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Preparedness Drills

We do these “preparedness drills” to better understand our shortfalls and where we excel in situations. You probably have or have had drills on things before. If you played sports you might have done something over and over again so that you got better at it during an actual game. You probably did fire drills at your office or school. These drills were done so that if an actual fire happens you know what you and other are doing and where they are going.

Drills are done to better mentally and physically prepare you and your loved ones by:

Improving confidence:  They give you the confidence you need to react in a meaningful way during a stressful situation.
Improving reaction:  They are in place so that you act quickly and precisely.
Improving equipment:  They are done so that when you act, you do so with the right equipment at the right time.

Many professionals do these types of drills. Paramedics, fire fighters, law enforcement officers, and soldiers. They act as professions. They act as a unit. They act as a family.

I was in the military and will use the military as an example.

When you are in the military, you are in a unit that could be deployed at any time. Troops need to be able to very quickly deploy with all of the personal gear, vehicles, maintenance equipment, weapons, etc. Each individual being deployed brings many of the same basic items that every other soldier is bringing. These would be things like a sleeping bag, knife, firearm, ammunition, medic pouch, clothing, identification tags (dog tags), etc. Everybody has these items because they are items each person needs to have. Each individual also brings different items, depending on their responsibilities or MOS. A cook would need to take everything they need to feed the unit. A medic would need to bring all of the supplies they need to field dress wounds. Communications needs to bring their maintenance tools and extra radios.

All of these soldiers are trained to use their personal gear as well as their job specific gear. They are trained on what they have, basic maintenance of the items, how to store the items and so on.

Soldiers also train on what everybody else’s job is and how to interact with the other members of the unit. They understand what the other members job is and what they are responsible for. In many instances they are cross trained so that one can perform the others duty if necessary. They are trained on this in different stages and capacities at different times. Sometimes they will do a partial drill which only includes a certain portion of a possible deployment.

Usually these drills are done in levels.

Level 1 Drill: Everybody grabs all of their personal gear and gets ready to go.
Level 2 Drill: Everybody grabs all of their personal gear, loads all of their equipment into vehicles or containers, loads all personal gear into their deployment vehicle.
Level 3 Drill: Everybody does level 2 drill and deploys to a training location.


Doing these drills, keep your equipment up to date and within standards. The drills help you recognize what is required, where the equipment is located, and how to use the equipment efficiently. Without the drills, your equipment would likely be stored somewhere and you would have to stop and think about where they are and if they are in good condition. The process of stopping to think could take time from you in a situation where every second counts.

During a drill, you should be writing down everything on two separate logs. One for all of the things that were done right and one for everything that needs improvement. If you did not have enough of something, it gets logged. If something you had was not enough or broke down, it gets logged. If a process needs improvement or is not done quickly enough, it gets logged.

Mental Preparation

105 Cav QRF

These drills are not only about stuff but also help to mentally prepare you for actions. These drills are done in repetition in order to instill a mental process so that you can act under pressure. As a first responder, you practice first aid drills repeatedly. You do these first aid drills many times and do not stop. This repetition helps when reacting to a live situation in which people are severely injured, and the first responder is placed into a high stress situation.

In the military this is called establishing muscle memory. The soldier will practice S.P.O.R.T.S with their M16/M4 rifle over and over again. Sports is performed when the weapon misfires or jams. It stands for Slap the bottom of the magazine, Pull the charging handle to the rear, Observe the chamber for an ejection of the round, Release the charging handle, Tap the forward assist, Squeeze the trigger again. This ensures that, even in a high stress situation, you can still perform actions that you would otherwise have to stop and think about. In the case of sports, you are in a firefight and all of a sudden your rifle is not firing. In this life and death situation the soldier does not want to stop and think about what he needs to do in order to get the rifle firing again. Because he has performed SPORTS many times while in a safe environment, the soldier can perform the action without thinking about what to do. It comes second nature. The soldier does not have to stop and think to himself, okay I need to slap the magazine into place and then pull the charging handle to the rear… they just do it.

The same goes with the Level 1-3 drills I mentioned in the beginning. By doing these exercises they are not only ensuring their equipment is always ready to go, they are mentally preparing by repetition so that they instinctively know exactly where they need to go and what their role is. The military has what is called a QRF (Quick Reaction Force). This is usually a small unit that is always on call and has their equipment and minds ready in case of an attack. If their base getts attacked, the QRF team stops whatever they are doing, grabs their gear (which is already packed and ready to go), deploys to their vehicles, performs a quick function test of their equipment, checks that everybody they are responsible for is present, and than meets the assaulter. They are able to do this very quickly and efficiently because they have practiced doing it so many times that it is instilled into their minds. They instinctively perform each of these actions.

This can apply to anything that you know you will have to do in an emergency. Let’s look at something simple as an example. The power goes out at 2300 hours (11:00 PM). Without thinking about it, you go to the kitchen counter and pull out a flashlight. If you practice this very same scenario over and over again, you will perform this action without thinking. If not, you will stop and ask yourself “where is a flashlight?”

One more example. Paramedics and first responders will know exactly what you mean if you ask them what the ABC’s of CPR are. A.B.C. stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation.



      • If a person has collapsed, determine if the person is unconscious. Gently prod the victim and shout, “Are you okay?” If there is no response, shout for help. Call 911 or your local emergency number.CPRColor
      • If the person is not lying flat on his or her back, roll him or her over, moving the entire body at one time.
      • Open the person’s airway. Lift up the chin gently with one hand while pushing down on the forehead with the other to tilt the head back. (Do not try to open the airway using a jaw thrust for injured victims. Be sure to employ this head tilt-chin lift for all victims, even if the person is injured.)
      • If the person may have suffered a neck injury, in a diving or automobile accident, for example, open the airway using the chin-lift without tilting the head back. If the airway remains blocked, tilt the head slowly and gently until the airway is open.
      • Once the airway is open, check to see if the person is breathing.
      • Take 5 to 10 seconds (no more than 10 seconds) to verify normal breathing in an unconscious adult, or for the existence or absence of breathing in an infant or child who is not responding.
      • If opening the airway does not cause the person to begin to breathe, it is advised that you begin providing rescue breathing (or, minimally, begin providing chest compressions).

Breathing (Rescue Breathing)

Breathing (Rescue Breathing)

      • Pinch the person’s nose shut using your thumb and forefinger. Keep the heel of your hand on the person’s forehead to maintain the head tilt. Your other hand should remain under the person’s chin, lifting up.
      • Inhale normally (not deeply) before giving a rescue breath to a victim.
      • Immediately give two full breaths while maintaining an air-tight seal with your mouth on the person’s mouth. Each breath should be one second in duration and should make the victim’s chest rise. (If the chest does not rise after the first breath is delivered, perform the head tilt-chin lift a second time before administering the second breath.) Avoid giving too many breaths or breaths that are too large or forceful

Circulation (Chest Compressions)

Circulation (Chest Compressions)

      • After giving two full breaths, immediately begin chest compressions (and cycles of compressions and rescue breaths). Do not take the time to locate the person’s pulse to check for signs of blood circulation.
      • Kneel at the person’s side, near his or her chest.
      • With the middle and forefingers of the hand nearest the legs, locate the notch where the bottom rims of the rib cage meet in the middle of the chest.
      • Place the heel of the hand on the breastbone (sternum) next to the notch, which is located in the center of the chest, between the nipples. Place your other hand on top of the one that is inposition. Be sure to keep your fingers up off the chest wall. You may find it easier to do this if you interlock your fingers.
      • Bring your shoulders directly over the person’s sternum. Press downward, keeping your arms straight. Push hard and fast. For an adult, depress the sternum about a third to a half the depth of the chest. Then, relax pressure on the sternum completely. Do not remove your hands from the person’s sternum, but do allow the chest to return to its normal position between compressions. Relaxation and compression should be of equal duration. Avoid interruptions in chest compressions (to prevent stoppage of blood flow).
      • Use 30 chest compressions to every two breaths (or about five cycles of 30:2 compressions and ventilations every two minutes) for all victims (excluding newborns). You must compress at the rate of about 100 times per minute.
      • Continue CPR until advanced life support is available.


There are a lot of steps here. All of these steps are done without having to think too hard about each one. They have done these drills so many times that doing them has become second nature.


You should set goals for your reaction time and continue doing the drill until you meet your goals. Once you have met those goals consistently you should set higher goals.

For example:

My goal is that if we need to evacuate the house with all of my family members, their equipment and some common (used by all) equipment need to be loaded into the vehicle. I will conduct this drill at a time when I recognize that I am least prepared to do this drill. Maybe I am sitting on my butt watching TV at the time. My goal is that we are ready to drive away from the house with everything we need to survive within ten minutes.

It took us about twelve of these drills before we met our ten minute goal. The goal was than changed from ten minutes to eight minutes. We then did the drill until we hit an eight minute completion time. In the military, we would have conducted this drill back to back, over and over again, until we met the goal. With your family this can become very stressful, and mutiny can arise. Because of this, it is best if you conduct these drills with a reasonable amount of down time between each. Not only will this help with morale, but it will allow you to conduct a more realistic drill.

Which Drills are Right for My Family and Me?

This is determined by your risk assessment. If you have not already done a risk assessment, I recommend you do so before you start doing drills. This will help you in determining which drills are the most relevant to you and your family and which need the most attention. A risk assessment is basically evaluating what is most likely going to have a negative impact on you or your family. You are more likley to have a death in the family or suffer from a job loss than you are to have a nuclear bomb go off in your area. In my area the chances of the electricity going down for a week are higher than the chances of a riot. Therefore, I will first drill for power outages before I drill for defending my property.

I recommend you write down a list of the top twenty events that could affect your family. Just write them down in any order as they come to mind. Then organize that list by most probable.

The Preparedness Drills Column

There are many drills that can be done, from simple power outage reaction to complex medical actions. In this column, I will be covering many of these drills in detail. My hope is that everybody will perform at least some of these drills. They could save you and your family one day!


About Josiah Wallingford

Profile photo of Josiah Wallingford
Josiah Wallingford is a full time prepper and Permaculture Design enthusiast. He began his journey into the preparedness world in 2008. His major influences in life have been his family, friends and mentors which include Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast. Josiah has taken many walks in life for only being in his late twenties. He has worked for Hewlett Packard as a Technical Support Trainer, spent eight years in the US Army and has toured to Afghanistan. Josiah was a video on demand and network installer for Quadriga before his most recent endeavor of interning with Jack Spirko and creating Brink of Freedom. He lives with his lovely wife Holly Wallingford in their beautiful north west of Montana homestead.

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