In our post last week on “The Rules of Three,” we outlined the timetables for surviving under various adverse conditions (no water, no food, etc.). Today we will be talking about Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” a psychological theory which categorizes the incentives that drive people’s behavior and ranks them in order of importance. We will illustrate how this framework can be a useful guide to your survival prepping.
“A Theory of Human Motivation”
In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow published “A Theory of Human Motivation” in the journal Psychological Review. In this paper, Maslow proposed that the needs of human beings could be ranked from the purely physical to the more intellectual, or from wholly self-regard to altruism.
His argument was that only when the base individual needs have been met are people able to address the higher needs of themselves and others. A great illustration of this is in the emergency procedures in the event of a cabin depressurization on an airplane: passengers are told that if the oxygen masks deploy, to put theirs on before assisting others.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs chart
After all, you can’t help anyone else if you, yourself, are incapacitated. Maslow later revised his hierarchy, acknowledging that people (complex as we are) can be striving on multiple levels at the same time, but the general idea is clear enough for our purposes.
Physiological Hierarchy of Needs and the Rules of Three
As you can see from the chart shown above, physiological needs form the base of the pyramid. Our base drive, according to Maslow, is to acquire the resources that keep us alive.
Note: the inclusion of sex on this level is referring to humanity’s need to reproduce for a survival of the species in general; it is not claiming that any specific individual must have sex in order to physically survive (though it may feel that way sometimes).
This level directly ties into the Rules of Three, as those rules also address the need for air (three minutes), water (three days), and food (three weeks).
Homeostasis means that your body’s systems—particularly those that are responsible for regulating temperature—are in balance, and this is addressed in the second of the Rules of Three, which states that in general, a person risks death from exposure after more than three hours in adverse conditions without shelter.
You could probably argue that sleep and excretion belong within homeostasis, as they are the mechanisms through which the body restores balance to alertness and toxicity levels, respectively, but there is no harm in listing them separately.
Prepping for Survival = Safety
In your research on emergency preparedness, you may have come across the phrase “needs-based planning.” We have not mentioned this particular phrase, but have come at the concept sort of sideways in our discussions.
What the phrase basically means is that, while it’s always helpful to account for certain aspects of the disasters you are most likely to face with your planning, the majority of the time, your response is going to be the same, regardless of what kind of emergency you are dealing with.
Specifically, you want to make sure your basic physical needs are met while ensuring the continued safety of yourself, your family, and your property as much as possible. If you know that you have enough food and water for everyone, you will be able to concentrate on finding a safe place to shelter.
Having a safe place for you and your family to stay means that you will be able to devote your time and energy to getting assistance or helping with recovery efforts. The fewer things you have to worry about immediately, the more long-range planning you can do.
Beyond the physical needs, this level of the pyramid also encompasses feeling safe on a psychological level. You have to be sure that your shelter is structurally sound, that you are hidden from external dangers, that you have the means to relocate if necessary, etc.
It may not be obvious on the surface, but the goal of disaster prepping is to allow you to preserve as much of your daily routines as possible. When you can maintain most (if not all) of your routines, it reduces the frightening “alien” aspect of a disaster.
“I may not be able to get to work, but at least I am home safe with my family, and we have the supplies we need.” “We may have had to leave our home, but at least we are in a safe place with the supplies we need.”
“We may not have shelter yet, but at least we can still share a meal together.” Devote some time to identifying which routines are important to you and your family, and then take steps to accommodate them as much as possible in your emergency planning.
For example, if your family of four eats three meals a day, you will want to have thirty-six meals in your collective 72-hour disaster kits. If you are building an individual kit, and usually only eat two meals a day, you might only pack six meals (NOTE: emergencies can be physically demanding, so consider that you may need extra calories).
If you have to have absolute quiet in order to sleep, include a pair of earplugs in your kit. You may have to go to a shelter, and they’re noisy.
Routines are especially important to young children, so if you make a habit of reading to them at bedtime, pack some of their favorite books so you can keep doing that. Favorite toys are also a necessity, so make sure that the teddy bear or model car is on your checklist.
The Higher Levels of Need
You can see how the pyramid rises from considering individual needs to accommodating the needs of others. Going beyond the second level as the pyramid as presented doesn’t squarely fit in with the demands of short-term emergencies (perhaps if you are having to rebuild society from the ground up, though), but if you visualize the third level as being occupied by the other members of your community, you can replace “Love/Belonging” with “Recovery/Assistance,” and imagine it involves helping others meet the needs of the first two levels, it works just fine.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been adopted by psychologists, sociologists, business management courses, etc. It is not without its critics, but most people argue as to where certain items should fall, and under what conditions and within which types of societies.
Certainly, no one is claiming that people don’t need to eat. Regardless of any pointed complaints about this or that particular item, it still boils down to being able to take care of yourself first, then your immediate family and friends, then others. As such, it is a very useful tool for prioritizing your emergency planning.
We hope you have found this article to be both interesting and helpful! Tomorrow we will be reviewing the different types of cordage you should have in your survival kit.
The day after that, we will be talking about the different categories of knots, and when each should be used. We will also be going over what you can do to maximize your chances of surviving a flood this week. We look forward to having you back again!