One way to reduce the risk from earthquakes is for individuals to undertake preparations for earthquakes at home. Common preparation measures include gathering together survival items, undertaking mitigation actions, developing a household emergency plan, gaining survival skills or participating in wider social preparedness actions. While current earthquake education programmes advocate that people undertake a variety of these activities, actual household preparedness remains at modest levels. Effective earthquake education is inhibited by an incomplete understanding of how the preparedness process works. Previous research has focused on understanding the influence individual cognitive processes have on the earthquake preparedness process but has been limited in identifying other influences posed by the wider social contextual environment. This project used a symbolic interactionism perspective to explore the earthquake preparedness process through a series of qualitative interviews with householders in three New Zealand urban locations. It investigated earthquake information that individuals are exposed to, how people make meaning of this information and how this relates to undertaking actual preparedness measures. During the study, the relative influence of cognitive, emotive and societal factors on the preparedness process was explored and the interactions between these identified. A model of the preparedness process based on the interviews was developed and is presented in this paper.