Chapter 2 Assessing Your Risks
"A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences."
- Proverbs 27:12
One of the most important things you can do to prepare is to assess your risks of what you may need to be preparing for. There are general preparedness skills and techniques that will serve you well in any emergency situation. But if you live on the coast of South Florida for example, you probably do not have to spin your wheels too much preparing for earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions - but you really should have a great Hurricane Survival Plan in place.
Risk assessment basically boils down to thinking about "what is the worst that can happen, and how likely is it going to happen to me." Governments, corporations, healthcare facilities and other entities vital to infrastructure, have a vested interest in understanding the risks to their operations. So the good news is that emergency preparedness organizations have invested a whole lot of time and research into compiling risk assessment data, and there are many reliable websites where you can access regional risk assessment maps, and find exactly what you could be facing where you live.
According to FEMA (Ready.gov) there are actions that should be taken before, during and after an event that are unique to each hazard.
Identify the hazards that have happened or could happen in your area and plan for the unique actions for each. Local Emergency management offices can help identify the hazards in your area and outline the local plans and recommendations for each. By contacting the local emergency management office or local Red Cross office, you can find out what types of disasters are considered most likely to occur in a specific community. Once such risks have been determined it is important that you share the hazard-specific information with all of your family members and include pertinent materials in your family disaster plan. You will learn much more about developing a family disaster plan in the next chapter.
The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, (IBHS) says that no matter where you live, natural hazards exist that could significantly damage or even destroy your home or business. However, the severity and specific types of risks vary considerably by geographic region. A complete evaluation of your specific property location may be the most effective way to determine the true exposure. You can obtain a list of the natural hazards that may affect your area, and the potential of various man-made risks by accessing IBHS' interactive map at DisasterSafety.org.
Risk assessments involve:
- Determining when and where hazardous processes have occurred in the past.
- Determining the severity of the physical effects of past hazardous processes.
- Determining the frequency of occurrence of hazardous processes.
- Determining the likely effects of a process of a given magnitude if it were to occur now.
- Making all this information available in a form useful to planners and public officials responsible for making decisions in event of a disaster.
IBHS suggests that once you have determined the likelihood of a particular hazardous event occurring in your area, the next level of risk assessment is to figure out how vulnerable your home and property is to harm, and to prepare accordingly.