This post has been updated from our original Survival Acronyms and Terms post that was first published in 2017. We keep our content updated as the world around us changes, as we learn new skills and techniques, and (of course) when we learn new survival terms and acronyms.
Using shorthand to talk about specialized topics in communities is nothing new. Plenty of people are of the opinion that prepper acronyms just muddy up communication and cause a headache for newcomers. They argue that it drives people away from prepping and puts preppers in a bad light. Others insist that it establishes a sense of community, and improves communication flow with abbreviations.
Whether you are an avid survival acronym user or prefer to use plain English, knowing what they mean can come in handy when dealing with preppers. Below you’ll find our comprehensive list of prepping and survival acronyms and terms, split up by type and organized alphabetically.
Contents (Jump to a Section)
Survival Acronyms (A-M)
2A: The Second Amendment
ABC: Airway, Breathing, Circulation – first aid / CPR steps
ALICE: All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment – a gear attachment system used by the military found on older packs. Still preferred by some, although it is less popular than the MOLLE system.
BOB: Bug Out Bag – a mobile survival kit that you use to evacuate your home and relocate.
BOL: Bug Out Location – an alternate location from your home where you plan to retreat when trigger events occur.
BOV: Bug Out Vehicle – a vehicle equipped for and used for getting to a BOL, or living on the move.
CB: Citizen Band (Radio) – a short-distance amateur radio communication band. CB radios are often included in BOVs.
CBRN: Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear – unconventional types of WMDs.
CCW: Concealed Carry Weapon
CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – a federal agency that prevents the spread of infectious diseases and pathogens.
CERT: Community Emergency Response Team – local Citizens Corps groups trained by FEMA to assist with local and regional disasters.
CME: Coronal Mass Ejection – a naturally occurring solar flare with the potential to create an EMP event by bombarding the atmosphere with magnetic field lines.
CPR: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation – well-known first aid training.
DHS: Department of Homeland Security – a cabinet of the federal government created after the September 11th attacks charged with protecting the country from asymmetric threats.
DIY: Do It Yourself
DoD: Department of Defense – a branch of the federal government that runs national security and the US Armed Forces.
EDC: Everyday Carry – a harder look at the gear, equipment, and clothes you have on you every day.
EMP: Electromagnetic Pulse – a short burst of electromagnetic energy that can disrupt and damage unprotected electronics. Nuclear blasts can cause EMPs.
EOTW: End of the World
EROL: Excessive Rule of Law – the opposite of the better known WROL, this describes a police state where laws are plentiful and fully enforced to the point of infringing on basic rights. While WROL can be triggered by an event, EROL is usually more gradual. EROL, however, can occur when the governing body reacts to an event.
ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival
FIFO: First in, First Out – a method of inventory management, used often in food storage, to cycle all inventory. Think of this method as working like a garden hose.
FEMA: Federal Emergency Management Agency – a federal agency that plans for, mitigates, and responds to federal emergencies. They coordinate with the DoD, DHS, CDC, and CERT teams when needed.
FRS: Family Radio Service – designated frequencies for short-distance radio service commonly used with walkie-talkies.
FUBAR: F’d up Beyond All Recognition – a military carryover term for bad situations.
GHB: Get Home Bag – The average person spends 38% of their waking time away from home. This kit is designed to help them get back.
GOOD: Get Out of Dodge – a saying originating from Westerns adopted to mean escaping from populated areas. GOOD bags are similar to BOBs but are designed with urban scenarios in mind with extra weaponry and urban tools.
GMRS: General Mobile Radio Service – a licensed radio service similar to CB of frequencies 462 MHz and 467 MHz.
GPS: Global Positioning System – a satellite-driven navigation system used by GPS receivers and many smartphones.
ICE: In Case of Emergency – an acronym label used to identify who people wish to be contacted in case of emergency.
JIC: Just In Case
IFAK: Individual First Aid Kit – a small, portable first aid kit first used by the military.
INCH: I’m Never Coming Home – a long-term kit meant to sustain wilderness survival indefinitely.
ISIS: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – terrorists.
LEO: Law Enforcement Officer – local law enforcement and military law enforcement.
LIFO: Last In, First Out – another inventory management system that does not work so well for food storage. Think of this method as working like an AR-15 magazine.
LOS: Line of Sight
LTS: Long-Term Survival
MOLLE: Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment – pronounced “Molly”, a web lacing found on current military and tactical packs and vests for attaching gear.
MRE: Meal, Ready to Eat – a prepackaged meal used extensively by the military.
MURS: Multi-Use Radio Service – 151 – 154 MHz spectrum range channels often used for private walkie-talkies, but once designated for industrial and business use.
Survival Acronyms (N-Z)
NBC: Nuclear, Biological, Chemical
NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – a federal agency that tracks weather events, including space weather and wildfires.
NINJA: No Income, No Job or Assets – a derogatory term used to describe those totally dependent on society to survive.
NVGs: Night Vision Goggles
OPSEC: Operational Security – a military term used to describe protecting valuable and critical information.
OTC: Over the Counter – besides being used to describe over-the-counter medication, it is used to describe easily obtainable supplies.
PMA: Positive Mental Attitude – a type of mindset or mantra that focuses on the importance of being positive in stressful situations.
SCARE: Social Chaos and Response Emergency – yeah, it doesn’t make sense grammatically but it is a prepper acronym for a civil unrest-focused bag/kit.
SHTF: Shit Hits the Fan – when used by a prepper this describes an emergency, disaster, or situation where society could possibly collapse. The severity has since been watered down by over-use and now often describes simply unfortunate situations.
SIP: Shelter in Place – an emergency agency-directed order to seal off rooms and stay put to avoid volatile CBRN agent contamination.
SNAFU: Situation Normal- All F’d Up – another military crossover acronym not to be confused with SHTF or FUBAR. SNAFU simply means you acknowledge that everything is normal, and that is normally messed up.
SOL: Shit out of Luck
SOP: Standard Operating Procedure – a military-rooted acronym used often when developing plans, or relaying plans to others.
SOS: Save Our Ship – a recognizable signal for help, it is extremely recognizable when communicated with Morse code.
TEOTWAWKI: The End of the World as We Know It – not necessarily the end of the world, but the end of society as we currently recognize it. The acronym usually labels the event that occurred to cause the societal collapse.
TLA: Three Letter Acronym – a tongue-in-cheek reference used in communities where there are possibly too many acronyms.
TP: Toilet Paper – often used as an example of an item that has an initial stock-out run in an emergency.
TWEP: Terminate With Extreme Prejudice – more of a military term, it’s pretty self-explanatory.
WMD: Weapon of Mass Destruction – a CBRN or conventional weapon that can kill or harm a significant portion of the population.
WROL: Without Rule of Law – anarchy, civil disobedience, societal collapse, or non-enforcement are all WROL scenarios where laws do not exist, are ignored, or are simply not enforced.
YOYO: You’re On Your Own – a prepper acronym name for how employees, soldiers, and police will inevitably abandon their station or mission to fend for themselves and their families in a bad enough scenario.
Besides abbreviating almost everything, there are a few words that preppers like to use. They include:
100 mph tape: A beefy duct tape popularized by the military with superior adhesive and weather-resistance.
550 cord: A specific rating of paracord (Type III) popularized by the military, with a tensile strength of 550 pounds.
Bug Out: Originating from British slang, ‘bugging out’ is a form of military retreat. In prepper and survivalist terms, it means to leave your area with survival kits to relocate to a (preferably a pre-designated) safe area. Mobile kits, such as ‘bug out bags‘ are needed to make this happen.
Bugging In: Opposite of bugging out, but ‘hunkering down’ with your own resources in the same area.
Bushcraft: Outdoor survival skills with a focus on making resources. Extremely popular in the UK, Australia, and Europe and growing in popularity elsewhere.
Carrington: the most intense geomagnetic storm recorded in history, back in 1859.
Faraday: a bag, case, or cage made out of sealed conductive materials to protect sensitive electronics inside from EMPs and CMEs.
Ham: often assumed that it is an acronym, but it is actually just slang for amateur radio operators.
Homestead: isolated homes that are usually self-sufficient, off-grid, and/or, agricultural work. Homesteading is everything that goes into setting up and running a homestead, and homesteaders are the people that do it. The Homestead Act of 1862 used to grant land for this use, but now free land is harder to come by.
Molon Labe: A Greek phrase μολὼν λαβέ meaning ‘come and take them’, often used in defiance of those that would challenge the US second amendment.
Off Grid: Living without supported services like electricity, phone lines, water/sewage lines, etc. “Going off grid” is usually a lifestyle choice that can be equated to homesteading.
Pollyanna: A blindly optimistic person in the face of real threats and danger- the hero of Eleanor Portor’s 1913 novel of the same name.
Prep: A specific resource, plan, or kit related to prepping, or just shorthand for the word ‘prepare’.
Prepper: Someone who is prepared for emergencies, disasters, and more (What is Prepping and What is a Prepper?)
Rule of Three: a survival rule of thumb describing how humans can only live 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. We have a whole article breaking it down: The Survival Rule of 3 | Air, Shelter, Water, & Food.
Supervolcano: a volcano with a VEI over 8 and the capacity to cause a multi-regional natural disaster.
Survivalist: Often used interchangeably with ‘prepper’, but many survivalists will argue that they are more skill-focused instead of stocking resources.
Two is One, One is None: A common mantra in prepping that prepares for resource failure. We go over the origin and meaning in our article: Two is One and One is None | The Power of Redundancy.
The Final Word
Are there too many prepper acronyms and survival terms in our community? Probably. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Keeping up the dialogue no matter how far we steer away from layman’s terms is important. Let us know any prepper acronyms or survival terms we may have missed in the comments below.
Here are a few other communication-related articles our readers find useful:
- The Military Phonetic Alphabet Guide
- WSHTF – When Shit Hits the Fan
- How to Start Prepping: Prepper 101
Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.
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