I’m not a methodical person. My own best decisions have always been made by gut, and my best actions taken on “informed instinct.”
Of course, not everyone works that way. And when facing a bewildering variety of unknowns, even “gut” people need tools to help them sort through the alternatives.
Fortunately, some blog readers are experienced professionals in fields like security and emergency management. Today, I’m turning the blog over to one of those, MJR. Here’s his take on how to assess risks and decide which ones we should act on.
One of the little things you might want to think about, concerning figuring out what to do and in which order when prepping, is a basic risk assessment for each risk you identify.
This assessment is broken down into the following:
- Identify, characterize, and assess all the threats to you from whatever source.
- Assess your vulnerability to these threats.
- Determine the risk (i.e. the expected likelihood and consequences of specific types of harm to you).
- Identify ways to reduce those risks.
- Prioritize risk reduction measures based on a strategy you will make.
The formula for the above is:
Now in plain English…
To figure out how bad the risks are first start with the rate (or probability) of an occurrence taking place, (event occurs once a year, once in ten years, once in 100 years etc.). Rate each risk from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest chance of something taking place.
Then multiply this number by the impact severity of the event, rated from 1 through 5. This range is usually arbitrarily divided into three sub-ranges. The overall risk assessment would be Low, Medium or High, depending on the sub-range containing the number that you arrived at.
For instance if your answer was between 1 and 8 the risk is low. If the answer is between 9 and 16 then the risk is moderate and if the answer is between 17 and 25 then it is high.
Here is a graphic that shows how probability/severity can be laid out in a grid (Ed: This graphic also uses a slightly different scale for evaluating and planning):
There is probably a heck of a lot that I am forgetting but this is a good starter if you want to judge how bad the things you are facing really are.
Claire here again: When I sat down to try these calculations, I found it helpful to make two different charts — one for disasters that might be catastrophic but short and another for hard-times scenarios that might hit less hard but unwind more slowly. While some types of preparedness planning apply to both, in other ways, they have different requirements.
It also didn’t take long to discover that — no surprise — a lot of subjectivity and guesswork goes into this. First, you have to correctly identify all kinds of threats; it would be easy to miss one.
And probability? That can be a stumper. Even if you live in an area with predictable disasters (e.g. in tornado alley or hurricane country), what are the chances you or your community will personally get hit? You can only give it your best estimate.
Where I live, the absolute most catastrophic blow would come from a Cascadia mega-earthquake and tsunami. These hit on average every 300 years. It’s been almost 313 years since the last one. But geology doesn’t give a darn. Sometimes there’s a 600-year gap between “Big Ones.” Or the pressure can release in a series of major quakes instead of one mega. In any case, severity is “catastrophic” on the grid — a big “5″ without doubt. But likelihood? Three? Four? Five? Only Mother Nature knows for sure.
Interesting exercise, definitely. And it might help anybody put some of those extreme zombie apocalypse fears into perspective.