How to survive a catastrophe?

by Jan 30, 2022Preparation, Survival






The make-up of the catastrophe doesn’t matter, the strategies you use to survive a catastrophe stay the same.  Catastrophes are bigger than standard disasters which pose more problems but you just need to adjust your strategy to suit the situation.

 The survival basics include –

  • Be prepared
  • Risk manage your situation
  • Minimise further damage and losses
  • Work towards recovery

 Not everyone will survive a catastrophe, it will come down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or being unaware of the real situation around them and not being prepared which is a major problem in society today. 

 The belief that it won’t happen or someone will rescue them if it does happen.  People who are preparing are labelled as crazy by the ignorant until something happens.

 And then there’s the group which have followed directions, have an emergency kit and are prepared.  

What is a Catastrophe?

“A catastrophe is an unexpected event that causes great suffering or damage.” Source:

Some examples –

  • Major tectonic plate shifts or earthquakes
  • Major hurricane or cyclone hitting a large city (you do get a warning with this one)
  • Huge volcanic eruption
  • Asteroid strike
  • Multiple CME or solar weather attack
  • War or military attack on major cities and utilities
  • Uncontrolled Biological attack

 How does a Catastrophe affect us?

Such events could not only cause damage and suffering in the short term it can affect the way of living in the long term by-

  • Taking out the electrical grid
  • Taking out technological systems – communications, computers, phones, internet,
  • Disrupting water and sewerage treatment plants – technically operated, physical damage
  • Transport systems – electronic failure and physical blockage of roads and rail.
  • Shutting down business infrastructure – technical, biological, structural
  • Economic disruption – the cost of recovery, business closures, trade problems
  • Food shortages – farms, production, transport, retail outages


Food shortages


Be prepared

By the time the disaster hits it is too late to prepare.  The shops will be empty, infrastructure will be damaged and the damage is done.  Preparation should be done well in advance and improved with time.

  • Have an emergency plan
  • Develop a complete emergency kit
  • Gradually stock up on non-perishables
  • Learn new skills – survival, manual skills, fire lighting, people skills
  • Increase your knowledge – survival, risk management, purifying water, local area features

 Preparation done overtime won’t put a hole in your budget and saves emptying the shelves in the shops.  Buy a couple of extra items with each shop.



Emergency Kit


Risk manage your situation

Research the problems in your area, the hazards they pose and how to manage the risks.  As part of your emergency plan.  Think about potential problems that are unexpected such as a war hitting the area.

  • Know when to evacuate or bunker down
  • Identify your safer options
  • Identify future problems before they occur
  • Learn to be adaptable
  • Don’t rely on technology

 Our technology and electronic systems are fragile they need electricity and towers to work.  And are easily damaged by radiation, power surges, water, structural failures, cyber attack, fire, storms and more. 

 As a disaster involves multiple of these threats the chance you will have a mobile phone, internet or electricity is remote.  Don’t factor technology saving you into your emergency plans, have alternate plans.

 Don’t rely on being saved

 A catastrophe can affect millions of people.  We have a limited amount of emergency services to carry out any rescues.  The emergency services can be victims of the disaster themselves and unavailable.

 With roads damaged and structural failures, the rescuers may not be able to get to your location leaving you cut off.  Your survival will depend on your skills, knowledge and how prepared you were.

 Disasters bring out the worst in people and the best.  Survivors around you may help the injured or they may run in fear of leaving them behind.  Team up with those who help as this will form a stronger survival team.




Minimise further damage and loss

Manage injuries

 Injuries to yourself and others can get bad quickly in disaster conditions.  Deal with yourself first, you are no help to others if you are dying.  Bleeding internally and externally is life-threatening.  Even a small cut can easily become infected in the putrid conditions after a disaster.

 Learning first aid increases your chances of survival after a disaster.


 Don’t be reckless

 You may have survived but if you don’t risk manage the situation you can get hurt or killed after the event.  Stop and think before you dive in to rescue anyone.  Whatever injured or killed them may still be active waiting to take out the next victim such as a power line.

 Work towards reducing the risks, don’t do something that complicates the situation further.


 Reduce the hazards

 As you manage your local area work on reducing hazards (observing safety) such as –

  • Small local fires that can spread. 
  • Turning off gas bottles
  • Moving debris in walkways.

 Don’t expose yourself to unknown chemicals or objects that can cause injury such as trying to move a heavy object by yourself.   Disasters have more than one hazard in an area so you need to risk assess before getting too involved in a task.


 Secure your local area

 Catastrophes involve large areas involving regions or countries.  Don’t focus on the bigger picture it will be too overwhelming.  Focus on the area directly around you.  Make your area safe before spreading out.

 Secure any food, water and other useful stuff protecting it from thieves.  And have a means of protecting yourself from those who attack you.  It doesn’t have to be a gun, anything store-bought or make your own from debris lying around.

 It’s not just people you need protection from.  You need shelter from the weather, cold, heat, animals and other threats.



Work towards recovery

Have goals that move you forward and improve the situation.  Sitting around waiting for someone else to save the day is not productive.  Doing nothing will make your situation worse as you run out of food and water.

 Think about your ultimate goal can be overwhelming, breaking the journey down into small steps.  How do you climb Mt Everest?  One step at a time.

 Acknowledge your losses

 Disasters are emotionally overwhelming.  Everyone handles them differently.

  • Go into shock and freeze
  • Get emotional and run away from the situation
  • Go into a state of denial and pretend it didn’t happen
  • Acknowledge what has happened and work on improving the situation

 These emotions will change as the situation sinks in and our bodies become physically and mentally drained.

 To be of most help to yourself and those around try to acknowledge what has happened and start risk assessing.  You don’t have to focus on everything little thing in your acknowledgement, better to limit your exposure to the bad stuff. 

 For example, someone is obviously dead, cover them up or walk away, you don’t need to analyse why they died.  Their situation is beyond your control so move on.  Later on, when the situation is more under control someone can deal with the deceased.

 For those who are still running around in a panic thinking everyone is going to die, you or someone with great people skills needs to bring them back into reality so they can be a useful member of the team.

  Create new goals

 The disaster has brought an abrupt end to your current goal list.  Reassess the situation and create new goals.  Having goals gives you something to focus on.  Breaking the goal down into achievable steps makes the situation easier and more rewarding when you finish the step.

  Prioritise your work

 After a big disaster, you will have a lot of goals and tasks that need doing.  Take a moment to prioritise them based on improving your chances of survival such as water, food, shelter, hazard reduction.

  Find like-minded people

 The old saying many hands make light work is very true.  Trying to clean up and rebuild after a disaster on your own is exhausting.  Having like-minded people working together achieves goals faster with less stress.

 Talking to others and achieving something is a great stress release.  After a huge catastrophe having a small group improves survival as you all share tasks such as finding food and water or building a shelter.

 There will be those who are working against recovery.  Thieves, vandals, fraudsters and the self-centred who are taking everything for their own personal gain.  Stay aware and factor this into your plans.



 Key points

To survive a catastrophe of any form you need to have the basics covered to improve your chances.  Leaving preparing for tomorrow will be your downfall as tomorrow may not come.

  • Preparing at the last minute throws you into the large group of the public that panic-buy when it’s too late.
  •  Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst
  • Learn to risk manage your individual situation
  • Don’t put all your faith in other people and technology to save you.
  • Acknowledge what has happened but don’t let it prevent you from moving forward.
  • Remember those you have lost after you have stabilised your own survival, this will be a hard task.
  • Find like-minded people for support and work on your goals to rebuild.

 If you don’t have a disaster plan yet you can get your Disaster Plan for Families workbook, to start your preparation now.


Further reading

 Catastrophe vs Disaster – FEMA Training

 Hurricane Katrina

  The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake





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