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Disasters - Risk Assessment

Managing Risk

It may seem negative to some to even discuss risk, but we all need to take risks seriously. Not discussing or planning for when things go wrong leaves you in a very poor position to deal with personal disasters. We will all face disasters in our lives, that's a fact. Each individual may go through different difficulties, but it's a fact that you will have to deal with major issues in your life most of which may be beyond your control. When disaster strikes, if you're ready, then you have a very good chance of getting through it safely and being in a position to help others not so prepared.

We are forced to accept a certain amount of risk in order to function normally so we tend to push these possibilities away from our consciousness. To a certain extent this is a good thing, but we need take the time to analyze our risks and do something about the unacceptable risks we are taking.

To be perfectly prepared we would have to know the future perfectly. None of us know what the future holds. However, we can determine what level of risk we are going to accept and we can take steps to mitigate risks that seem unacceptable. To do this we need to figure out what risks we are already taking and determine whether we are sufficiently prepared.

Here are a few guidelines that can help in evaluating risk. As you can see, you could add numeric values and with a spreadsheet and a little time you could build a fairly good tool for evaluating your risks. Everyone would put different values for each item, but this just a reasoning tool not a hard and fast set of guidelines. You can assign your own weight to each item and use this method to determine which risks are the most important to mitigate.

Risk Assessment Tool

  • Likelihood
    • High Probability
    • Medium Probability
    • Low Probability
  • Severity
    • Lethal
    • Severe Injury
    • Minor Injury
    • Inconvenience
  • Control
    • None
    • Minimal
    • Complete
  • Advantages
    • None
    • Positive

Natural Hazards

When we were deciding where we wanted to live, we traveled through several states looking at communities that were interesting to us. We were very surprised to see how many communities are located directly below an earthen water reservoir. We wondered how many people in these communities were aware of their ever present hazard. In the case of an earthquake they could lose everything from a hazard they may not realize even exists. Since my wife had lost her home to an earthen dam failure we consider the risk of living in an area like that as unacceptable.

Whether you agree in this specific case that the risk is not acceptable is not my point. I am just suggesting that you become more aware of the day-to-day risks that you are living with now. Be sure to look at maps, research flood zones, ask about tornadoes, hurricanes, record snow storms, ice storms and other natural hazards. Has your neighbor had his basement flooded? Make it a point to be aware of what you are facing in terms of locality based disasters.

Are there railroad tracks nearby or a highway? I took a course one time on emergency preparations for the county where I lived. I was horrified at the nature of the chemicals and other products that are shipped by rail and highway in this country. It's important to be generally aware of these things. We may be forced to live with these risks, but we have a choice in how we prepare ourselves and communities in case the unthinkable happens.

Risky Behavior

Most of the time we understand the risks of life and are more than happy to accept the risks so that we can get more enjoyment out of life. Since I celebrate the independent type person I have no issue here. However, when you take risks, do the simple things that can make what might appear to a be a dangerous sport or occupation as safe as possible. There are others around you that care and they may be placed in difficult circumstances if you fail to take sensible precautions. If you are severely injured (often the result of a simple mistake) the penalties can easily exceed anything we can imagine and quickly negate any benefit we think we receive by taking unwarranted risk.

Car accidents and other largely unpreventable situations are tough enough. Don't invite disaster.

General Disaster Preparations

When you think of preparing for disaster remember that what you are doing is buying yourself time for survival and making sure you have the minimum tools needed to increase your ability to cope with the unforeseeable emergency... time to get help, time to get to where help exists, time to live until the emergency is over.

The generally accepted place to start is with a 72 hour emergency kit. This will give you 3 days and I've heard many personal stories about what a big difference it made to have one. The idea (especially when starting your own preparations) is not to be totally prepared for every eventuality but to be prepared for the most likely possibilities and generally prepared for emergencies.

Preparation should just be a part of your normal way of life, not a chore or an obsession. At first we all have a tendency to over-do because applying new information is always exciting. Normally it is just something you do, a part of your normal life.

I've heard someone say that if you're not having fun your not doing it right, so make it fun. Children love to play 'Disaster', especially when there's no real emergency and it can be great preparation for the real thing.


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