Today I came across "100 top item to disappear first during a national emergency". What's interesting about this list isn't what items go first, but what it says about humans and the way they think, feel and act when the chips are down. It wasn't the list which interested me, so much as the psychology behind it. Here it is, in the same order as the original list, but broken down into "reaction stages". You can see the original, full list here.
Generators, Water Filters/Purifiers, Portable Toilets, Firewood, Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps, Coleman Fuel
I want to make sure I'm warm, am drinking safe water and can go to the toilet.
Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats & Slingshots
Having secured a few treasures, I will now fight or kill anyone who tries to take them.
Hand Can Openers, Egg Beaters, Whisks, Honey/Syrups/Sugar, Rice, Beans, Wheat, Cooking Oil, Charcoal, Lighter Fluid
I'm getting hungry. I need food, and I need to cook with my fire, not just use it for warmth.
Water Containers, Propane Cylinder, Survival Guide Book, Mantle Lighting
I've suddenly realised water won't be coming out of the pipes much longer, I'll need to go looking for it. The lamps I got first day don't last long, and I know nothing about how to fend for myself when the water stops. I'd better learn.
Baby Supplies, Diapers, Ointments, Aspirin, Washboards, Mop Bucket, Cookstoves, Vitamins, Feminine Hygiene, Haircare
First indication that I need to care about someone other than myself. Living rough isn't as healthy as I thought it was going to be, I feel sick and need to keep everything cleaner to stop disease.
Saws, Axes, Hatchets, Wedges, Aluminum Foil, Gasoline Container, Garbage Bags, Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Paper Towels, Powdered Milk, Garden Seeds, Clothes Pins, Pump Repair Kit, Tuna Fish, Fire Extinguishers, First Aid Kits, Batteries, Garlic, Spices & Vinegar, Baking Supplies
Notice how we've gone from "essentials to keep me alive today" to "start getting things for the long-term"? Also, some things have already broken down, and we almost had a fire in the shelter last night when one of the lamps tipped over.
We got attacked and I found its a lot harder to kill someone than I thought, so I need an animal to do it.
That's about a third of the list, but you get the general idea. Have a look at the complete list, and think about the timing, and why that item is important at this stage in the disaster. It's an interesting view.