The SaWaFo Pyramid:

I’ve mentioned the SaWaFo pyramid many times in my discourses on preparedness and survival ideology and to my mind this little tool should be considered central to all of your planning for the future, as well as immediate needs. Why? Simply for this one reason; if you lose any one of the three legs of this triangle, you can lose everything. The SaWaFo pyramid is based upon three basic needs, safety, water, and food. In the short term you can survive without all three, but in the long term you need all three of these things to survive.

And for long term planning, everything you do depends upon these three legs of the triangle. The following graphic demonstrates the relationship of these three items or needs as they relate to your own survival. Look at it this way; for two days you can survive without water, but not much longer. You can survive for several more days without food, but not much longer. You can survive without safety for a period of time as well, but eventually the odds catch up to you and you’re done, one way or the other.

All three of these needs are requirements for your total survival needs. You need water, but without safety or food you face failure from other areas. The same thing goes for safety and food. Without all three needs in place, you face assured failure in the long term survival plan.




Keeping in mind through the SaWaFo pyramid one of the primary considerations when searching for your survival homestead is the availability of water, and whether that water can be considered clean or not. There are many sources of water no matter where you go, but some of them may not be worth the effort, and others may appear to be safe now, but would they remain safe after a disaster?

Water from deep in the ground is almost always the best bet, but it may not be available, or you may not be able to pay for the well that can give you access to it. Drilled wells can be pretty expensive, but when compared to hand dug wells, they’re well worth the cost. For what it’s worth, I put no trust in dug wells for safe water, even on a good day.

Surface runoff and pollution can too easily turn what looks like clean potable water into a drink from hell in many ways. If you do need to utilize a hand dug well, make sure you have another source of water available for drinking and cooking, or a high quality filtration system in place to purify this water.

What are some of the sources of water you may be forced to utilize? The most common source of water today is the public water supply, available in nearly every built up community with a full time government on hand to screw things up for you. There are some problems inherit with a shared system that automatically eliminate this source of water as a long term survival solution.

Keep an old adage in the back of your mind as you develop your long term plans for surviving the coming times; if it can be made, it can be broken, and if it can be broken it can be fixed. The problem here is not the breaking down of the system, as we all know that a water supply system starts to deteriorate as soon as it’s installed. The problem here is who will fix it? Will you spend your own time and resources repairing a water line that may well deliver tainted water to your home in the aftermath of a disaster?

I think probably not. After all, we pay taxes in order to have that water delivered to your tap, and we expect it to be clean and never-ending, don’t we? It would be nice to live in that kind of fantasy, but it isn’t necessarily a true dream. Public water supplies can be pretty involved with all of the machinations required to move and purify it for your use.

This water comes from a source, and in a community wide situation, that source must be huge by necessity to satisfy all of the customers it is to serve. A reservoir is utilized for that purpose.

That reservoir can be natural, such as a lake or pond, or it can be a man made reservoir kept filled via well pumps. These pumps can be sized in hundreds of horsepower and require three phase power to run. This is your first point of concern.

These pumps are run by electric motors, normally, which are as such subjected to the whims of the power grid. Larger water districts will have backup generators to provide power in the event of a grid failure, but in turn are then held captive to the availability of fuel. Added to the problem is the fact that the filtration and purification systems also run on electricity.

If the grid goes down, and stays down, how will your community cope with the fact that it can no longer deliver this much needed commodity? Do you really think that everyone will be patient and understanding of the fact that they can no longer get water by simply opening the tap and letting it freely flow? What would your thoughts be if you could no longer flush the toilet at will? You see, by eliminating this one leg of the SaWaFo pyramid you have also eliminated the other two, eliminating your ability to survive.

By not having water, you have shortened your lifespan to a couple of days, not to mention the fact that you have seriously disrupted your ability to provide security for your safety, as well as water to use in cooking food. And don’t forget about hygiene and water for the family pet as well.

To have a reliable source of water, you need a level of safety or security to make sure that water stays available. Lose the safety leg of the triangle and you have lost your ability to provide clean potable water. The safety lies in the ability to provide uninterrupted electrical power to the pumps and filtration equipment that keep that water safe and free-flowing.

A second leg of that pyramid calls for food. We generally run down to the supermarket or a convenience store when we run out of milk or need something in a pinch. Studies have shown that on average, communities can only find about a three day’s supply of food on the shelves at best on any given day. In an emergency, or curtailment of shipping that supply of food will cease, and the food supply will not be replenished unless the emergency is resolved.

That being the case, what do you feel the result will be in your community should an extended emergency or disaster occur, locking your town away from the rest of the world for several weeks or longer? What about a permanent situation whereby normal life ceases to exist altogether and there will be no more shipments of food from away?

Simple foodstuffs such as bread, milk, butter, meat and other foods will become much sought after and when that happens, anything goes. People that know you have food will demand it for themselves. And if you don’t willingly give it up it will be taken. And don’t forget that the local governing body may drive around with an armed escort taking what you have as well.

If you don’t have a security/safety plan in place you could still end up on the losing end of the stick, even if you do have plenty of food and water. So you see, you need to have all three segments of the pyramid in place to support your survival plans.

That’s one of the biggest problems I have seen when discussing preparedness planning with those who intend to tough it out in an urban setting should the you know what hit the fan. Survival in the city can in fact be done, but it is beyond the resources of all but the very wealthy, and to tell you the truth, I don’t believe there are many wealthy people that will actually stick around when the time comes to batten down the hatches.

Take another look at the SaWaFo pyramid and you’ll see that I have presented it in a sort of manner depicting it as triangular building blocks. Each of these blocks supports one another, and should one of them be removed, the others topple over.


You can turn the pyramid over onto any one of the sides, but you still need all three to support that center building block called survival. And without that center building block called a survival plan, all you have to support is an empty hole. And nobody likes to deal with an empty hole.

All of your plans for survival can be connected together through one of these three basic building blocks. Your food storage plans, water supply, safety and security, housing, transportation, communications and more all rely upon this triangle as a supporting structure. Add whatever you wish to your plans, but they will always lead back to square one, which is safety, water and food, your SaWaFo pyramid.

  1. […] in November(2010) I had done a post on what I call the SaWaFo pyramid to shed a little light on that particular anchor point on your […]

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