The CARVER Method For Preppers

The CARVER Method For Preppers

The CARVER Method is an analytical anti-terrorism tool used by the U.S. Army for determining what assets are critical to a unit’s mission success and how vulnerable  those assets are.  By utilizing the CARVER Method Army leaders are able to better protect those assets and mitigate the effects of the loss of those assets.  This same tool can be used by preppers to accomplish their survival mission.  Here’s how I’ve adapted the CARVER Method For Preppers: 

As mentioned above, The CARVER Method For Preppers is an analytical tool to help you determine the criticality and vulnerability of your preparedness assets.  This tool aids in determining not only how to allocate your resources to protect your critical assets but also how to reduce your vulnerability to the loss of critical assets.

CARVER is an acronym used as a mnemonic device which represents the key features of this analytical tool.  CARVER refers to Criticality, Accessibility, Recuperability, Vulnerability, Effect and Recognizability.


Refers to how rapidly the destruction of the asset will lead to mission failure which in our case is survival.  For example:  If you live alone above the arctic circle your cabin is a critical asset because it protects you from the elements during the harsh arctic winter.


How easy is it for others to gain access to your asset.  For example:  A weapons rack visible in the garage when the garage door is often left open is easily accessible to any passerby.


How long will the loss of this asset take to repair or replace.  For Example:  the loss of water from a rain catchment barrel when the spigot is accidentally left open may be rapidly recuperable if there’s a pond behind your house but may not be if you live in a desert environment.


Is the asset resistant to damage or guarded, are there other measures in place to mitigate loss?  For Example:  A root cellar with a heavily fortified door is less vulnerable to fire or theft than a wooden food storage structure above ground.


What effect will the loss or discovery of this asset have on your family and community.  For Example:  The loss of a family pet left outside to a hungry neighbor might upset your children but the fact that you’re sitting on a stockpile of food becoming public knowledge during a period of starvation could have disastrous effects on your family’s safety and security.


Is the asset clearly recognizable by others as a possible target?  For Example:  The root cellar we mentioned above  isn’t very recognizable as a target for food thieves if it is completely below ground, has a camouflaged or hidden entrance and you only visit it after dark.  The chicken coop in the backyard with your rooster crowing every morning will be very recognizable as a food source to the local starving masses.

When considering what assets to list on your CARVER analysis you should think of your survival ‘systems’ and a handy way to consider these systems is to use the 10 Fundamentals of Full Spectrum Preparedness Doctrine and identify the most critical, accessible, least recuperable, vulnerable, most disastrous effects and the most recognizable elements of each system.  As you may recall, Full Spectrum Preparedness Doctrine includes:

  • Security Preparedness:  Those items, knowledge and skills necessary for your family and provision’s security.  Includes all aspects of security including, but not limited to physical (barriers), operational (stealth, keeping a low profile) as well as self defense items and skills. 
  • Health (Personal), Fitness and Medicine Preparedness:  This fundamental includes everything needed to keep you and your family healthy that’s not more appropriate to another fundamental.  Including, but not limited to the skills and stuff related to first aid, necessary medicines, sanitation and of course fitness. 
  • Transportation Preparedness:  Those skills and items necessary to support your family’s preparedness needs.  This may be the wheelbarrow you require to haul water or the vehicle you plan to use to bug out. 
  • Family & Community Support:  These are the family and community networks and ties that keep you sane, focused and help you plug any holes you discover in your preps after it’s too late. 
  • Food Preparedness:  Food storage, food preparation and the knowledge and skills necessary to acquire food and keep yourself fed.
  • Financial Preparedness:  These are your savings, stored wealth and the skills that allow you to ‘make a living’ even in the toughest times (think barter-able skills in a worst case scenario).
  • Water Preparedness:  Water storage, water purification and the knowledge and skills necessary to acquire safe, potable water as well as safe water for sanitation purposes.
  • Communications Preparedness:  Those skills and items necessary to maintain communications within your family or group as well as with the outside would.
  • Cognitive, Mental & Spiritual Preparedness:  This is the most important fundamental.  This fundamental incorporates the ‘will to live’ the ability to adapt and the strength that comes from believing in a higher power.

Your CARVER analysis will help you to identify asset criticality, determine risks and prioritize security and protection.  It is frequently expressed as a matrix where key assets, capabilities, and even individuals can be listed.  In the Army we look at five different categories of risk in a CARVER analysis but for preparedness purposes I’m simplifying that to three levels and here’s how they relate to each CARVER criteria:


  1. Negligible Risk:  No or insignificant damage to family or group survivability do to the loss of this asset
  2. Moderate Risk:  Measurable impact on family or group survivability
  3. Catastrophic Risk:  Significantly reduces the chances of family or group survivability


  1. Negligible Risk:  Very difficult to access.  Very well protected and/or protected by multiple methods such as guards, hardened structures, etc.
  2. Moderate Risk:  Accessible though moderately difficult to reach.  For example well locked behind a steel door but not guarded.
  3. Catastrophic Risk:  Easily accessible.  Not locked or poorly secured behind a hollow core door with no security.


  1. Negligible Risk:  Easily replaceable or not necessary to survive.
  2. Moderate Risk:  Replaceable with moderate difficulty or reduces likelihood of survival but not truly necessary
  3. Catastrophic Risk:  Irreplaceable


  1. Negligible Risk:  Invulnerable
  2. Moderate Risk: Moderately vulnerable to theft, destruction, etc.
  3. Catastrophic Risk:  Very vulnerable theft, destruction, etc.


  1. Negligible Risk:  No effect or positive effect within the local population
  2. Moderate Risk:  Instills negative feelings from the local population towards your family or group
  3. Catastrophic Risk:  Turns the local population against your family or group. Draws the unwanted attention of groups of antagonists. 


  1. Negligible Risk:  Asset not easily recognizable as a target
  2. Moderate Risk:  Asset difficult to recognize as a target without specialized knowledge or difficult to see but recognizable as a target if seen.
  3. Catastrophic Risk:  Clearly recognizable as a target in most conditions and with no special training. 

Once you populate your matrix (see sample below), assign a risk factor to each item with ‘3’ representing Catastrophic Risk, ‘2’ representing Moderate Risk and ‘1’ representing Negligible Risk based on the CARVER criteria.  Total up the Risk points and the highest total requires the most attention in the form of mitigation, controls and/or backups.  Select appropriate actions such as:

  • Reduce Criticality:  Develop backups, duplicates some of which may be off site
  • Reduce Accessibility:  Control access by vehicles or pedestrians through the use of barriers and/or guards.  Also consider alarms, motion sensors, locks, etc.
  • Reduce Recoverability:  Store replacement parts to rebuild critical components
  • Reduce Vulnerability:  Harden the structure and environment against penetration by potential adversaries
  • Reduce Effect:  Work hard to generate goodwill within your community beginning today to offset any potential negative effects that occur in future difficult times.
  • Reduce Recognizability:  Utilize cover and concealment as well as hiding easily recognizable targets inside buildings or under plant cover (make sure to plan for seasonal variations).

Remember that while the original military tool was designed to counter terrorist attacks, as preppers we’re concerned with any potential loss including loss by seizure, theft, fire, EMP, CME, weather loss, etc.

One interesting thing about the matrix is that the most important things don’t always generate the highest priority.  In the sample below family ends up as priority 5 behind Home, Garden, Food Storage and Seasoned Firewood based on our six criteria and the mitigation factors already implemented.  This may sound wrong but consider that those items are not only more vulnerable to attack, but they also contribute to the safety, security and well being of our family.  The ranking doesn’t mean that family is less important, it just directs how we allocate resources to provide for our safety and survival.

While the CARVER Method described above is an especially useful analytical tool when completed in the formal manner described, it also can be used informally by running through the mnemonic CARVER while building or maintaining your preps.

CARVER Method For Preppers

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