Steps to take to solve a problem

Coping with a disaster in real time requires response. If we have prepped wisely, then our responses will be appropriate.

However, there may be times during a disaster when we are called upon to solve problems that may arise.

Even with good preps in place, a disaster may demand much physical and intense labour. We may be forced to push ourselves physically and there is no time to eat, drink or rest. It is possible to become sleep deprived, hungry, dehydrated, injured, ill, or incredibly stressed.

Imagine that scenario and then imagine problems cropping up and the need to solve them.

There are different methods for teaching problem solving steps. I prefer these steps and wanted to share them with you:

Step 1: Identify and define the problem.

It isn’t possible to solve a problem if you don’t clearly understand the problem. You need to be able to correctly identify the problem first.

Step 2: Brainstorm possible solutions.

A brainstorm is simply jotting down any possible solutions that appear reasonable and come to mind.

If you do this as a group or family, everyone calls out their suggestions, without stopping to critique or comment upon them. Just keep the momentum going and list the ideas.

Step 3: Consider and evaluate the list of possible solutions.

Now is the time for discussion if in a group or family or reflection if you are along and doing this.

Step 4: Select a possible solution to try. 

Try the solution.

Step 5: Evaluate the solution.

Did it solve the problem?

Step 6: If the problem is not solved, repeat Step 4.

Go back through the list of possible solutions and select another one to try.

Step 7: If you try all the possible solutions and the problem is not solved, then

a) Go back and review how you identified the problem. Perhaps the problem is not accurately or fully defined.

If you discover this has happened, adjust the definition of the problem and repeat the steps.


b) Accept that the problem may not be solvable at this time.

There may be problems that occur during a crisis that are not solvable at that particular point in time. Consider that the problem may be solvable at a different time and then try again later.


  • Comments (11)

    • 5

      Knowing how to deal with and solve problems is an incredible skill that will benefit you your entire life. It’s not like the problems stop coming right!?

      But just memorizing this list or printing it off and putting it in your emergency bag isn’t going to do you much good. But the practice and engraining it into your subconscious now is what we need to do. 

      If you practice and do these steps every day with every problem that comes your way, then it will just come second nature and just naturally be what you will do during an emergency when you do have to solve a difficult or even life threatening problem. Practice now so you can use it later.

      • 5

        Liz, I agree so much with practice. The hands on application of our new skills are so relevant especially when we are under stress.

        Financial crisis is a good example of how people can make a wrong turn while trying to solve problems and actually make the crisis worse.

        You are so right, the problems don’t stop coming. There will always be problems to solve. I think it also helps that there is recognition in the steps that sometimes the problem just isn’t solvable at that particular point in time. I think that knowledge can take some of the stress off and we can accept that the solution will have to wait.

        Thank you very much for replying, Liz.

    • 6

      My problem-solving doctrine is based on MBO – Management By Objectives.  What is my objective?  Regardless of the peril(s), our group’s safety and health is Objective Roman Numeral I.

      If, for example, a tree arrives at this shack’s walls or roof at 50 mph, the evaluation involves tradeoffs. In blunt terms: Is it worth it to get the tree moved and a tarp on the roof ? It might not be.  Safety and health govern.

      Once lost a small boat. Like working on an oil rig, I “declared a loss”. Safety and health govern. Everyone’s recreational plans for 2 months later can be reading our 2 books on edible seaweeds.

      • 5


        The group health and safety would be foremost for me as well. Things can be replaced, restored or repaired, People are the priority.

        A tree on the roof might be parked for a while in the midst of a storm or before the area could be tarped. Objectives are governed by risk.

        It is imprudent to throw caution or a tarp to the wind.

        Edible seaweeds – are you able to harvest them? They are supposed to be very nutritious.  The Canadian maritime provinces harvest seaweed.

      • 5

        Not allowed to harvest without licenses/permits.  During disasters OK to collect for food. Yes, nutritious. No dietary iodine shortages here !

      • 3

        Bob, Interesting – how do the licenses/permits work? Are there daily limits? Do you roast the seaweed or how do you prepare it?

        That is so cool that you have a food source (renewable) close at hand.

      • 4


        I never researched the licensing procedures. It is a major project. It’s a combination of Federal and state admin.

        My job here in our small homesteading group is not food prep so don’t know the specifics other than to say roasting was demonstrated and the samples I ate were fine.

        This area’s emergency food supplies – the water botany and the fish / shellfish are  present but in emergency conditions it is access to harvest presenting the “challenge”. This area is overpopulated with minimal support structures such as public safety – both security and health. Shore and near-offshore access is a major aspect of our prepping.  So far, our tested modeling plans work above minimal requirements.

      • 6


        In crisis others will have same idea or figure it out when observing others. 

        Is there a possibility that some of the population might relocate and reduce numbers during crisis?

        During WWII, Mom’s family were part of group that collected firewood from park. They were in a major occupied city. They sent two oldest males from her family. Both caught. Uncle did 5 years in forced labour camp. Her Dad was supposed to be shot but made it out due to Grandma.

        According to Mom, what they collected each time they went out was a small return for the risk taken. A few sticks of firewood shared among a group.

        You mentioned tested modeling plans work above minimal requirements. I always have a plan b, c, d ….etc just in case. So I wonder is a trip further afield away from population to harvest more and take less trips and less risk possible?

      • 2

        Unique, I am a believer that, in general, (“In general, one should not generalize.” Anon) travel is itself a danger. It might be better to have a cup of yellow pine bark tea than to walk to the shore. The “R.O.I.” – Return On Investment – just isn’t worth it to me. It’s an analogy to going to a park for a small amount of firewood. It doesn’t become one’s firewood until returning to the dwelling.

        Around here there will not be any big game hunting nor boats going out into the Bay.

        During a crisis I believe the population flows will be minimized by the authorities. Pre-crisis: Yes. Once evacuations place stresses on the anticipated and planned – for arrangements, there could be measures taken to protect critical infrastructure … this includes major roads … and supporting aspects, like highway rest areas, parks (some are configured to support Responders), etc.

        All above and all the related is really about a national mobilization.  As much of this is about conjecture, much is still the same old stuff that will be repeated.

      • 2


        I understand your point about ROI.

        The conjecture you mentioned is part of prepping. Running scenarios. The national influence is also one I hadn’t factored into my preps.

        “It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired – you quit when the gorilla is tired.” – Robert Strauss

      • 3

        Ubique, I like Strauss’ quote on gorilla fighting !