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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Risk Analysis and Preparation Levels

[Edit #1 2-4-2009 - Added Level 0, Color Coding, explanatory statement]
[Edit #21 2-28-2009 - Tweaks for clarity]

I'd like to start off by creating a common framework for us all to have a reference point in our discussions. I plan for this to be a framework for other articles addressing preparedness for each level.

First of all, we all need to perform our own risk analysis. Everyone's situation is different, so what is important and needed will be different.

Risk analysis is taking the likelihood of bad events happening and multiplying it by how "bad" it would be to happen and adding it up. From Wikipedia: The total risk is the sum of the products of the consequences multiplied by their probabilities.

Generally, you insure against the big 'bads', and the very likely 'bads'. Your house isn't very likely to burn down, but if it does, you lose big, so you insure against it. You are somewhat likely to get into an accident, and the consequences can be expensive, so you buy collision insurance. You are very likely to get a flat tire someday, so you insure against it buy getting AAA coverage.

So, take some time to analyze your risk factors and special vulnerabilities, as well as any amplifications of the consequences (for instance, you may have plenty of batteries for a power outage, but if you have medication that needs to be refrigerated you're in trouble).

Location - what does your geographic location have? What does it lack? Are there local water supplies? Energy or food supplies? What particular vulnerabilities does your region have that you might have to leave in a hurry? Coasts get hurricanes, the West forest fires and earthquakes, the river valleys of the Midwest can flood for miles.

Personal situation - Single strong male? Lucky you, fill up a backpack and go. Family of four, or handicapped, or elderly family members? Not so easy. Need medications? Baby formula? Those are bad things to be without. Also, is your clueless brother, cousin, roommate, or neighbor going to tag along? Might want to take that into consideration.

Disaster likelihood - again, we need a common gauge for meaningful discussion - some are talking food and water for a probable big storm, others are worried that the black helicopters are coming or want to build concrete bunkers for an very unlikely nuclear war.

So I'm proposing the following "Disaster Scale" which lists the disaster, describes some of the major conditions, and provides a generic outline of ways to deal with each. I've tried to organize them in order of decreasing likelihood (ie: Level 0 is likely Level 5 is highly unlikely) so, higher levels include the preps for the lower (more likely) levels. IMO it's probably best to prepare a little for every level to cover the basics at first, then prepare in more depth as time and money allow, starting from Level 0 up through Level 5.

Disaster Scale - Levels 1 through 5X (X being Extreme or Extended)

Level 0 - Human Disaster - Civil / Social / Services breakdown, even with no observable natural disaster. Riots + looting (ie: 1990's L.A. Riots, 2008 Greece), short war, political starvation (ie: African aid hijacking) . Services are overwhelmed for a short term.

Level 0X - Extended Human disaster - Extended riots (ie: 1960's Greece), Civil War, genocide (ie: 1990's Rawanda, China's Great Leap Forward, Today's Darfur). Massive population displacement, likely away from food sources and medical care and other services.

Level 1 Natural - Fire Flood Tornado Drought: Temporary (2-4 weeks) disruption of normal services and/or trade
  • Need 2-4 weeks of food (rice, beans, sugar, flour), heat source (propane camping stove + fuel), water (stored or Berkey filter), Entertainment (Cards, games, RV charger-battery-DVD/Laptop)

Level 1X Persistent natural disasters 4 weeks +
  • Electricity gone, all else normal - batteries might only last a few days...need a solar charger, deep cycle battery, and an inverter. Cold climates might need a bank of batteries and a larger inverter to run an electric blanket.
  • Water gone, all else normal - can use gas or electricity to boil water, Big Berkey filter a plus
  • Natural Gas gone, all else normal - can usually use electricity for same purposes as gas.
  • Drought - water barrels

Level 2 Economic - Stock crash, recession
  • Save on costs, food: dehydration, canning, gardening; Energy: insulation, efficient bulbs
  • Invest in Yourself: training and schooling since jobs are scarce anyway
  • Precious metals: sometimes a good investment, sometimes not, if accumulated over time much less chance of getting burned.
Level 2X - Depression - little to no economic activity - All Black Market, energy very expensive
  • Get out of Debt because old debts are in inflated dollars, but earning power is reduced - sell everything not nailed down.
  • Save Money - as above, perhaps with Solar panels + deep cell battery and inverter to save on electric bills

Level 3 Political - constitutional crisis, election unrest
  • Home and personal defense (ie: sit in your house/business with a shotgun)
Level 3X - Police State
  • Exit areas of urban unrest - prepare to defend in rural isolation
  • Secure communications

Level 4 Currency - massive deflation, hyperinflation, debt default - limited to nation or region
  • Food stocks - prepare for 200-300% increase in food costs, prepare as level 2 above but for 1-2 years
  • Trade: Utilize gold, silver, and tangibles (food, ammo, booze). Get small amounts too (not all big gold coins, get silver dimes and quarters, perhaps links of a 24K chain to break apart)
  • Wealth - can own other currencies that have not collapsed, and precious metals or other commodities
Level 4X - Global currency or debt default
  • Wealth - no suitable alternate currencies exist, convert wealth to precious metals and tangibles/trade-ables.

Level 5 Devastation - Tornado Swarm, Volcano, Asteroid strike, Single Nuclear Exchange, Dustbowl - Some regions become uninhabitable, others may be OK
  • Transportation - make sure it's rugged, reliable, and ensure that all of your gear will actually fit in the car with passengers
  • Only real goods matter, food fuel, water
Level 5X Total Devastation - Total TEOTWAWKI - Total Nuclear War, Multiple asteroid strikes, Ice Age, Supervolcano, SuperTsunami, War of Worlds/Independence day attack of superior aliens (hey, you can't *prove* it WON'T happen),
  • Total bunker mentality - do the best you can, hunker down or run like crazy (depending on situation), prepare to kiss your a** goodbye?
  • Communication - radio - link up with others
So we have a characterization of the disaster, but that is only one half of the equation.

Let's add this together with the next proposed scale.

Social Reaction Scale - Color coded scale that reflects social reaction to the Event.

This is built upon this article found on the blog TEOTWAWKIAIFF.

This matters for preppers because, for instance, you could have a major disaster with good social support, or just a plain old riot for no other reason than a sports team won or lost, and this will affect our preparations.

White - we've cleared local space of asteroids, have full employment, health, drug, and mental treatment, don't bother locking your doors.

- Peacetime, low crime, good social services infrastructure.

- "Peacetime" - meaning covert wars spawning some terrorism, some crime, barely coping social infrastructure, mostly reasonable 911 and hospital waits.

- High crime, overwhelmed social infrastructure. Long waits for 911, hospital treatment.

- Very high crime, broken social infrastructure - 911 is a joke. Carry at all times.

- Lawlessness with rampant crime- corrupt social infrastructure, cops might help or fire warning shots at you. If someone stops or speaks to you assume a robbery or kidnap attempt (ie: Argentina, South Africa)

- shoot first ask later - the black helicopters, insane hillbillies, bloodthirsty viking invaders, virus-crazed zombies, aliens, demons, gremlins, evil animated puppets, whatever.

Disaster Scale Examples

Just some recent examples off the top of my head...I'm still working on my Disaster Historian degree so any info/input welcome.

  • 2009 KY ice storm - Level 1X - Blue - even though it sucked for the participants, order was maintained.
  • Katrina - Level 1X - Red - because it was an
    extended natural disaster, where social services and civil order broke
    down completely.
  • 2005 Tsunami - Level 5X - Yellow - Total devastation, with mild looting (possibly because most of the population was simply gone).
  • Iraq War - Level 0X - Black (from Iraqi's P.O.V.)
  • 9-11 - Level 0X - Blue - Huge local man-made disturbance, some overwhelming of local services.
  • LA riots - Level 0X - Orange - Huge local man-made disturbance, overwhelming fire services, some random violence
  • 1990's Mississippi flooding - Level 1X - Blue huge local devastation, with local help available and remote
    emergency services on the way.
  • 1990's CA wildfires/mudslides - Level 1 - Blue - huge local devastation, with local help available and remote
    emergency services on the way.
  • Mt. St. Helens -Level 5X-Blue - huge local devastation, with local help available and remote
    emergency services on the way.
  • 1970's New York financial crisis - Level 0X - Yellow - Extended man-made financial crisis led to long-term crime problem
  • East Coast Hurricanes - Level 1 Blue- Level 1X (direct hit) Green - Can be anything from inconvenient to total destruction like Hurricane Andrew.
  • Argentina 2001 Currency Default - L4X-RED - extended local currency devaluation with violence and crime and breakdown of social services - as described by the Ferfal blog.
  • Russia's 1990's Currency Devaluations - L4-YELLOW - sustained if degraded govt and social services, yellow due to some increased crime and gang kidnappings.
I hope people will help me flesh this out - input is very welcome, and that with this framework in mind, we can have more useful discussions targeting specific types of disaster preparation, and the cost/benefit ratio of each.

Since it is very likely that we will have a big weather event (look at the Kentucky ice storm - 1 million without many batteries are left on the store shelves?) we should all be prepared for L1 and L1X events. Economies tend to be cyclical, so one should expect L2 events as well.

Total government, economic, or currency meltdowns are highly unlikely, but very very bad when they happen. So with limited $$$ resources one might not quit the job, sell the house and head for the hills just yet, but might make more modest preparations such as accumulating precious metals as finances allow, and keep an eye on things.

Basically, what I'm saying is buying gas masks and a bullet proof vest when you don't have enough batteries, food or blankets to last out a big storm doesn't make much sense.

I look forward to networking with all you Preppers!



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