Friday, September 6, 2013

Your Personal Threat Assessment

When you are planning for disaster, it's a good idea to take a minute (or ten) and figure out just what kind of disasters you are planning for.  When many people begin prepping, they often go out and start by spending a lot of money on prepping gear they see others collecting--rifles, ammo, Ghilli suits(?!), expensive generators--basically the typical "prepper stuff" that, quite honestly, you probably won't ever use.

A better way to go about planning--so you get a good picture of your actual needs and as a way to spend your money wisely--is to determine what the most likely threats facing you are before you start buying stuff.

Take a look at these possible threats and write down a list of which threats pertain to you and your family:

  • Weather (hurricanes, tornadoes, winter storms, flooding, extreme heat)
  • Man-made disasters (plane crash, chemical spill, fire, grid failure, nuclear disaster, environmental disaster, biological disaster)
  • Natural disasters (landslides, wildfires, earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption)
  • Violence (home invasion robbery, school shooting, random street violence)
  • Financial disaster (job loss, economic collapse, loss of pension/retirement savings, debt)
  • Family crisis (divorce, serious illness, death of family member)
  • TEOWAWKI (no power, no water, no fuel, no police services, no medical services, no food, war)

Next put the items on your list in order from most likely to least likely.  TEOTWAWKI is probably way down on the bottom of your list while debt and winter storms are most likely at the top of your list.  My list looks like this:

  • Extreme heat (in summer, here in Las Vegas)
  • Flooding (it happens to be monsoon season here)
  • Plane crash (planes fly low over the city all day and night)
  • Home invasion robbery (always a possibility)
  • Random street violence (ditto)
  • Economic collapse/loss of pension and Social Security
  • Serious illness
  • Death of a spouse
  • Grid failure (loss of power, loss of water)
Notice that a lot of the disasters in the first list didn't make it to my list:  school shooting (we have no kids in school), hurricanes (these don't happen in Las Vegas), debt (we don't have debt), volcanic eruption (no volcanoes here), NBC disaster (a very slight possibility but very unlikely as there are no chemical/biological warfare/nuclear warheads nearby...that I know of, here), job loss (we're retired).

You can now focus your preps based on your list, from most likely disaster, to least likely.  In my case:
  • Extreme heat: we have an AC system that is maintained regularly, fans, a freezer full of ice, and know how to open the house when it is cool and shut up the house when it is hot to keep the heat out.
  • Flooding: after a year of keeping track of how flooding goes here during monsoon season, I have noticed that the area where we live has been designed to move rain water to a wash near our house.  Landscaping also helps, as well as the ability to make sandbags if necessary.
  • Plane crash: there isn't much we can do.  Fortunately the planes don't go directly over our house but this is still a random disaster than could affect everyone in the city (first aid training helps...minutely).
  • Home invasion robbery:  we have taken security measures around our home, don't answer the door to people we don't know, if we sell something on Craigslist we meet the buyer elsewhere, and we have firearms within reach at all times.
  • Random street violence:  I carry concealed occasionally, we generally avoid crowds, I am always aware of my surroundings and tend to watch any people within the vicinity, and I wouldn't hesitate to confront physical violence with physical violence (obviously a last resort). 
  • Loss of pension and social security:  This would be a problem as these two sources of income make up the bulk of our monthly income however we have a sizable emergency fund, are debt free so can live on very little, and I have multiple small sources of income.
  • Serious illness: as we get older, this becomes more of a possibility.  Fortunately we have exceptional health insurance which alleviates the financial burden of a serious illness, we have an emergency fund (a serious illness usually necessitates many trips to the hospital/doctor, possible extended care, etc), we have our Wills/Power of Attorney in order, and we take steps to keep ourselves in good health (exercise, nutritious food, no stress, etc).
  • Death of a spouse: again, this becomes an issue as we get older.  We have our Wills/Power of Attorney in order, I have a list of things for the spouse to do should I die (and a similar list for the opposite), our cremations/funerals are pre-planned and paid for, and insurance is up to date.
  • Grid failure: loss of power would be disastrous here (especially during the summer) as would the loss of water (it's a desert here after all).  To mitigate these possibilities we store an inordinate amount of water and have alternatives for heating and cooking.  We don't have a generator as I don't think this is necessary here and storing the extra fuel needed for it would be difficult (although for some people who lose power regularly all winter this would be a necessity and storing fuel would be less of an issue).
Besides these basic preps for the most common disasters we are likely to encounter, there are some basic general preps that would help in any disaster (having a BOB at the ready, an evacuation plan, etc...which shall be covered in later posts).


  1. Regarding "nukes" Nellis AFB has had tactical nuclear weapons available in the past. The whole area 2 is a weapons storage area. Low threat, but just saying... :)

  2. Very true. I used to live near the Puget Sound which was significantly more of a threat but you are right that even low level threats should be taken into consideration.

  3. Two more I remembered to consider from when I lived out there:
    1. Air Force jets carry both inert and live weapons depending on the mission. There were incidents of inert/training weapons separating from aircraft and landing in neighborhoods.

    2. There was a rocket plant out there in Henderson(?) that exploded back in the late 80's. We saw it from the base and were all concerned about the toxic smoke cloud that billowed from it. Not sure if they ever rebuilt the plant.

    Thanks again for your posts.