Despite considerable expenditure on public hazard education, levels of natural preparedness remain low. Building on natural hazard and health research about protective behaviour, a social cognitive model of hazard preparedness is proposed. The model commences with factors that motivate people to prepare, progresses through the formation of intentions, and ends in decisions to prepare or not prepare. Variables implicated at each stage are identified and their role described. The model was tested by examining earthquake preparedness. Analysis suggests that the reasoning process that leads to preparing or not preparing represent discrete processes. The implications of the model for conceptualising and assessing preparedness are discussed, as are implications for risk reduction and communication.