The First Phase
The years, months, days and hours leading up to the event are phase one. Typically, seasonal natural disasters can be predicted days in advance, and often times with great accuracy. Many occur on a regular basis, so to some extent you have an idea of what to expect.
You have the benefit of knowing something is likely to happen, a certainty of sorts that allows you to prepare on somewhat of a schedule. You have who, what, when and where, giving you the information needed to plan. Your plans could include sheltering in place or evacuation.
Man-made disasters are something entirely different however. There is, of course, the time leading up to one, but you may not be aware you are in phase one. The clock may have been ticking but you could not hear it.
You would not have a timeframe, predictions, or forecasts such as with a natural disaster. In the event of an attack, such as a nuclear one, the country or certain areas of the country may have a short warning before a missile strike, “May have a warning” this not guaranteed.
Of course Preppers assume there is a clock ticking somewhere, something is going to happen and most can only guess at the who, what, when and where, but this does not stop you from being ready. It is not a matter of if, but simply when something happens.
The Second Phase
The event itself, disaster strikes, you are no longer in a prepping phase you are in survival mode by any means necessary. You are essentially “riding out the storm”. The event can be relatively short lived such as with a tornado or even a hurricane or blizzard. A nuclear attack can be over in minutes. Providing you survived the event you now have phase three to survive, and in some cases, the days after can be the most deadly.
The Third Phase
Once disaster strikes you assess the situation after the dust has settled somewhat. Everyone is alive, but all you have at this point is what you have gathered up to this point. You cannot prep from this point forward, all you can do is try and survive with what you have.
Depending on the crisis, you may not be able to obtain essential goods for the foreseeable future. You will only have those supplies you have on hand. If you do not have it, cannot make it, or raise it, you go without it.
You have to begin using what you have gathered, and this is when you discover any mistakes you may have made, but it is too late to fix them. You have to move forward, and deal with the new reality. Your life expectancy can be counted in minutes, hours and days depending on how well prepared you are, and with what you are left to face now that disaster has struck.
The United States has definite advantages when it comes to surviving a crisis in the country. The earthquake in Nepal for example, has killed over 2,000 people and likely has displaced tens of thousands of people from their homes.
Would anyone predict 2,000 deaths if an earthquake struck the United States, anyone dying from a disaster is one person too many, but because of the infrastructure and technology in this country, deaths from disasters like earthquakes would be relatively low in comparison to certain other countries.
This is not to say deaths will not happen and much depends on the disaster. A nuclear detonation, for example, would kill tens of thousands, if not millions of people regardless of technology and infrastructure. In Nepal the number of deaths that occur after the earthquake could be as high as or higher than the deaths that occurred during the earthquake.
In this country, the days after are what you are really preparing for, the lack of clean water, no electricity, no heat, and limited to no medical care. There will be diseases, looting and civil unrest caused by panic and lack of response from the authorities.
Focusing On Conspiracies May Mean You Miss the Obvious
If you live in California or along the New Madrid Fault, for example, an earthquake should not catch you by surprise. The so-called big one may not happen during your lifetime, or during the time you live there, but it will happen at some point. The extent of the destruction cannot be predicted with any accuracy, but you know there will be damage to buildings, damage to power plants, possibly even nuclear power plants and then the loss of utilities for days or even weeks.
A small majority may be spending their time and money on how to avoid capture and incarceration in FEMA camps, how to become invisible to drones, and how to escape Martial Law along with a host of other things that could happen, but are not likely to happen.
Preparedness Should Not Necessarily Be Disaster Specific
Regardless of the crisis life essentials remain the same in particular in the days after. In some cases, you would need specific equipment and materials to survive the disaster such as radiation suits, respirators, specific medicines and so forth. The same would apply to a chemical or biological attack. You would need specifics to survive the attack, but not necessarily to survive the days after, so what are your priorities, because you cannot prepare specifically for every possible scenario.
You start with what you know, and build from there once you have everything you need to survive in the days after. You cannot put a roof on a house until the foundation is laid, and the walls framed up. The same applies to prepping, build from the bottom up.
Radiation suits can help you survive, but they are limited in what they can do, and frankly if you are in a situation where a radiation suit is needed then your chances of surviving are low unless you have specific training, knowledge and skills.
Whether you survive a nuclear, chemical, or biological attack would likely be based on your location. Radiations suits do little for you once you have been contaminated, so cloaking yourself in protective gear once exposed would do little to help you survive. You would have to be in the suit before the nuclear device was detonated if you live within a certain radius of the blast. It is location and just plain luck, in some cases, that may mean the difference between surviving the initial attack or not.
Densely populated areas will always be a target. A high body count in the initial attack is what the enemy wants. If you live in a metropolitan area, then having protection from radiation, chemical or biological contaminates may make sense once you have everything else on hand.
You have to assume you will survive the attack, so then we are back to the basics of survival. You need shelter, water, food, energy, medicines/medical care. These are the basics, without them nothing else matters, because you will not be around to care.
Once you have the basics then you can get specific, but remember specific equipment, supplies and materials may only protect you during the attack, they may do little to help you survive in the days after.