How to Apply the Mnemonic PACE in Your Emergency Plans

Today I am posting an article by C.E. Harris on the subject of Pace.

PACE is the preferred method used by professional emergency planners.  The MEMONIC stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency.

For example, how do you communicate with your spouse in time of emergency? 

Your Primary communication method at work is probably a hard-wired, landline phone, aka the public service telephone network (PSTN). So, you just hit the speed dial. Your Alternate method is your cellular phone, but, ahah, the network is “busy” so you send an SMS text in hope it gets through eventually.

Your Contingency method might be the 2-meter handheld ham radio which you both are licensed for, and habitually carry.  But suppose the repeater is “down” and that method fails.  Your Emergency communication method is human to human – get in your car and drive to a safe pre-arranged rendezvous location.

You should apply PACE planning to all vital areas of family preparedness, such as evacuation routes and means, food supply, communications, shelter, fire, water, food, helpful friends, link up points and so on. The list is endless.

You might notice when you start applying the PACE concept, that things may get cumbersome.  You must presume and accept risk – maybe you can only realistically come up with a Primary and an Alternate plan.  If that’s the case, – you’ll just have to deal with it.  Life isn’t fair!

So, what does PACE planning ultimately provide for you?  In a word: Flexibility!

Murphy, is the court jester of all things which can go wrong in life. He has many friends and rarely shows up alone. Just when you think things couldn’t possibly get any worse – you realize what a silly optimist you were.  Plan A may fly right out the window to be followed closely by Plan B, which also fails.  That’s where Contingency planning comes in.  So, when the fickle finger of fate makes that option fail too, now you know the true meaning of EMERGENCY!  So, give yourself options, by pre-planning a variety of response options.

Above all, Remain flexible. Never give up. Discover PACE.

Here is a second article From C.E. Harris showing how he applied  the Pace during a storm emergency.


I went to visit my brother, sister-in-law and niece the day of Christmas Eve, planning to drive home that night, to be home Christmas Day. They live in Prince William County, VA near MCB Quantico. Normal drive time from my home near Martinsburg, WV is about 95 miles, 2 hours. The weather forecast was for rain, so I took the Toyota compact commuter car, instead of the 4WD Jeep Cherokee.

We were having dinner when I got a text from my housemate Bob, that back home near Glengary, WV, there were already 4 inches of snow on the ground, with a mixture of sleet and rain falling. Scanner chatter indicated icy road conditions and multiple traffic accidents, etc. It was 2 pm. So,I decided to leave early, sticking to main roads, because they were more likely to be chemically treated, starting the drive home in daylight, evaluating road conditions along the way, monitoring 2 meter ham radio and being prepared to change routes or destinations along the way.

If you have a Virginia road map to follow along, the narrative could be educational.

My primary route was to take SR234 west from I95 north onto the Prince William Parkway onto I66 West. Ideally I would continue on I66 all the way to I81 north, taking I81 into West Virginia and getting off at Exit 5 onto SR51, onto SR45 at Mills Gap and down Great North Mountain into Glengary, WV and home.

The rain-sleet-snow line appeared on I66 prior to Haymarket and the Plains. The Interstate had NOT been treated and the roadway was covered. Up ahead I saw brake lights from an apparent accident. Traffic was starting to back up ahead, so I executed my decision point, exiting onto US Rt. 15 North, planning to evaluate conditions and continue west on either US Rt. 50 at Aldie, or US Rt. 7 at Leesburg, VA. Monitoring the Bluemont 147.300 Skywarn Net repeater on  2 meter ham radio I heard that the flyover ramp off US15 onto US7 at Leesburg was icy, and there was a backup due to multiple traffic accidents.

So, I took my second decision point and exited onto US Rt. 50 west at the Aldie roundabout. I knew that US50 continuing west between Aldie and Winchester did alot of hill topping through the small towns of Middleburg and Upperville before reaching Winchester, VA, where US50 intersects with I81. Having exhausted my primary and alternate routes and now taking my planned contingency, I needed to prime a second contingency plan in order to avoid using the emergency plan of camping in my car during a winter storm and waiting for the roads to clear.

See also  Dehydrating Oranges and Lemons

I pulled off at the Aldie, VA  Fire Station and asked one of the volunteers if they had a sitrep of road conditions into Winchester, VA and I81 north into West Virginia. He invited me to have a cup of coffee and to listen to the scanner for a few minutes, while I made a few phone calls. They had good cell coverage there. I knew that cell coverage would be spotty the next ridge over and that  I would be dependent on 2 meter ham radio until I passed US 340 approaching Winchester, VA. I sent SMS text to Bob at home, telling him to turn on the 2 meter rig and to monitor the Bluemont 147.300 repeater and that he could contact me there for updates.  It is useful to know that when cell voice calls don’t work, SMS text uses the control channel and the system will store and forward them, so your message will eventually get through, but not necessarily in “real time.”

I really didn’t want to drive all the way back to my brother’s. All spare beds were allocated for holiday house guests, and I would have to listen to Sister and Mother-In-Law whine. So, I called my buddy Mikey who was home from the hospital recovering from surgery. I hadn’t seen him in six months. He had been near death a month ago, but was now at home contemplating turning in his gun and badge for medical retirement or staying on the job to teach at the academy at  Quantico.

“Hey buddy, who is staying with you over Christmas, how are you doing?” I asked. “I’m alone here, but I’m OK, just taking it easy.”

So, I asked, “How would you like some company?” and I explained the road conditions. To make a long story short, I changed course east along US50 into Fairfax, VA. I picked up some groceries at the Safeway, and knocked on Mikey’s door, “USA – Friendly!”  We chatted all night and had steak & eggs, for an early Christmas breakfast the next morning. I then left Fairfax at 9 am to drive home Christmas day passing numerous vehicles still in the ditch long US 50 from last night, one of which could have been ME, had I not aborted my route. I thought for a minute about warming coffee water on a Natick cooker in a canteen cup while waiting for a tow truck!  Back to reality!

Crossing Ashby Gap on US50 descending into the Shenandoah Valley was IFR conditions, pea soup fog, driving with my emergency flashers on, following a VDOT dump truck spreading sand all the way to Winchester, VA.  Arriving Winchester there were a few sunny spots punctuated with larger areas of dense fog. There was NO way I was going chance entering onto I81 with those conditions, a chain-reaction accident waiting to happen. So, I drove through old town Winchester on US11, past the old White House apple plant, wiggling through little farm towns all the way to Inwood, WV. West onto WV SR51 towards home at last, passing more cars in the ditch.

Cresting Mills Gap, where SR51 terminated at SR45, about 5 miles from home, there were at least 20 vehicles which had been pulled off the road and abandoned. And it was pea soup fog again. I cautiously turned down the mountain, put the car in low gear and coasted slowly down the mountain with my flashers on. I recognized my turnoff, eased onto the dirt road and made it to our mailbox. Broke trail up the driveway through 6 inches of wet snow, and pulled into the carport. Housemate Bob stood in the door with cigarette, coffee cup and cat.

“White Christmas! – the little ricebox made it!” I got home at 2 pm Christmas Day. The following day now we are under a Winter Storm Warning and more heavy, wet snow is falling. It feels ood to be typing this in a warm house at my desktop, with endless hot coffee and not on my Android phone with cold fingers. Just remember that after age 60, you do not need to practice how to be uncomfortable anymore!

Timing is everything. When your trigger trips, don’t hesitate. Aborting the flight plan instead of blundering on is not being chicken, it’s being smart.


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