of the fire to a highway, the road was closed with the National Guard only allowing residents to pass into the “restricted” area. Literally, two humvees were blocking the road with camo-clad shaved baby-faces stopping all vehicles. As we approached the checkpoint with what was eerily-like a movie set including the occasional helicopter and ominous dark clouds of smoke in the background, I realized how easy it would be for martial law to stop me dead in my bug out tracks. Luckily since were were property owners, the soldiers couldn’t care less about us, but most other cars and trucks had to make U-turns the in the pullout where the humvees were thoughtfully parked.

    I figure that for about seven months out of the year I can circumvent most paved roads if needed with my truck. I also figured out a few wilderness options that would likely turn travel hours into days or weeks, but still arrive at the same point. Of course the logistics for that have their own set of considerations.

    In the end, I was lucky enough to use the experiences as trial runs and reality checks. But in the big picture, it became obvious, just as this article encourages, I used the situations to learn, imagine, and ultimately better prepare.

    Thanks again for this article. While I really wish we could prepare for everything, at least getting the obvious covered will make a dramatic difference in how you can allocate your resources when you enter the unimagined. And hopefully the competitive atmosphere of this contest pushes the readers to new levels of preparedness.

  2. I have a bug in and bug out plan in place with my group but after reading the above material it gave me thought for a couple of situtations that I had not planned for. Mike

  3. This scenario is almost like What I would face.I live in South Jersey and my parents are a little farther away.West Virginia.I would have to bypass Wilmington De,and Baltimore Md.My kids are 10 and 13,my son has killed a couple deer already and my daughter can shoot a .22 rifle.I am already a prepper and outdoorsman.I am ex Army my wife is ex law enforcement.I will be bugging out with a 12 gauge shotgun with 00 buckshot and a .357 mag(I will be able to kill anything in the northeast)my wife has a beretta m9,my son a 20 gauge shotgun with slugs and my daughter has a 10/22.I am also a backpacker I have maps of every state I will travel through as well as a road atlas and keep extra fuel on hand.I Love this website.

  4. Loved this exercise! My son and my father are in-name-only "preppers", while the bulk of all activity, planning and preparation are left to me (mom). As you can imagine, it's an overwhelming process. On a good day, in areas I'm not so familiar with, I'm not the most organized person so this exercise has helped me focus better. I hope there will be more like this in coming editions. Thank you!

    • @Miss Cindy; Don't let it overwhelm you. You are apparently the adult in the room. Good leadership starts with good examples and you seem to be doing that. While some "grasshoppers" will play while the "ant" works, most people seem to get the message when the chips are down. One way to "co-opt" dad and son into the plan is to have them do little things that aren't OBVIOUSLY prepping, but things that "you need their help with" so that they participate without really knowing. Keep the faith and fight the good fight. It may be needed soon??? Be well.

  5. Does anybody here know where I can find the E-mail to send my submission to Jole?
    This looks like a very interesting challenge, something for me to do in my free time this month.

  6. @All; Never found this site before, but I like it. I have written for some of the other sites and have been/am a regular on a couple. I have always preached that you should live in your BOL!!! Period. How much money do you make that your family doesn't come first? Moving to a more amenable survival location isn't nearly as hard as people think. If you can afford rent/mortgage and taxes in (insert northeastern state//super metro area here) and are a modestly skilled worker, you can make a living somewhere else. Will there be museums, the arts and theater? NO. But you and your family will be safer. If you lived next to a nuclear power plant, would you not move? What's the difference? I'm not trying to put anyone down for where they live….though I would bring up why you don't move to a safer place for your family. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make….is that this exercise is less likely to be needed if some thought and consideration is given to where you SHOULD LIVE, instead of where you are living, especially if affects your family's survival. IMHO. Be well.

  7. Fun test. No camping gear was a challenge because that would be my 1st stop. Did they ever post their decisions on winners? I didn’t see anything here.

  8. I live in southern New Jersey. It’s pretty rural where I live. I plan to bug in with my group. But this is great if we do face bugging out. !

  9. power out, I'm out waiting is like STUPID it is easier to say I had a bladder infection and go back to work
    than hang around and face TEOTWAWKI or just a very inconvenient week with crabby people.

    just take food water and clothing and an alternative heat source I like a propane heater that uses 1 pound bottles.
    and or anything else you might have for bugging out if you plan on never returning and it works out that way your ahead of the game. if not it like moving in when you get back.

    Second guessing is fatal I don't care what any talking head on some survival show has to say one salient point
    has anyone bothered to visit a National Cemetery ? there are a lot of bad azzes buried there so being a ninja kung fu grip warrior of the 7th dan clan does not exempt you from getting dead.

    have a plan if there is a serious change in local events take a few days away to sort it all out whats the big deal
    if your wrong so what you only have to be wrong once at the wrong time and your toast.

    it's like working with electricity in a junction box out of all those wires only one has to be HOT and your in trouble.


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