Disaster Plans 101


Disaster hierarchy of needs

Disaster plans 101

In disaster planning there is always the question of, “what should I plan for?” In the broadest possible terms, your plan should keep you alive and safe during the disaster. More than that, your plan needs to ensure you come out of the disaster with enough physical strength to continue on after the disaster, and enough emotional strength to have both the desire, as well as the will, to rebuild what was lost.

Fortunately, there is a lot of good information available on the subject of what humans need in order to survive, both in life and in disasters. In his 1943 paper, “a theory of human motivation”, Dr. Abraham Maslow outlined these motivations in what he called the Hierarchy of Needs. It turns out that there are some universal requirements for life, regardless of situation. Time has proven Maslow’s theory to be correct, so we can use these “life motivations” as an effective guideline for survival requirements during and after a disaster.

Using the Hierarchy of Needs to accurately anticipate, we see that are three fundamental requirements for people to survive any disaster situation. They include physiological needs, safety needs, and social needs.

  • Physiological needs keep a person alive; food, water, shelter, and rest.  
  • Safety needs include physical, environmental and emotional safety and protection.
  • Social needs include the need for love, affection, care, relationships, and friendship.

There are two more levels, but for the purposes of disaster survival we are not looking at our personal realization of psychological fulfillment. Let’s stick to disaster plans for now.   

How to meet basic survival needs

So how do we meet physiological needs? Years of survival experience has developed an accepted list of survival priorities that will meet a person’s basic survival needs when are lost in the wilderness (i.e. separated from society). When this list is examined alongside Dr. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, they match very well.  It provides a solid list of tasks-oriented goals by priority to help keep you physically and mentally functional.  They are: shelter from the elements, warmth and hydration, protection of health, maintenance of physical strength, and maintenance of mental ability via rest.

  • Shelter (Protection from Weather and Elements / Exposure)
  • Water & fire (Hydration and Warmth)
  • Protection from minor injuries (infections, illness, animals, and insects)
  • Food (Strength, stamina, and clear thought)
  • Sleep (Dangers of sleep deprivation / Need for clear thought)

You will notice that two of these requirements, protection from minor injury and a safe place to sleep, fall within the security and safety requirement. This short list makes a good start for goals in a solid survival plan, but a disaster plan needs something more.

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