“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope.” – Anonymous

Whoever so elegantly said that we always need hope to survive surely understood the importance of advance planning. Preparing ahead for events creates hope of survival despite dire situations where food, water, or safe shelters are in short supply.

Though “preppers” are often referred to in (implied) derogatory terms like “doomsdayers”, the fact is that a host of natural and man-made events around the world from hurricanes to war have proven that planning ahead for disasters, or any kind of crisis no matter what form it takes, makes sense.

Preppers are not doomsdayers. They are strategic planners who look ahead, anticipate certain events, and logically and methodically prepare to deal with them.

In other words, survival starts with an open mind and the acknowledgment that “life happens”, and it usually happens when least expected. No one anticipated a 1.5 mile wide EF4 tornado would drop down on Alabama in April, 2011 and kill 64 people, destroying or damaging hundreds of homes. The Japanese didn’t plan on a tsunami in 2011, nor were Colorado Springs residents expecting wildfires to destroy entire neighborhoods in 2012.

Though many crises are natural disasters, there are plenty of man-made disasters too. The American Red Cross website reports the disaster relief agency responds to approximately 70,000 natural and man-made disasters annually just in the U.S.1 Employee errors at electric plants, chemical spills, financial fraud, and even terrorism can cause small and large emergencies on a moments notice, and the consequences of these situations can be much bigger than the event itself. After all, the terrorist attack on New York City’s Twin Towers created immediate problems for New York residents before it went on to change how Americans travel and deal with foreign threats forever.

So, preppers are realists. They understand that disasters can happen at any time, in any location, with absolutely no warning. They do what logical, reasonable people do: plan and prepare in advance for the worse-case and most likely scenarios. It is safe to say there is not a single prepper who wants a catastrophe to occur in order to test survival skills.

However, they do understand that should a disaster occur, the safety and health of family members will be threatened due to a lack of essential items like water, food or shelter. The tens of thousands of residents who are still displaced three months after Hurricane Sandy hit the New York and New Jersey coastline in October 2012, or the families huddling in hurricane damaged homes with no power or water so they can protect remaining possessions against looters, probably wish they had been better prepared to survive a catastrophe.

Let’s face it: Urban dwellers are usually not prepared when the water stops flowing from the tap, the supermarket shelves are bare, there is no power for cooking or heat, the police and fire departments cannot be contacted, and it is impossible to reach an emergency room.

So, the bottom line is this: Survival starts with an open mind and an awareness of the various situations that can occur. Once awareness develops, the next step is contingency planning, but for what type of disasters?