What is a “burn rate”?  It is simply the period of time it takes to go through a given commodity or resource.  Establishing burn rates are important since it is those burn rates that will help determine how much of an commodity or resource you store before an incident and burn rates will also help you manage your resources in a post-incident environment.  

In the Prepping world we already have a few burn rates established.  The amount of calories and water we need per day are for the most part for bare minimums.  That is we know we need about 2,000 calories of food and about a gallon of water per day.  Many preppers use these figures to store their food and water preps but have we taken into account other variables that may increase our “burn rates” in a post-end-of-the-world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) environment?

For example, would it be wise to use the burn rate for Bandaids for TEOTWAWKI based on how many bandaids we used in a given year before TEOTWAWKI?  We do not have crystal balls to tell the future but it is a safe assumption that there will be more injuries post TEOTWAWKI, as more and more people resort to manual labor for daily survival.  Establishing burn rates now will help you develop targets and manage your prepper budget.  For example, if you determine your burn rate for bandaids is 10 per week per person and there are 4 people in your prepper group or family you would need to put away 2,080 bandaids for each year you want to be prepared for.  

I have dealt with pre-disaster logistics in my former job and establishing burn rates is an art.  Many people will look at normal and/or what I call one-dimensional variables.  That is we say “oh in one week I ‘normally’ use maybe one bandage”, but we do not take into account that TEOTWAWKI will be anything but normal.  There are many times I get a small cut that I do not use a bandaid today because I am able to wash my hands frequently with a good soap and we live in a much more sanitary environment but those “variable” will change after TEOTWAWKI, so our burn rates need to account for this.  

It is the identification of all these variables that will allow us to realistically establish burn rates thus allowing us to better budget and set purchase goals for our preps.  I will caution against just using arbitrary numbers to “pad” your preps.  For example, many of us my be tempted to say “I need 2,080 bandaids based on my burn rate but just to be safe I will add 10%.”  That 10% extra (208 bandaids) may not be a realistic number.  That is why it is important to go through the mental exercise of looking for situations (variables) that will influence your use of stuff post-TEOTWAWKI.  If cousin Eddy shows up and he is a valuable human resource but is a klutz that you do not send packing will the extra 10% be enough bandaids?  

Once TEOTWAWKI happens, tracking your burn rates and comparing them to your pre-TEOTWAWKI rates will be important.  Why?  If you planned on using 40 bandaids per week but you see that you are burning through double the quantity that you had planned and take action to address the potential shortage.  Those actions can include bartering for more bandages, providing a “safety briefing” to the group/family that they must be more careful not to get small cuts, using other types of first aid materials like gauze pads and medical tape, etcetera. It is imperative that you have a good logistics apparatus in place before and after TEOTWAWKI.  Logistics wins wars and logistics are fundamental to a good disaster response.  You do not want to find yourself in the position of needing something only to find out the last one was used yesterday.  Good preppers have inventory sheets with all their stocks of stored goods but GREAT preppers have practices in place to track and extrapolate how long a given commodity or resource will last.  

We discussed pre-identifying variables that will impact your burn rates and we also discussed how tracking your burn rates are important post-TEOTWAWKI.  One of the other steps we can take before TEOTWAWKI is to try and identify strategies to address shortages in our preps once TEOTWAWKI happens.  For example, let us assume that you put away 50 gallons of kerosene, 1,000 emergency candles and 6 battery-operated 1,000 Lumen lanterns.  Unfortunately, the four lanterns only lasted four weeks of use before the end result of inferior Chinese manufacturing reared its ugly head. (This is another real variable that you have to account for as well).  Luckily you have other sources of light to make up for the loss of the lanterns but do you have pre-identified priorities for the reduced number of lanterns?  Although you have also put away candles and kerosene they may not produce the needed light for certain situations, such as trying to fix something with small parts or even ditch medicine.  Pre-identifying priority uses of resources that exceed established burn rates will be important, and should be identified in the pre-TEOTWAWKI world.

Many prepper books, blogs, and YouTube channels do not discuss the seemingly mundane topics of post-TEOTWAWKI life.  It will be some of these “mundane” administrative topics that make post-TEOTWAWKI go a little smoother for you.  A status board and report on logistics including a report on burn rates of given items should be provided at a morning leadership briefing. Everyone in the group should be kept informed so as not to waste resources that are exceeding pre-planned burn rates and also so that multiple people are thinking about ways to address the shortfalls.