Combining Likelihood and Impacts
We’ve been through a lot of steps already, so let’s pause for a moment and take stock. As a reminder, we:
- Identified bad things we think might happen.
- We assessed the likelihood of them happening (in other words, “How likely is this bad thing to happen?”)
- Then we assessed short-term impacts and long-term impacts. Impacts are what make the bad things bad.
Our whole goal is to prioritize and plan, so we can now get rid of some of the detail we used to get here. In particular, I am going to scrub off the individual short-term and long-term impacts and just use the summaries of impacts (total impact points and impact ratings). We end up with a summary table that looks like this.
Isn’t that better? Life is simpler when you cut out all of the clutter.
Now we have a simple table showing the likelihood of these bad things, and the summary-level impacts both on the short term and long term horizon. It’s time to start thinking about preparing for these events.
Being Prepared Takes Time and Money
This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s easy to say, “I want to be prepared for anything that might happen” but the reality is more complicated. Preparation requires investment of time and money. If you’re lucky enough to have all the time and money in the world, you can just skip this part and move on to the preparations for the individual events. But I’m not that lucky. I have a great job, a great house, and in many ways I’m rich. But I DO NOT have tons of money lying around to spend as I please. Just ask my wife.
Likewise, I have SOME free time, but work isn’t the only demand on my time. I’m trying to be a good husband, raise good kids, be a good citizen, go to church, keep the yard mowed, etc. Much like my limited money, I also have limited time.
Before we go out and buy that survival retreat, plant that survival garden, and install our solar array, we need to plan. Because all of those things take time and money, and time and money are in limited supply. Hence the entire point of our prioritization of risks. We use risk-based prepping to make sure I’m spending our time and dollars most effectively.
Let’s spend some time thinking about what it takes to truly prepare for each of these events.
What ‘Prepared’ Means for Each Bad Thing
I love tables. But you probably figured that out by now. Here’s another table. It has a summary of the short-term and long-term preparations that you’d need to TRULY be prepared for each event.
If you want the details on why I listed these preparation items, review the impacts above. You may say that I’m missing something. Maybe you’re right and maybe I’ll update my table. But maybe your idea of prepared is different than mine.
I ask myself the following question for each of these scenarios: “What do I need to do to keep my family safe and reasonably comfortable?”
Finding Your Risk-Based Prepping Priorities
Let’s consolidate and summarize what we’ve done in steps 1-4. This table shows the overall likelihood, severity, and cost to prepare for both short-term and long-term impacts.
The other thing I’m adding here is a multiplication of likelihood X severity. This is a simple way to combine those factors into a single figure. This concept comes from a tool called Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA). The US Military developed this tool after WW2, and NASA picked it up for the space program.
My Short-Term and Long-Term Prepping Priorities
One principle of good spending / investing is to get the most bang for your buck. In our case, we are looking for addressing important risks with small investments.
Important risks = High Likelihood X Severity scores.
Small investments = Low costs.
These two definitions give us the essence of risk-based prepping.
Short-Term Priorities include Pandemic, Insurrection/Unrest, NBC Attacks, and Terror Attacks. All of these things have a relatively high (>30) Likelihood / Severity and a LOW cost to prepare. It’s important to discuss what a short-term nuke / terror attack looks like. That is NOT someone nuking your hometown. But it’s close enough or disruptive enough that you need to worry about it. Imagine if you were 100 miles from Fukishima. You’ll probably be evacuated and eventually get to come back home. OR, you may be cut off from supplies and help for a few weeks while the professionals are sorting it out.
In these short-term situations, your costs to prepare are pretty low. Some food, water, medicine, first aid, and an evacuation plan. The beauty of this (Which we’ll see later) is that preparing for ONE of these events pretty much prepares you for ALL of them.
Long-Term Priorities for me is basically a Pandemic. Specifically, a return of COVID-19. This is a result of the fact that a Long-Term Pandemic (at least like this one) isn’t forever. It’s a few months. Long-term scenarios involving nukes, internet outage, food disruption, etc. are very costly to prepare for.
In addition to these, I am also preparing for loss of job / income. The reason I’m breaking this rule is that this is almost certain to impact me at some point. It’s like it has a trump card.
Featured Image: Photo credited to the firm Levy & fils by this site. (It is credited to a photographer “Kuhn” by another publisher .), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons