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The Psychology of Emergency and Disaster Preparedness, Part 1: The Risks

I have always been a prepper; it’s in my blood.  I have also always been a gunsmith; I think I inherited those genes via a generational skip from my grandfather. But above all, I have always been a lover of the psychology of decisions.  I am fascinated by the driving force behind decisions based on stress and morals/ethics.  For me, the idea of emergency and disaster preparedness is a no-brainer—something we should already be doing and always looking to improve.  But many of my contemporaries, family, friends, and readers don’t feel the same way.  I feel it necessary to talk about the psychology of preparedness in an attempt to help everyone else see the reasons it makes sense to look at prepping.  If you are reading this, it isn’t necessarily my job to convince you of the merits of preparedness; rather, it is to help you understand the ways psychology plays a role in the act of preparation for major events.

First of all, consider some of the strife in the world:

  • Iran/Hormuz Strait/nuclear weapons development issue
  • The unstable North Korean landscape
  • Increasing tensions in Israel/Pakistan relations
  • Terrorists in opposition of “American Decadence”
  • A relatively passive and some might say “weak” president
  • A mandated $450+ billion decrease in defense budget spending for the next fourteen months
  • European currency is falling
  • Banking scandals in all of the major economies of the world

Add to that China outpacing our biggest growth rates of the last four decades by 1.5 times in certain sectors. While domestic markets are more stable than they have been in the recent past, there are more disappointments and revisions to the downside than expected with earnings coming in currently.

It’s easy to see a need for preparation as “average” U.S. citizens, especially from a military and foreign relations perspective. Also, regardless of whether or not America is the catalyst that supplies the growth of emerging countries onto the world stage, there is not an environment in place to allow our own growth to improve substantially.

The debt ceiling is being raised again and again, this time to $16 trillion, and we have no true sustainability in fossil fuels domestically.

The risk of a solar flare or weather event is at an all time high, not to mention the chance for a non-militarily driven EMP concern.  We live with a virtual target on our backs from many different angles, and it seems all of the risks have well-equipped sniper rifles aimed at the bulls-eye.

In times of economic concerns, social reform, pressure from outside nations, and military conflict potential, we as a country tend to become more introverted as individuals,and cut spending, social interaction, and other important variables needed to help improve the very situation that serves as its catalyst.

On top of these concerns, we are reportedly “exiting a decade of war” which along with it, brings its own concerns.  First it causes concern because as we remove troops from regions where we were the sole supporting force, we see regimes crumbling in days and weeks, rather than gaining momentum (i.e. Iraq in recent weeks). Secondly, it gives us pause and makes us reevaluate our own position in the world, as we take stock of commentary like this from government officials.  Left, right, or center (or even unaffiliated), no one wants to be fighting all the time; regardless of how capable we are of fighting two major wars at one time, it takes its toll on morale, resources, and foreign perception of us, opening our country up as a massive target, regardless of whether or not we are weak.

Pile on top of that a president that is tepid at best in foreign relations in high-pressure regions of the world, a war of words set to take stage in this election year, and a large amount of fundraising taking precedence over country leading, and whether you like the president or not, you must at least feel some concern for our place in the world.

Over the last three or four years, there has been a change in viewpoint from tough-talking military and political leaders from one of aggression at times (but overwhelmingly tough and forward) to one of passivity and making round-about assertions of our capabilities.  Defense Heads Dempsey and Panneta went on TV last week talking about the Iran conflict as though we really didn’t want to upset the delicate situation, and yet, making it somewhat clear that we would attack if the Strait of Hormuz was closed.  Hopefully this is the case of the dog’s bite being bigger than its bark, as Iran’s military leader has come out to tell us they “won’t warn us twice about removing our carrier from the area.”  Not only would it be unfortunate to have to destroy half of a country because its leadership got too bold for their own good, it could also be the catalyst for outside aggression against us.  What is North Korea going to do if we take out Iranian nuclear sites?  What will China do if we then react to a North Korea movement?  What about Russia?  How will other oil exporting countries further drain our economy, or put foreign relations pressure on us as a country?

What does any of this have to do with the psychology of preparedness?


The more that pressure builds from all different directions, the more we as a people become reclusive and introspective, the more need we have to prepare, and the less we are likely to make sound decisions.

It’s simple: When we are under pressure like the above paragraphs lay out, we worry more about ourselves, not others. We also should be preparing for the risks involved, but we are less likely to think about realistic expectations or outcomes, and therefore we don’t prepare properly.

I live in one of the most expensive counties in the world, make more money than 99 percent of the world per year, and have the ability to travel around the world, and yet, these things affect me more than one might think.  Regardless of my living in San Diego, making a decent income, and seeing other countries as they develop and how they react to various issues and influences, I realize the state of the world is at a cusp of change.  There are wheels turning and forces at work that will impact our communities in the near future.  This is not a scare tactic; it is hopefully a reality check for those of you in a similar situation – in other words, Americans.

Pressure is everywhere. The risk of an EMP seems to be one of the biggest concerns right now (which I actually agree with personally), but some four or five years ago, we were worried about a ground invasion by China. In the 80s (and 70s and 60s), we were worried about a nuclear war and an invasion by Russia/U.S.S.R., but none of those things ever came to fruition.  It’s almost as if people don’t realize that print media, video, the internet, and word of mouth can’t be archived to relive our ridiculous fears and assumptions.  Now don’t get me wrong, no one is saying these aren’t or weren’t legitimate concerns, but just like we worried about bird and swine flu, and media plays out the concern for humans posed by terrorist anthrax (and other) attacks, we sometimes prepare hastily and with a single view in mind.

It’s important to remember that the psychology of preparedness should never inhibit the basic fundamental themes of such a concept.  That is, preparedness should never be seen as a single item or a single risk aversion, but rather as a holistic approach to being prepared for anything.

It might be a job loss, a weather event, a death in the family, a military conflict, or an economic downturn.  It could be anything, and that’s the point.  In a time where everything is a risk to the American people, we should be preparing for anything.

©2012 Off the Grid News

© Copyright Off The Grid News


  1. Excellent article.

  2. Preparing has been a way of life for us, too. My parents were married during the depression. I don’t think any of us who did not experience it can really understand what it was like or what it did to a person. Mom and Dad always lived like it could happen again. They saved everything, and I mean everything. They grew their own food and did their own repairs. Mom sewed. She could make a pair of jeans last for years. They never bought anything they didn’t need. Mom washed clothes with her wringer washer until a few years ago. She is now 95. Dad died at the age of 90, eight years ago. They had eight children and even though Dad never made a lot of money, we had everything we needed. I’m so glad to have parents that taught us how to get by on almost nothing. How to be prepared in case the bottom falls out and how to be content with what we have. The skills Mom and Dad taught us are priceless. I’ve seen too many people who wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what to do should they need to grow their own food or do simple mending. We have a generation of unprepared people who wouldn’t last on their own a month if a crash occurred. Another thing Mom talked about was how people helped each other during the depression. People were taken care of by each other….without any aid from the government (there were no food stamps, etc. back then and SURPRISE!! people survived without the government’s help) Be prepared! It’s a freeing feeling.

    • Excellent post Flossie. It almost seems like I’ve known you all my life. God bless you and your family. Maybe a good “Deludge” is what this planet really needs to wash itself clean.

    • Are your children as prepared or concerned as you? How do I inspire my offspring to prepare? They look at me as if I am crazy when I suggest planning and prepping…I have made them 72 hour BOBs and let them know that we have a master plan in the event of a disaster but they do not do any of their own work…HELP!

      • Hi Dori,

        You didn’t say how old your children are or how many you have or if they live with you or close by. My comments are based on the assumption they are in their adulthood and live close by. Call a family meeting and discuss with them as adults why you feel it is important to be prepared; point out all the current reasons you feel a disaster will happen. Let them voice their opinions, if any, why they are against it. Allow them the courtesy of taking their opinions seriously. Do not get into a shouting match, as that will only defeat your purpose. Once all opinions are voiced, discuss them calmly and rationally. Watch your attitude, if you come across as “I’m right and you’re wrong” (you are but you don’t have to come across that way (grin)) you will probably turn them off from listening to you. If at the end of your meeting they still have not been convinced that prepping is a good thing to do let the matter drop for say six months, you know your family best, and then call another meeting. At the next meeting point out everything that has happened in the world since your last meeting, some may have come around, if not, let them know that you love them very much but you can only store a little extra so if they are planning on coming to your house WTSHTF they better bring their own supplies. (grin)

        • Have them read the book called “Just in case: how to be self-sufficient when the unexpected happens by Kathy Harrison. Excellent reasons to be prepared in the increasing event of tornado, fire, flood, power outage, etc. We are preparing for longer-term preparedness, but this is a good read for anyone who needs a little convincing–and emphasizes the reasons why it makes sense to prepare now, even if it is minimally.

  3. Good article Ben and thanks. Just watched a documentry on the Waco affair with the Branch Davidians. I’d forgotten some of what went on, but I’m thinking that a bunch of basic good folks sure did put way too much faith in a really phoney prophet. And really failed to gauge the response that his actions would bring down on them. Troubles me that they were more or less preppers who were horribly led astray. Reminds me that one must always question ‘leaders’ and constantly remain aware. Like Flossie, my folks came out of the depression and then surprise, it’s WW2. Their economic sittuation improved nicely after the war, but honestly I never saw them waste anything, period. Dad was an executive for one of the worlds largest meatpackers, but would still make headcheese and souse at home. He and mom could and did can everything they could grow in our garden. I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t at least several months food and other supplies in their home. Learned the lessons well. Our family is nowhere close to them in frugality, but the idea of being prepared for the unexpected stuck. Given the general state of the world, a little effort and diligence now might count for a lot later.

    • I just watched the same Waco documentary. Well done show. I remember growing up hearing these things, not quite able to appreciate the implications of such an event, regardless of what side of the line you fall on, mistakes and laws were made and broken that hopefully (though that is a bit optimistic) will never happen again. Thanks for your comments as always Hickabilly.

  4. Matthew Chapter 6:25-34


    • I read and know my bible. I understand God has given me a brain and I should use it. I know “Ha Shem” will take care of me, but he expects me to use my brain and do the best I can. I trust him to handle the things I don’t see.

  5. a ground invasion by china? not likely. how would they get a large enough mass of troops here at one time without getting the planes or ships destroyed in the process? the only reason the allies could invade nomandy was because the distance was less than 50 miles and the german air force and subs were mostly destroyed. china can’t send in a 100,000 troops at a time because they would be easily overwhelmed by US forces or even armed civilians (thats why japan never invaded the US – they knew “there would be a gun behind every blade of grass”). ground invasion of the US is not possible with current technology. a nuclear strike is possible, but they could never survive our counter attack. china might attack us economically (selling US bonds and/or not buying more of our debt) but that hurts them at the same time – if you kill your customer or you have no one to sell to. china is not a threat. but our country’s out of control government spending, entitlement programs, and unfunded pensions – now that is a threat.

    • “…but some four or five years ago, we were worried about a ground invasion by China. In the 80s (and 70s and 60s), we were worried about a nuclear war and an invasion by Russia/U.S.S.R., but none of those things ever came to fruition…”

    • Are you for real? Do you have your head in the sand? Have you ever seen the movie “RED DAWN”? I’m sure you have heard that our Southern border is not secure, right? Well, just recently I found out from a good friend that our Northern border is not any better. As far as something starting from within, President Bush before leaving office, went to Texas and signed an executive order, pretty much giving the Mexican and Candan army permission to enter the US, if we were in termoil( I don’t know the exact wording but that is the jest of it). Plus, the President could instate this, with out anyone,s permission, if that is not bad enough alone, No one could do anything, congress etc. for six months. Did you hear about martal law after Hurricane Katrina? Law abiding citizen were releaved of their weapons, leaving them unprotected from the criminals? Also, we have had Candan troops training here at a training camp, that our troops were training from, to go overseas?

      • I can only assume you are being straight with your reply and actually believe it, so here goes:

        Let’s be realistic….Red Dawn as entertaining as it was, shows a completely implausible and unrealistic view of how a foreign power would “occupy” the U.S. Firstly, in order to make a sustained threat, a foreign power would need to hit us in a crucial supply route, military center, or major city. In order to occupy a country one needs to be superior in tactics, training and weapons to have any sustained effect, not to mention have unrestricted supply line access to feed and maintain their troops. All the while we would be launching nuclear missiles at their strategic locations in their homeland. The force needed would have to overcome an armed civilian force at the same time, of which, America has the most armed civilians in the world.

        By the time ships containing enough soldiers arrived in our ports it would be taken care of. Container ships of Chinese or Russian soldiers? Likely intercepted within 100 miles of entry, carrying at most 5k men each: an easy task to handle for our strong naval units and submarine forces patrolling the coast. Do you realize we can intercept rudimentary personal conversation from merchant ships with the technologies we employ via submarine if we choose to do so?

        Have you been to a port of entry recently? They are secured heavier than nuclear sites. Huge technology spending and massive manpower at ports of entry make it nearly impossible to stage an invasion by sea.

        By air? In the late 60’s two planes flew within 600 nautical miles of Seattle Washington, and the president contacted the Russian leader to determine if Russia was ready to start WW3. Those “UFO’s” (which Russia never admitted to flying, and was themselves querying the U.S. about, as they were within 800 miles of Russian landfall) were never accounted for, yet, the presidents of two countries had launch codes issued, awaiting orders to fire. Two planes. Could you imagine the scene if 200 jumbo jet carriers started showing up from China or Russia? North Korea, while almost completely militarized, doesn’t have the capability of an invasion on any level, neither technologically nor supply-wise. Iran can’t even do the strait of Hormuz threat very well, let alone a massive invasion. What other country has the means or the motive to try and invade us?

        Surely you aren’t suggesting Canada or Mexico will attempt to invade us?

        Mexican forces are p[partially funded by U.S. agreements, and they are an allied nation. Canada has a population of less than 40 million. San Diego alone has over 6 million people. San Diego is heavily militarized and could itself defend an attack against a large number of invaders. by the time that many Canadians or Mexicans came to the border they would already be choked out, and we would be heavily militarized. Sure you could hide a bunch of Russians in the snow up in Canada, a border that is huge, yet only has 3k border agents… but how many roads lead into the U.S. that can move massive amounts of troops and armaments. What is Russia’s motivation? How many Russian citizens are militarized and interested in invading the most well trained group of citizens and military personnel on the planet?

        2010 estimates put Russian army numbers at around 1mil active and as many as 15 mil reservists. to mobilize 1 million people even would be a task we could see on radar as they were fueling their carriers….enough to launch several strategic nukes. the u.s. military is at about 1-1.5mil active and 1.5-2 mil reservists, not to mention the 100 million guns in private citizen hands. private army groups totaling over 450k soldiers as well. Surely you don’t think China could mobilize more than a few thousand people at a time without us knowing about it, and crippling their agenda, right?

        When these invading troops arrive at our shores or in our airspace, we have fighter jets ready to take them out, and even if they can land… how will they sustain fighting, ammunition and food is hard to import to your troops when the U.S. blows your supply ships and carriers out of the water.

        It’s not impossible I would concede…but it’s about as unlikely as getting struck by lightning 27 times in a month. It’s simply not going to happen. I strategist for some of the largest companies operating in some of the most dangerous areas in the world, it’s not as if I don’t consider esoteric threats. Show me one reasonable proof of our ability to get invaded, and I will admit you are right, but realistically, we have quelled any major threat (save 9/11 and Katrina), within days of it’s beginning phases.

        As for the other comments: An armed citizen has a choice to give up their weapon, or not to. Being relieved of my weapons will not happen by any law enforcement agency or officer in any time of conflict. I shoot better than them, and am better armed. The resources they will waste attempting to relieve me of my weapons will caused great loss on their behalf relative to their desires.

        In Katrina, law abiding citizens were unprepared, and therefore unable to take care of necessities, and were then, exposed. Katrina was caused by a major weather event, it did not allow any troops to adopt a defensive position, simple a relief aid position, and is entirely out of context for the commentary I first made about a foreign invasion. If you are saying that every time that a weather event on the scale of a “Katrina” happens, that a city the size of NOLA loses it’s guns, then I will take that. SO we lost a few million (at most) and probably more like a few thousand at most) guns out of circulation. the other 99,994,000 guns should be enough for the citizenry to stage a defense, surely.

        As a couple of final notes: the southern U.S. border is the highest density of border agents of any border on the planet. Some 300-500k agents protect it in all customs and BP capacities. It has the best technology of any border larger than 350 miles, and it has the most funding for improvement of any border on the planet. Saying it is unsecured, is a shot in the dark. As for things slipping through…sure, it happens. But 1 million Russians with guns, do not slip through.

        Lastly: what is an individual soldier’s motivation when far from home and family to fight a war that means nothing by means of invasion? To die for something one does not believe in is not part of the contract in military. Defections would occur en masse, and such an invasion would cease to be any threat. The quality of life is incredible in the U.S. Despite others envying us, they are not willing to fight and die for an invasion which will obtain nothing except 25 years of fighting and living under constant threat of death for them.

        Let’s be realistic in our thinking about true threats, we have the largest clandestine organization in the world seeking out the slightest threat risk on a minute by minute basis: some 60,000 well placed, well funded, and well trained operatives exist in foreign countries, just looking for a reason to alert their bosses to some sort of threat. Love or hate the CIA, they keep us well protected from things we dream up as a result of Hollywood movies.

        I will say it again: the U.S. is not currently at risk of invasion by any foreign power, or any two foreign powers for that matter.

  6. For those with family members reluctant to prepare or who think we’re nut jobs, suggest the book “Just in case:how to be self-sufficient when the unexpected happens by Kathy Harrison. It’s an easy read, and gives solid reasons for preparing, even if minimally, in the event of fire, flood, power outage, etc. We’re longer-term preparers, but this is a good starter book.

  7. Your asessment and responses are naieve.Have been at this game over 40 years.No safety, anywhere, world grossly overpopulated, cannot support 8B people, great cleansing coming. Want a prescident? Read Boris Pasternack ” Dr.Zhivago”, true depiction of life in Russia pre, and during Russian Revolution. A whole generation of children grew up subsisting on human flesh as there was no food. The Czsar and ruling classes
    allowed agracultural prices to rise by Too Many middle men, causing mass inflation, thus the ordinary peoplestarved had nothing to eat but corpses. Ever see this in any historical report?
    Guess whats headed our way? Not sun explosions, but depopulation. Preparadness? Better get your cookbook handy!

  8. A nightmare scenario Robert, but one that has a real place in world history. Yes the world is badly over-populated and hunger is already way too common. Canniblism has and still does occur around the globe. In a catastrophic meltdown, human depravity will have no limits.

  9. I am always watching for new energy means and have receintley found an artical about a Japanese inventor that invented a machine that will turn plastic back into oil. The web address given to me is listed below. It contained a five minute video well worth the time in reading the subtitels. Place this address in your search tab and view before it disappears from the web as many before have. This could make a huge difference.

  10. I’m a firm believer in knowing what’s going on in the world around us. At the same time, we have to be discerning about what might be a threat and what might not be. Stay well informed. Bounce ideas and thoughts off other like minded people. Prepare and don’t get overcome with analysis paralysis.

  11. A few issues with the article
    1. There is zero proof Iran is building a nuclear weapon
    2. “terrorists” do not wish to take up arms against America because of our freedoms or way of life, Bin Laden was specific about the reasons they call for jihad and the reason is our intervention in the middle east, our troops in Saudi Arabia, our involvement in the Palestinian/Israeli crisis and lack of involvement in helping the Palestinian people.. They attack us because we are over there.. In 1953 The United States went into Iran to overthrow a democratically elected government and prop up a puppet dictator.. Interventionism and empire building is making us less safe..
    3. Obama is not weak whatsoever in fact he has increased the power of the government and executive office dramatically and has started wars with Libya, Syria, Yemen, and now we are bombing Pakistan.. meanwhile escalating the war in Afghanistan..
    My main point here is the reason I prep is because I am fearful of my own government.. they have created ALL the problems we have today. The Federal Reserve and our currency crisis, our constant spending spree, our endless wars, our losing of basic American rights to travel, privacy, and freedom of speech are being stripped and attacked everyday.. We are becoming nazi germany and I guarantee financially this country will collapse, and it is all happening by design to usher in a one world fiat currency and a one world bank and one world government.. Wake up. Prepare and Defend Liberty

  12. RippedOffByRobertPsenka

    Warning: Robert (E.) Psenka…and his side-kick “Carol” are nothing but life-long con artists!!! Psenka has been conning people his entire life. His “Rolzcad” company in Texas…total scam! Branson convention business…scam! NOTHING he has ever done in life from the age of 12 to 76 has been legit!!!! Just ask his family or past business associates!!!!! RUN FROM THIS MAN BEFORE YOU BECOME HIS NEXT FINANCIAL VICTIM!!!!!!

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