The fundamental reason I believe everyone needs to start preparing to survive is that disasters happen. An earthquake could strike, a wildfire, or even localized flooding. But with the right set of supplies and skills, you'll be much better off if one of these events happens.
Of course, depending on where you live there's going to be certain threats that are far more likely to occur. For example, where I live the threat of earthquakes is almost non-existent, but we get battered by big storms, and have had both flooding and wildfires in recent years. So it makes much more sense that my home and family are ready for these disasters, as there's a higher chance they'll reoccur. My advice is to always prepare for the most likely events, and armed with a little knowledge you'll probably have a good idea of where you need to begin.
Create a plan
I don't remember where I heard this one, but it stuck with me. "You don't even know what you don't know." The first step to getting started as a survivalist is to do your research, and come up with a plan. Once you know the kind of disasters you should be preparing for, you can create plans and strategies to overcome them. Of course, creating a plan also requires getting your family on board, so they understand what their role will be when a disaster hits.
But don't stop there. In my first plan I outlined a number of skills to master, along with the stockpile of supplies I believed my family will need once the SHTF. As the weeks and months pass, I worked to check these off, which helped to keep me motivated and on track so I continued to make progress.
Don't stop learning
There's always new gear being released, and different ways you can make it through a disaster. My advice is to never stop learning. Everything from basic wilderness skills, to the correct way to shoot a gun. There's so much information available on the internet, or in your local library, so make use of these resources now, and start practicing their use in real life. What you learn today, may just make all the difference tomorrow.
Stay updated with the news
The days of waiting for the six o'clock news for the latest updates are over. Subscribe to the local weather alerts with apps in your phone, along with any disaster communication channels. That way, you'll get updated as it happens, and the best part is many of these are provided free of use so there's no excuse for not being a subscriber. Even just having a few minutes notice before a disaster can give you enough time to get a head start, so you're ready for anything.
Have multiple communication methods
When the grid goes down most of the communication methods we rely on today will fail. Without power cell towers will go down, and your smartphone will be useless. Hopefully the traditional phone lines will stay up, but that's not guaranteed. My advice, is to have multiple ways of communicating with your family and friends. I worked hard to get my HAM radio license, but it means that I can listen and broadcast on another network as a backup. Plus, we've also got some very basic communication agreements up with our neighbors who are in our survival group, so we're able to understand what's going on, even if we're not able to speak.
Sort your bug-out-bag
One of the fundamental assets of a survivalist is the bug out bag. There's a thousand different articles out there telling you what to pack, and everyone has their own idea on what's best. All I can say, is to ensure it contains everything you need to survive up to 3 days without any help from anyone. Which would mean packing food and water, fire-starting materials and a torch, a way to defend yourself, and some form of shelter from the elements. Oh, and don't forget a comfortable backpack to keep it all in.
Start stockpiling food
Now I'm all for having a pantry full of food, but what's most important here is to actually stockpile food that you actually want to eat. There's no point having bags and bags of wheat, if you've no idea how to prepare or use it. Personally, I've focused on having food stockpiled that will stay edible for years, but that I can rotate into my families normal eating habits before it expires. Because otherwise it's just a waste. There's no use buying food you'll never eat.
Buy the right clothing
Exposure is the biggest killer when it comes to survival, and the clothing you've got will make all the difference. In general, you want to be dressed in layers, just ensure you've got the right gear for the conditions in your local area. Where I live it never snows, so I'm able to pack far lighter than someone in a state like Washington or Alaska. Just ensure you've got warm layers underneath that wick away moisture from your skin, and an outer shell layer that will protect you from any rain or wind chill. Oh, and keep an eye on your kids. They need to be protected as a priority when it comes to the right clothing.
Get a water supply sorted
Knowing where to find clean water after a disaster strikes is imperative. Because once the grid goes down, you can't expect the taps to keep flowing. And the water around you could be undrinkable for any number of reasons, especially if there's chemical or sewage leaks. My advice would be to have a couple of means of purifying the water you're drinking. Run it through a filter to remove any large particles, and boil it to kill off any microbes. I'd also advise getting a renewable source of water, like a rain catchment system installed in your home, or a pump drilled on your property. Access to clean water is critical if you want to survive for more than a couple of days.
Getting started as a survivalist isn't difficult, but it does require that you do a little research, and you start taking proactive steps towards being more prepared. That's all we do. Put systems, plans and strategies in place now, so if we ever need them you're not fumbling around trying to get organized when everything is going to chaos.