Facilitating people’s ability to anticipate, prepare for and recover from disaster is an important component of the UNISDR strategy for disaster risk reduction. Following a discussion of the functional characteristics of preparedness, this paper first discusses how hazard characteristics and psychological constructs influence people’s ability to anticipate uncertain future events. It then reviews how psychological theories (Health Belief Model, Protection Motivation Theory, PrE Theory, Theory of Planned Behaviour, Critical Awareness Theory, Social Marketing, Protective Action Decision Model, Social Capital, Community Engagement Theory and Social Identity Theory) can inform understanding of preparedness for likely and current hazard events. Discussion then then turns to applying concepts and theories to understanding preparedness for current disasters. The all‐hazards and cross‐cultural applicability of preparedness theory is discussed, as are a need for a critical appraisal of preparedness, its predictors, and the nature and development of the preparedness process and its application in facilitating effective intervention strategies.