Joe Doomsdayer is an otherwise average 30 year old guy, with one exception: When he turned 30 he got a vision that the world as we know it is going to end when he turns 55.

And, to make things more interesting: He is right. By end of the year 2040 the Earth is going to witness an apocalypse wiping out at least 80% of the population.

What steps should Joe make to survive the upcoming apocalypse?

Some background:

  • I am planning some natural disaster as the main apocalypse. However, assume for the scope of this question, that the type of apocalypse is unknown to Joe.
  • As said above, Joe should be also be unable to prove that such an apocalypse is going to happen (best candidates are volcano eruptions).
  • Joe is the only one who had such a vision. The vision itself is religious and not backed by any hard evidence.
  • Joe is living in Europe right now, but he is willing to move somewhere else.
  • Joe turned 30 "yesterday" (Earth, current day)
  • And as stated in the beginning, Joe is an average person, so he has limited resources.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 20% of 8bn people is still quite a significant population... $\endgroup$
    – Sobrique
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 14:44

6 Answers 6


Short answer: Joe needs to become a mariner and ship-owner.

Long answer. I'm assuming that Joe knows the date of the catastrophe to within a month but has no idea as to its nature other than that it will be global. So Joe makes a list:

  • Super-volcano eruption
  • Nuclear War
  • Killer Pandemic (natural or otherwise makes no difference)
  • Large meteor impact
  • EMP war or Carrington event leading to global failure of electrical infrastructures
  • A runaway ecological collapse (faster than most expect; Joe knows )

The locations of dormant super-volcanoes are known. Don't be near. Nuclear targets will almost all be land-based. To catch a pandemic you probably have to be in contact with humanity at large during its ravages. Be isolated. Meteors you'll have to trust to luck, at least for now. Be mobile in case an astronomer gives enough warning. And following on from whatever catastrophe strikes, there will be a terrible period of starvation and war, until the human population has fallen 80%+ to a level at which the survivors can support themselves with whatever level of technology remains.

Best bet for survival is to be at sea in an ocean-capable vessel and to be able to stay there while the worst of the consequences on land work themselves out. A dozen people on a deep-sea fishing vessel provisioned with surviving these catastrophes in mind is about the best chance.

Provisioning: Spares for everything electrical that the ship can't work without, sealed in Faraday cages (in case EMPed). Solar still (water, though as a last resort one can get water out of fish flesh without a still). Lots of fishing lines and hooks (indefinite food supply). Vitamins, especially C, to supplement a fish diet for several years. Ideally the ship is an anachronism that has sail(s) as well as a diesel engine. Chronometers and Sextants and the knowledge to use them. Trade goods, for eventual landfall. A Faraday-protected PC, with all human knowledge on DVDs (Or at least a good encyclopaedia). Seeds, of old-fashioned crops that can be re-sown from last year's harvest. I won't go on. Joe has nearly 25 years to work it out.

Weapons? If I were Joe, not. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. Better to throw your lot in with the survivors once the megadeaths are over. Small isolated rural communities survive on cooperation not conflict.

Joe can openly be known as a bit of a survivalist "nut". He owns his ship. He makes a profit. No-one else believes in his apocalypse, but its his money he's spending on making his boat apocalypse-ready. He'll get amused tolerance if he's good-humoured. Much of the work also makes it one of the safer boats to be on in a storm.

Come the last month, Joe loads his few select loved ones on board (he's trained them as crew!) and sets out for the deep ocean. He sticks it out at sea for as long as he can. If there's anyone still broadcasting two-plus years later, he'll know the best places to return to land. If not, aim at a remote island with a low human population density and a tolerable climate. Saint Helena might be a good bet.

If becoming owner of an ocean-going fishing vessel within 25 years is beyond his abilities, next best bet is to emigrate to such an island.

Alternative involving such as island. If Joe has the gift of the gab, he can persuade a billionaire philanthropist to set up what might come to be called "The university at the end of the world" (only partly in jest). In normal times it would be a place where academics could take a one-year sabbatical to de-stress, think long deep thoughts, make the odd breakthrough, talk to other like-minded academics, and provide children in one of the world's most remote locations with a better education than would normally be available to them. It would also be well-stocked against the day that humanity finally and fatally screws up. Joe knows this day is coming but if he's smart he doesn't say this. Just points out that we won't stay lucky for ever and that the billionaire could arrange for a lifeboat out of the interest on his fortune.

Once it's up and running Joe and his family emigrate there as permanent staff.

By the way, if any billionaires are reading this, please do take this idea and run with it. Because we won't stay lucky for ever.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As for the computer, consider Computer that lasts for centuries? and How long can an abandoned, semi-sheltered computer remain bootable? for some pointers. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 11:42
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I disagree on the weapons part. Your survivor will have to cope with the wildlife, as well as with other survivors, not all of which will pe peaceful. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 10:34
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ weapons? Definitely and be skilled at their use. Try to avoid trouble, but if it's inevitable be capable of shooting yourself out of a tight spot. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 7:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @nigel222 i personally would want a (conceiled) weapon in such a scenario. For the simple reason that there might be situations where an extra option could come handy. This setup will most likely be anarchic, and relying on others to ensure my personal safety does not sound sensible to me. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 8:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ +1 very solid answer. But I think pirates might become a serious issue. If the boat survives the apocalypse then other boats will, and there is a fair chance that not all of them will (be able to) remain peaceful all the time. $\endgroup$
    – fgysin
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 9:59

Preparing for any natural calamity, some patterns are common


This is the first and foremost thing to take care of. The amount of food one would required depends on:

1- the size of family he is keeping.

2- the type of his/her region. for example in cities, if most people are dead, it means more food is readily available for you. but if you are in a rural area, the more people die, the lesser food you would have available to you.

3- the type of food available and required. for example, you would prefer to store food which does not rot quickly, which has high nutrition value and which can be dried/salted for easy storage. if you are forced to store low quality food, you would need greater amounts of it.

Note that water is included in food.

Other Primary Consumables

This includes batteries, flares, fuel (gasoline, firewood etc), matchboxes (or lighters), oxygen tanks, soap, shampoo, sun screen lotions and creams, tissue paper etc. Also don't forget a generous supply of medicines.


This is important if the survivalist happens to live in a despotic, lawless or far off area where animals and/or criminals are a major threat. Once again, the choice of guns (handguns versus shotguns versus rifles versus SMGs) falls completely on what is available (and legal), cost factors and what the person is proficient with.


This depends solely on the type of disaster. There are some types of disaster (for example nuclear fallout or government collapse) where you are forced into a hideout for days. A shelter with a tsunami in mind would be different from a shelter built for surviving a hurricane or government collapse. The shelter needs to stock the supplies and be sturdy. It needs to have place(s) for sleeping, a toilet facility, safekeeping of important objects and a place where the person can sit and read/write.

Training And Mindset

Survivalism is not limited to using shelter and supplies only. It incorporates psychological factor and training too. The person always needs to be ready for the worst what if which he can possibly face. Cooking, first aid and fire-making are the foremost and primary skills without which survivalism has no meaning. Next comes combat training (just in case), sign language and learning different types of edible and poisonous plants (and animals).


If he knows where the catastrophe is going to happen he should move to far away from it. Otherwise, nothing other than choose his investments with the apocalypse in mind.

The thing is, a disaster that is going to wipe out 80% of the world's population must be selective in area. If 80% of the people in a modern society are killed the system will have so many holes that it collapses. We are extremely dependent on resources from elsewhere, when that breaks down the death toll will be major. If we have to fall back on locally-produced resources the US isn't going to be supporting anything like 60 million people.

Thus we can conclude that the disaster will kill basically everyone in an area comprising 80% of the world's population and leave the rest untouched.


Joe needs to set himself up a a religious cult leader. This gives him access to more resources as well as a small army capable of defending the compound. When his apocalyptic vision proves out, they will be very protective of their leader. Running a cult well can give you access to considerable resources.

He can select for needed skills, etc. to get more than any one person could manage by themselves.

Nubile females is a popular option. But pretty much all of the traditional survivalist goods and services will be useful. Food, seeds, guns and ammo, cigarettes and liquor (very useful trade items as well as medicinal), practical knowledge in book form as well as actual experience -- everything from animal husbandry to smithing would quickly be very useful skills.

Have well water power with windmill powered pumps. Convenient forest access and a simple sawmill will also be very desirable.

Don't be overly dependent upon guns. Crossbows and longbows are much easier to make and supply than modern guns. Learning how to make good quality gunpowder and having access to the components could be a major advantage over the long run though.

Select an environment that has enough natural winter cold so you can have ice-houses for keeping drugs and vitamins around for a long time as well as food preservation. Most medicines have an extended shelf life if kept cold at all times.

Build your business based on organic farming. This will be superlative training for when things go south. Many traditional farmers develop a large variety of survival skills. Also a very good way to use organic waste.

You also want well trained guard dogs. Grazing animals are an excellent source of milk and meat that will be very useful.

If at all possible, find a sugar daddy/mommy. Make him/her part of the religion. Even one million dollars wisely invested would make a huge difference in your ultimate survival.

There are lots of other things you would probably wish you had. Assign the job to a few of your brighter disciples and let them spend as needed with a budget with the option to come to you with special projects.


The first issue is to get resources, money and lands to build the shelters needed. Assuming he is an average person he should borrow as much money as he can, if he knows there is going to happen the apocalypse he shouldn't care about bills. As he doesn't know what kind of disaster will happen he should build a few shelters and be prepared for different kinds of scenarios. Store food, water, books and medicines would be of great help. He doesn't have to have all this items in which one of the shelters, as the apocalypse is getting closer he will have some clues about what is going to happen and he can have enough time to move all his resources to one of the shelters.


Joe Doomsdayer knows the exact day of the apocalypse, but not its nature.

While this makes it a bit difficult to plan ahead, there are two main patterns, both of which have been discussed here already: the arch approach, and the bunker approach. Since the ship option has been discussed, i will stick to the bunker.

The fact that he will not be surprised by the event gives him a head start. Wherever he chooses to be when the event comes, he should make sure he knows his surroundings very well.

Since he does not know what kind of event is going to happen, he should plan for all kinds of things. A bunker in a landslide would not help him very much, while a ship does not offer much protection against radioactive rain.

So, he should look for a shelter that fits this bill:

  • be far away from major cities
  • don't be somewhere where a radioactive dust / chemical cloud will be blown to
  • be far away from major volcanos
  • be far away from tectonic fault lines
  • be somewhere where being flooded / buried under mud etc is very unlikely
  • have fresh water near, preferably underground
  • be not too far from a medium sized city, so you can go looting after the event
  • have enough space available for yourself, your companions, and domestic animals (think chicken and rabbits at least), in large enough supply to re-establish a healthy population of them.
  • Be inconspicious enough that the locals don't learn of the stronghold, and the stash.

This is more or less a description of a farm (plus some underground structures) Once you have established that, start building up your supplies:

  • store food, and water, at least enough to last all of you for two years
  • store books, both fiction and non-fiction, and encyclopedias
  • store medicine. Especially painkillers, antiseptics, antibiotics, bandaids and such.
  • have a radio, or preferably more than one, stored in a metal box
  • store weapons and ammunition, mostly to defend your stronghold
  • store some low-tech weapons, especially crossbows, because you will run out of ammunition for your guns eventually
  • store tools. all kind of tools, and in large quantities
  • learn some handy skills: farming, fishing, carpentry, welding. Sewing and knitting should go without notice.
  • have bicycles.
  • Have backpacks.
  • have very large amounts of fuel, mostly for cooking and heating.
  • make sure the entire stronghold and equipment can go on indefinitely without electricity, and that those things that cannot are expendable.
  • Learn to make beer, and maybe to distil alcohol.

Joe is now set up very well. Preferably, he should be at this point something like a year before the event.
This is the point where he can make huge depts to buy everything he might still be missing (or wanting). Knowing that he will not need to pay it back will surely be a comforting thought.

The only kind of apocalypse that could still get at them now would be some sort of disease. So, 3-6 months before the event, they should end physical contact with the rest of society. To avoid suspicion, they should still make phone calls, use the internet and such.
Other than that, the group should just wait now, maybe improve the defences of the stronghold, practice their skills, enjoy life, and scan the news for hints on the nature of the event to come.

Then, after the apocalypse has happened, The group should venture out as soon as possible on large looting sprees. Clear out the local library, home depot, and supermarket storages. The fact that they were not surprised by the apocalypse has put them in the position to plan all this beforehand. Learn where and how he can and should break in, what they should haul away, and how.

  • $\begingroup$ "So, he should look for a shelter that fits this bill" All those qualifications really limit where you can live. It might be well nigh impossible. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 4:21
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn i doubt it's impossible. This planet is really quite huge and he is not limited to any specific country. But of course it is a limiting list, yet that is for a reason. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 7:42

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