Survival Glossary

Like any community, people into Survival and Preparedness tend to have their own language. In this case, a lot of that language is made up of abbreviations and acronyms. Since we were seeing a lot of these in the comments and they weren’t always easy to figure out, I asked our resident survival expert Bo to put together a list. As you can see, he did not disappoint.


ABAO: all bets are off, an EOTW situation

ARES: Amateur Radio Emergency Service

Armchair Commando: An individual that has a one-track mind to preparedness (firearms) and that never trains. See also Chairborne Ranger and Mall Ninja

ARRL: American Radio Relay League


Balloon goes up: a phrase used to imply impending trouble. This relates to the use of observation balloons in the First World War. The sight of such a balloon going up nearly always resulted in a barrage of shells following soon after. The expression was reinforced during WW2 when the hoisting of barrage balloons was part of the preparations for an air raid.

BG: bad guy

Blowout kit, also called an IFAK or ventilated-operator kit, an individual’s kit designed to treat life-threatening wounds, including penetrative wounds of the thoracic cavity, severe bleeding, traumatic amputation, and collapsed airway.

BOB: a bug-out bag, something designed to get you to your retreat, bug-out location, or through the next three days.

BOL: bug-out location, this is your retreat or fallback position. It’s where you’re going when the balloon goes up.

BOV: bug-out vehicle, the car, truck, van, RV, motorcycle, horse, etc. that you will use to get to your BOL. Many preppers have dedicated BOV’s.

Bravo Sierra:  See: BS

BS: Bullshit, a lie or fantastic story, also spoken “Bravo Sierra” or “Barbra Streisand”.


Can: a common slang term for a firearm sound suppressor.

CB:  citizen’s band radio, a HF 2-way transmission band at 27 MHz, or 11 meters, that requires no license for operation in the United States. Some CB transceivers are capable of SSB (single sideband) operation. Originally, 23 channels, the Citizen’s Band later expanded to 40 channels in the 1970s.

CCW: carrying a concealed weapon. See also: LTC.

CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States Department of Health and Human Services tasked with protecting public health and safety by providing information to promote health and prevent disease.

CERT: Community Emergency Response Team, an organization of volunteer emergency workers who have received specific training in basic disaster response skills, and who agree to supplement existing emergency responders in the event of a major disaster.

Chairborne Ranger: a military or preparedness Walter Mitty, a wannabe that spends his time fantasizing instead of doing. See also Armchair Commando and Mall Ninja.

Crunch, the: see SHTF

CWP: Concealed Weapon(s) Permit, see CCW and LTC.

D – F

Doomer: the Peak Oil crowd’s term for someone, that foresees a chaotic societal collapse when oil supplies get short.

EDC: everyday carry, the kit you have with you every day, knife, keys, wallet, watch, etc.

EMP: an electromagnetic pulse, often the result of a nuclear detonation.

EOTW: end of the world (see TEOTWAWKI)

ETA: estimated time of arrival

ELE:  extinction level event ,a widespread and rapid decrease in the amount of life on earth.

Elmer: an experienced volunteer who helps new people interested in amateur radio, a mentor or volunteer tutor.

FAK: first aid kit

FEMA: the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the government agency concerned with continuity of government in the event of an emergency. Also jokingly defined as “Foolishly Expecting Meaningful Aid.”

FRS: Family Radio Service, a short-range UHF FM walkie-talkie that requires no license in the U.S. See also GMRS and MURS.

FMJ: Full Metal Jacket, a bullet that does not expand when it strikes tissue, also called “ball” ammunition.


GHB: your get-home bag, similar to a BOB, but kept in the car or workplace, designed to get you home in case the SHTF.  Also called a GMHB, or get me home bag

GMRS: General Mobile Radio, a licensed UHF FM 2-way radio service. See also FRS and MURS.

GOOD: get out of Dodge (as in Dodge City), to escape from areas with high population density to your predetermined BOL.

GWOT: global war on terror

GOOD Kit: get out of dodge kit, an enlarged BOB, possiblyyou’re your car, that can help you get to your BOL, “possibly for your car or BOV.

Goblin: a generic euphemism for someone with bad intent, a VCA, coined by the late Col. Jeff Cooper.

Grid Down: An extended period of time when the power grid is non-functional. Se also YOYO.

H – I

H5N1: The CDC’s designation for one of the current strains of the Asian Avian influenza, sometimes called Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

Ham: a slang term for an amateur radio operator.

IFAK: individual or improved first aid kit, depending on military branch source. See blowout kit.

IMP: Individual Meal Pack, Canadian equivalent to an MRE.

INCH Bag: I’m never coming home bag, a bag containing all of the supplies you’d like to have in the event that one cannot return to his or her primary location.

J – L

JHP:  Jacketed Hollow Point, ammunition designed to expand in tissue, creating a large and permanent wound channel.

JSP:  Jacketed Soft Point, ammunition designed to flatten or mushroom upon impact, similar to JHP’s, but with more limited expansion.

LBE: Load Bearing Equipment, a generic name for military-style suspenders or vest used for carrying magazine pouches, canteen, a pistol holster, IFAK, and other small kit. Also called web gear

LBV: Load Bearing Vest, a vest-specific version of an LBE.

LSB: Lower Sideband. One of the two “single side bands” that can be selected on a suitably-equipped radio transceiver. See also “SSB” and “USB”.

LTC: License to Carry, a state or in some cases county-issued license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm. See also: CCW.


MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction by global thermonuclear war.

Mall Ninja: Someone that values style over substance, a Walter Mitty survivalist. See also: Armchair Commando and Chairborne Ranger.

MOLLE:  Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, the current generation of load-bearing equipment and rucksacks utilized by the United States armed forces, popular among preppers and Mall Ninjas alike. See PALS.

MRE: Meal, Ready to Eat, individual military field rations. Different nations manufacture and distribute their own variations on the theme. Sometimes derisively known as “Meals Rejected by Ethiopians”, “Meals Rarely Eaten” and “Three lies for the price of one” (It isn’t a meal, it’s not ready, and you can’t eat it)

MZB: mutant zombie bikers, post-apocalyptic Mad Max-style looters.

N – P

NBC: nuclear, biological, chemical, referring to incidents, whether accidental or intentional, involving special circumstances and preparations.

NODs: Night Observation Device, a night vision scope or goggles.

OODA: Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action, often called the “OODA loop” it explains the process that one uses to make decisions and act.

PALS: Pouch Attachment Ladder System, a grid of webbing used to attach smaller equipment onto load-bearing platforms, such as vests and backpacks.

Pollyanna: someone that is in denial that TEOTWAWKI could occur and remains cheerfully optimistic, even confronted with evidence to the contrary. The “Pollyanna” label popularized in the two years preceding Y2K, sometimes rendered as “Polly” for short.

Prepper: someone who practices preparedness, usually as a lifestyle.

Preps: slang for preparations.

R – T

Retreat: a place of refuge that the owner has prepared in advance. Usually in lightly populated rural regions.

SHTF: Shit hits the fan (or Schumer hits the fan), when disaster strikes, an emergency.

Schumeresque: A scenario of intolerably bad (post-TEOTWAWKI) circumstances (i.e. the Schumer has been widely distributed.)

Sheeple:  (a portmanteau of “sheep” and “people”) is a term of disparagement likening people herd animals, describing those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research,  undermining their own individuality and live in a state of denial.

SSB: Single Sideband, an operating mode for CB and amateur radio)

TEOTWAWKI: the end of the world as we know it.

TMI: Too Much Information, whenever someone gets far too detailed and/or personal, telling other people things they really didn’t want to know.

TPTB: the powers that be, a generic term for government or corporate authorities, people with power.

U – Z

USB: Upper Sideband, an operating mode for CB and amateur radio. See also “LSB” and “SSB”.

VCA: Violent Criminal Actor, often used by military and law enforcement.

WCS: a worst-case scenario, when the S really HTF.

Web Gear: a generic term for tactical load bearing equipment such as pistol belts, Y-harnesses, magazine pouches, vests, etc.

WTSHTF: When the shit hits the fan, see “SHTF”.

YOYO: you’re on your own, when government ceases to provide essential services such as fire department and police department protection, and when utilities no longer provide water, sanitation, electricity and phone service.

51 thoughts on “Survival Glossary”

  1. Oh my..Cthulhu.. It’s beautiful!

    • Well said, sir, well said.

      • Slightly my vocabulary has been expanded. Oh and on more exciting news, pertaining to prepping, I’ve found a training buddy who is just as dedicated so learning CQC should be much easier.

        • That was a definition I didn’t add, CQC.

          I tried to stay light and non-specific on references to fighting or weapons. Dave and I corresponded a few weeks ago about the direction he wanted to take the non-LEGO portions of the page. We decided that while adding general survival information was a good idea, getting into detail regarding weapons and such did not fir with the light-hearted nature of LEGO, even zombie-based AFOL.

          It sort of fits with the earlier discussions regarding terminating zombies (you can’t kill what’s already dead, I guess). I’d like to keep the discussion from going too far down the rabbit hole of death and mayhem.

        • Yeah, leave it to those who can speak on more professional, maybe even softer terms when it comes to death and mayhem. Perhaps even keeping it to like minds, even if one just wants to spread some knowledge.

        • There are liability issues with writing of such on this page. Consider both the international readership and the age of many readers. That makes the situation sticky at best; so I tend to write about such in only the most general terms.

        • Yeah, I tend to think the same way.

        • Usually when I say leave it to some one I am meaning on a more personal and perhaps ‘otherwise level’.

    • It’s okay… i guess…

      • It’s better than okay. It’s awesome.

        • i guess… i need some convincing

        • It’s better if we’re all on the same page when it comes to language and concepts. The entry on FAK’s is just the beginning (see what I did there?). We’re going to have essays on the rudiments of radio communications, packing LBV/LBE and three-day bags, selecting water purifiers, and building sand filters. Getting on the same page helps that along.

      • its a little better than okay… i guess…

  2. Not bad. I spy a few typos here and there to clean up; but it’s definitely a WIP.

    If anyone thinks we missed a common prepper term, phrase, or abbreviation, post it here.


    • Let me know about any typos and I’ll get them corrected straight away.

      • We need a quotation mark in front of “Barbara Streisand”.

        In the GOOD bag entry it needs to read “possibly for you’re car or BOV”.

        The goblin entry reminds me that we need an entry for “VCA”, violent criminal actor, often used by military and law enforcement.

        I’ll go through more of it later.

        • All updated.

        • You can remove the link to the military from the MOLLE definition, too. I got that definition from Wikipedia and obviously neglected to edit out the link.

          Alternatively, if you want to set the page up as a wiki-type reference, we can add links to examples of many of the definitions on the page, to add references, context, etc.

        • Link removed.

          Links as references isn’t a bad idea. A few photos would be cool too, especially for things like MOLLE.

        • OK, that’s going to have to be an ongoing project. I’d prefer to link to friendly sites, and public domain if possible. The last thing I want is to raise any ire, especially lawyers’.

          There is a world of good stuff out there. If we can link to it to expand the minds of your readers, I am down.

        • Oh yeah, I’m definitely not down with stealing content/imagery. Free stock photography where we can get it, and possibly our own photography.

        • i sleep by my baseball bat at night, i should be fine for a few days without reading this whole thing

  3. Do i need all of this stuff?

    • No, it’s just an extra.

      • ah good, by the way, i still think that a “Which Charecter are You?” might make a good game. i like new pages, every time i do my brother buys me a Mtn. Dew Voltage

        • Your brother buys you a soda every time I add a page to the site? That’s… interesting.

        • i have to give him one if a page get deleted, even if its a comic (that doesnt work for me.) 1 time as i cant count

        • What page got deleted? I can’t recall removing any.

        • it was the 2nd Episode of “Powels wolves” or something like that, it appeared a little erlier than expected, i had to get my brother a 3 Lt. soda.

        • Oh yeah, that’s right.

          Pavlov’s Dogs, by the way.

        • Thats it! By the way, you only have as many comics as Ian posts a year! thats a little bit… weird, maybe Ian has more free time

  4. OR memorize it anyway?

    • It’s useful as a reference, but you don’t need to memorize it.

      • Oh good, that would REALLY cut into my knife throwing time, (heh, “cut” into my knife throwing time.) anyway

        • You could always multi-task. Say the terms aloud as you throw your knife.

        • woh! i never thought of that!

        • of course an old matress isnt going to help that much, i need a manikin or something.

  5. ADMIN NOTE: Removed link
    This was simply a link with absolutely no relation to this page or other context.

  6. I have only 3 rules about teh zombie apocilipse, live in the country, grow your own food, have a rain filter. Thats all that you need.

    • Until you step in a hole and break a leg…

      • Reading this comment made me laugh, because I can imagine some thick boned man stepped into a 4 inch hole and his shin bone just ripping through the skin.. Though that’s not funny at all, I just can’t keep it from being hilarious.

        • “Yeah, ‘cuz open fractures are hi-larious”
          /Jayne Cobb

        • And if wishes were horses, we’d all be eating steak right now.

        • Can we go to the crappy town where I’m the hero?

      • is that what your for Bo? Medical ijuries? i guess taht we could all be one team, if we could meet up somewhere.

        • I have a group already, thanks.

          My suggestion to anyone wanting to start or join a group is to perform a sobering and thorough assessment of skills and talents. This isn’t pretend; and this isn’t a zombie movie. What skills and training do you have? What can you bring to the table? Shooting skills don’t come from and XBox; and medical skills don’t come from an episode of The Walking Dead. They take commitment and time. What I mean is that there is a saying regarding practice: “It’s not the years, but the hours.” That is, it doesn’t matter for how long anyone has thought about a breakdown, or tinkered at maybe getting ready. It matters how much real time one has devoted to it.

          Consider hurricane Sandy. Right this minute folks that have never spent a minute getting ready for anything are lined up in the sites of a modern-day snow-mageddon. What are they doing about it? They are waiting for Unc’a Sugar to step in and tell them what to do. They’ve never attended a class on first aid. They never got a ham radio license. They never put up a single bean for a rainy day; and now it is coming to bite them sorely upon the ass.

          This is what will happen when the “zombies” come. The unsupported welfare class and criminal element will be out in force. They will be looking for the unprepared and especially the unknowing and unwilling. Folks that don’t recognize the gravity of the situation. This has the potential to make Katrina look like a mild summer shower.

        • Well said, Bo.

          Does New York and the surrounding area have anything like the Big Easy’s levy systems that can fail in a massive storm like this?

  7. What’s the average elevation of Baltimore, Washington, or Philadelphia? They don’t have a levy system to fail; but they also don’t have one to work, either. They are not exactly prepared for hurricanes. They also have a denser population and larger welfare culture.

    I think this is going to be very interesting, and an exercise for all of us, especially with the storm hitting in all blue or swing states, a week before the election.

  8. Well now my vocabulary has a lot of more words about survival.

  9. Ha ha, love the FEMA deffenition XD

    • And adding the Bravo Sierra phonetics for BS warmed my heart. Though I haven’t served in any branch of military, I can’t go a day without my clock in military time and using phonetics in some way. So Bravo Yankee Echo 🙂

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