In my day job I am responsible for ordering my folks to take risks; sometimes they are risking their lives. It’s what we do. As “preppers” we must also understand threats & risks, how to rate them with a valid & reliable system and then how to mitigate those threats and risks so they don’t destroy our family or group. I will do all of that in this series of articles.
As firefighters we take the most risk by being unhealthy and driving our fire trucks. Yeah, movies and TV shows would like you to think the greatest risk is running into some burning building, flames, licking at our heels, roofs crashing in and the like. But that is TV and movie stuff; our greatest risks are vehicular accidents and not staying in-shape and healthy. When I moved into the wildland firefighting side of things the chance/risk of being in a “burnover” did go up significantly but has not replaced health and traffic accidents as the primary risks.
So what does this have to do with “prepping” and “grid-down?” Everything! Yes, I will explain but I had to set the stage and get your attention first.
- Lack of medicine or medical care
- Exposure (to a much lesser degree)
So, now that you have a general list what do you do? I say you start to narrow down more specifically what exact events might take place to cause those things to happen. Why? So you can take steps to reduce their impact. Why? So you and your family don’t get sick or die.
If you’ve been reading my articles for any length of time you know I like proven and reliable “systems” to guide me in my prepping. Systems greatly reduce mistakes when implemented correctly. And they do so by diminishing the impact of bias and opinion. Both bias and opinion can harm preparedness spending, direction and effectiveness.
I’ve already shared multiple times how to set priorities and make decisions effectively and consistently high-quality in the preparedness world. That system is called L.I.P.S. and you should take a moment to read about it if you haven’t already. <SURVIVING ANY DISASTER: Part 2 – L.I.P.S. (Priority Setting)>
OK, I listed some of the ways you can become a casualty. And that list comes from “events”; some are disasters, some are emergencies, and my favorite, “grid-down.” But all of those terms describe a broad category of events, we want to talk about specifics. Doing so will then make it very clear where we want to direct our preparedness efforts and money. The specific events fall into a general systematic definition called “risk.” Each potential event is a risk to our health and safety, and that of our families.
Probability simply means, how likely the event is to occur. And in the prepper world I extend that to, and in what timeframe relative to now. So I have defined probability as “How likely is the event to occur and how soon.”
Combined it reads, “How likely will the event occur from now and how severe will the outcome be?”
Yes, there is a whole lot of “judgement” that can take place when working with those definitions. But not to worry, I will give some guidance on how to reduce “guestimates” and deal more with sound judgement.
Now that we have identified the two main players in “event risk” and how to judge the probability and severity, we can discuss how to increase our chances of surviving the identified event and associated risks. And it is actually very simple; 1) reduce the probability that the event will occur, 2) reduce the severity of impact to our family. That process is called “risk mitigation.” And the process is best described by example:
In the early 1960’s safety experts became very concerned about vehicular accidents and the growing fatality and injury rates. So they embarked on reducing both; and they did so by looking at how people were getting injured and being killed. Then they began to look at ways to reduce the probability of vehicle accidents and reduce the severity of accidents should they occur. By using the two-prong approach they knew that should they be successful, fewer people would die and be injured.
Probability that a vehicle accident would occur – How did they approach this aspect over the last 50 years?
- Increasing the driving age.
- Requiring driver training for new drivers.
- Adding side mirrors.
- Improving roads, signage and traffic lights.
- Back-up warning.
- Lane encroachment warning.
Severity should a vehicle accident occur – How did they approach this aspect over the last 50 years?
- Seat belts.
- Shoulder belts.
- Nader pins in car door frames.
- Crumple zones.
- Air bags in the dashboard.
- Side air bags.
Each step they took reduced the probability that a vehicle accident would occur and if one did occur the severity to those inside the vehicle would be reduced. I am sure you could apply that same thought process to any number of aspects of life, including your working environment. OSHA has made a whole industry and legal system doing so.
How does this system apply to prepping? Exactly the same way!
Let’s do an example to test that statement. Many, if not all disasters, would present the risk of lack of water supply. So the identified risk is “water supply.” How probable is a safe and stable water supply affected by any given emergency, disaster or grid-down event? I can tell you this, any grid-down will stop any municipal water supply pretty quickly; same goes for most disasters. And try buying bottled water even during a relatively minor emergency event. So the probability of lack of water supply is almost assured.
So, how do you reduce the probability that you would run out of water for your family?
- Water storage.
- Water filtration capabilities.
- Identifying a close-by water source (stream, lake, river, run-off pond, etc.).
- Drill a well.
So by identifying ways to mitigate the probability that your family will suffer from lack of water supply you are coming up with solutions to a problem. But what about the severity aspect of no water supply?
If you think about it, it becomes pretty plain. No water supply means dehydration. Dehydration leads to incapacitation and death pretty quickly. Read more about dehydration here. <read more about dehydration – click here>
But now that you have identified the probability of it occurring and the severity of it occurring you are in a better position to make decisions on time, effort and budget when dealing with preparedness priorities. Water supply would be a pretty high priority.
So for an exercise to better show how this would work let me introduce the Threat Matrix –
Without getting into any formal definitions, take our list of threats that I discussed earlier and rate them according to the scale of 1 – 10 for probability and severity on the chart above as it relates to you and your family as of right now. And this will be for any emergency, disaster or “grid-down” event you can think of. Or you can combine those three possibilities together. Don’t worry about the exact definitions of the terms Probability and Severity. Just make your best guess. We will go over the terms in more detail later. The threat list items are:
So, taking a look at your chart or my chart, ask yourself, “Based on the level of concern on the chart, what should we work on first?” Well, it becomes clear for me what my primary risks are –
So I identified the risks and set them in priority, it is up to me to then define how to mitigate those risks. For me it would be pretty obvious that mitigating the “violence” risk would be my #1 priority right now. And how do I do that?
- Learn about Situational Awareness (SA).
- Identify specific violent risks through SA and mitigate those risks.
- Have a weapon for each member of the family and they are well trained in its use.
- Keep a low profile, not drawing attention to the family or house.
- Leave the area.
- Don’t tell anyone about our preparedness capability.
- Etc, etc, etc.
I hope that this makes sense to you. My goal is to give you a clear way to identify the risks you and your family have as you prepare for emergencies, disasters and grid-down. This system, when properly applied, will give you a way to competently identify risks/threats and then design a plan to reduce the risk. And reducing those risks is a matter of reducing the probability that it will occur and reducing the effects on your family should it occur.
In the next post I will give you the way to define probability and severity to make your Threat/Risk Matrix more valid and reliable. I will also show an example of using this same system and apply it to larger scale events. Yes, we will look at events and determine which are the most likely to occur. When we are done doing that you will be able to identify the individual risks for each. And you will then see which preparedness priorities are right for you and your family. Then you can develop your plan.
Associated articles that contain valuable and applicable information related to this subject –
- Threats, Risk, Matrix, Mitigation : Part 1
- Threats, Risk, Matrix, Mitigation : Part 2
- Threats, Risk, Matrix, Mitigation : Part 3
- Threats, Risk, Matrix, Mitigation : Part 4
- Situational Awareness (SA)
- Setting Preparedness Priorities (LIPS)
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