Before entering into any dangerous situation, it’s important to have a plan. In tactical or survival settings, developing a thorough plan that allows for alternative approaches as problems arise often means the difference between successfully completing objectives and losing your life—which is why the military has so many acronyms surrounding the concept of planning that we practically need another series of acronyms just to help us remember what they are. We have S.A.L.U.T.E. reports, B.A.M.C.I.S., and a half-dozen more planning tools rammed down our throats throughout training for good reason; planning is the most important action you can take in a life-or-death situation.

So by combining my military-born need to plan for potentially dangerous scenarios that could befall my family and my love for popular culture, I’ve tried to establish a brief list of possible disasters that may warrant your preparation and match them to a movie, television show, or video game that represents the scenario in a fashion that might allow me to use each as a form of shorthand.  Instead of devoting a few thousand words to describing each potential apocalypse themselves, I can say, “Ya know, like in that movie,” and hopefully our collective cultural understanding will leave you with a sense of the dangers therein – or at least with an idea of what to add to your Netflix que.

Despite tying each disaster to a popular culture stand in, the situations I’ll list below are not flights of fancy or purely fictional – they are real possibilities, with real repercussions.  Keeping the tone of this content light doesn’t speak to a lack of potential danger, but rather to my own approach to life and death.  Preparing for the worst ought to be a fun and positive experience whenever it can be, because spending time depressingly ruminating about our own mortality does little to stave it off.  If the end must come from an asteroid falling out of the sky, no amount of prepper breakup poetry scribbled in tears will change that – so we might as well have as many chuckles as we can along the way.

In order to add a little credibility to my ranting, I’ve sourced these potential disasters from a 2015 report produced by the Swedish think tank, Global Challenges Foundation, and Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, titled, “Global Challenges: 12 Risks That Threaten Human Civilization.”


Pop culture examples: Outbreak, World War Z, I am Legend

The Pandemic apocalypse encompasses a lot – everything from a biological weapon, to a fast-spreading disease and even zombies fall under the pandemic umbrella.  The modern era has made the potential for pandemics skyrocket, with international travel becoming faster, easier, and cheaper than ever before and our culture’s overuse of antibiotics encouraging the development of “super bugs” that resist the methods we have in place to prevent, curb, or cure infections.

Depending on the nature of the infection, survivors may be only the tiny percentage of humans that possess a natural immunity to whatever virus, bacteria, fungus, or what-have-you that decimated the human race, which would mean survival is dependent on self-reliance and an ability to live without the support of the modern infrastructure.  If survivors are, instead, the few humans who have managed to avoid infection, the situation becomes much more complicated.  The potential to become infected after the fall of civilization would require a larger emphasis on defense and creating biological barriers than the relatively “rapture-like” empty world immune survivors would face – think the difference between “World War Z” and “I am Legend.”