May 29, 2017

Disaster Probability

It has been some time since I covered this topic. There are enough new readers that I think it’s time to discuss again. Disaster probability is one of the fundamental building blocks of preparedness. By understanding it, we have a better idea of what our potential threats are and what we should actually be preparing for.
Possible, Plausible and Probable

If you’ve watched any of the prepper shows like Doomsday Preppers, any preparedness related youtube videos, or read any preparedness forums you’ve no doubt heard people give a long list of events they’re preparing for. While all of these things might be possible, they aren’t all plausible or very probable.

There is also a relationship between how possible something is and the area of its effect. In the image below, you can see that in the inner ring there is a picture of a house, which represents you. The things that are most probable to happen are likely to affect only you or your neighborhood in some instances. This is sometimes called the “pebble in the shoe” effect. If you’re walking with other people and you have a pebble in your shoe, it might really affect you but doesn’t really impact those around you. For an example, when I lost my job it had no effect on my neighbors but had a severe impact on my family.

Disaster Probability

As we move further from the probable ring, there is less of a chance that the events in the outer rings will actually happen. If they do happen, they will have a larger area of impact. The events that fall in the “plausible” ring have a less likely chance of actually happening but if they do, they could impact a county or state. The events in the “possible” ring are possible but unlikely. However, if they do happen, the area of effect is very large and could happen on a regional or national level.
Here are some examples of events in the various rings.
Probable: Affects home, possibly neighborhood
Job loss
House fire
Neighborhood power outage
Plausible: Affects County to State
Are-wide blackout
Severe weather (tornado, flash flooding, hurricane, etc.)
Flu epidemic
Possible: Affects Regional or Larger
Economic collapse
Caldera eruption

Applying This to Our Preparedness

I don’t think we should prepare for specific events but, instead, have a general level of preparedness. However, we still must be aware of our greatest threats in the areas in which we live, in case we must take specific precautions. For instance, if I was brand new to preparedness, it makes much more sense for me to prepare for an ice storm or blizzard than it does for me to prepare for an EMP. Sure, an EMP is possible, but in Minnesota, blizzards and ice storms actually happen. Since ice storms often bring power outages with them, it makes more sense for me to make sure I have a means of keeping warm, keeping the food cold and so on. By being prepared for the most probable threats, we eventually become much better prepared for the less likely events that will have a far greater reach.

If you liked this article please think about sharing it on the social media listed below, thanks!



  1. bruce smith says:

    Great and Timely article

  2. Great article. Thanks for posting it.
    I would add home invasion to the “Probable” list.

    Beyond that, do you plan to expound on training needed for each item listed?
    Perhaps readers could submit their own list and the results posted and info shared among regional readers, urban dwellers, country folks, etc.

    I am one of the newbies. Perhaps you’ve already done all that and I’ve not seen it yet.

    Have a blessed day.

    • Thanks, glad you liked it.

      I only listed a few things to give people a general idea. I hesitated adding to many, as some of the items can be fairly localized. If you think it would be helpful I can do a more comprehensive list. I would be happy to have people send me their ideas and add them to a probability list.

      I have covered how to prepare for many of the items listed, I had planned on doing a general post with some of the articles I think are helpful.

      You’ve given me a lot to think on.

    • I covered home security in depth in this article

  3. bruce smith says:

    Fortify your doors and windows.. Look into replacing the molding around doors with steel and putting in a steel door .. Plastic Security film on all the windows that can be accessed and if you can get on a roof and enter and upstairs window so can anyone else.. I’m not into Guns, but you will need something to stop someone if the get in.. We have a large dog to alert us also.. If someone gets in and they have a gun, that would be bad for us right now. But I am working on my wife about that. If they don’t have a gun they are in serious trouble.. I have no fear of dying and most thieves are cowards.. I am prepared to Kill someone and will.. Not that I am blood thirsty, but I live one town over from Cheshire CT where a woman and her daughters were Tortured, raped , and Murdered.. That will not happen on my watch to my wife..

  4. alicen green says:

    Have you taken your wife to a gun shop? I was hesitant at first, then my husband took me to a shop where a woman worked. It was so nice to speak to the same gender about what I needed or could use. I left with a smith and wesson 38 special revolver that I know how to load and shoot. It also had a laser pointer;-)

    • Woman often take direction from another woman. I know one of our local gun ranges has a “Lady’s Night” that has women instructors, and only woman are allowed to attend.

    • bruce smith says:

      It is not a matter of the wife as much as it is a matter of having a disabled son who tried once already to end his life. I didn’t want to mention this, but it needs saying. I know that if a person wants to end his life he/she will find a way. But If it were a gun I brought into my home I could not live with the guilt.

  5. Trouht trials that have happened fr yo my wife and my self I have come arpund to beleaving that we are each responsable for our actions and what happens to us and no one else, the lord has given me good friends and a community that has helped in some things that have happened to my wife and I.
    but I have come the conclussion that we as leaders in our familys and church need to prepare our selfs for all emergencys and events that can happen to us.
    We need to prepare the younger genaeration to be preppared and leave them trained for anything that can happen if we are not around to help them

    • I agree, we should teach our children to fish instead of just giving them a fish, so to speak.

      • bruce smith says:

        so agree with this… Helping my kids Get set up in a house of there own right now. We bought an income property and it has 2 tiny houses on it. My son will live in one and my daughter and her Hubby will live in the other. We have taught them to be frugal and they will now learn how to fix everything we already know how to. We do plumbing, electric, sheetrocking, structural repair etc.. No roofing or windows, but I have shingled a large shed and Understand the principle of it..Thing never leaked.. They will also be required to grow a garden and learn to can etc…

        • I’m fascinated with tiny homes. I don’t know for sure if I could live in one full time or not though.

          • bruce smith says:

            I hear ya.. But it is economical.. You can heat and power a small house cheaper.. Once these are fixed up I stand to realize at least 35,000 or more in equity.. per house

  6. My preparedness plan has multiple levels of preparedness based on event duration and horizon (area impacted).

    Event horizon: Local, State, Regional, National, International.
    Event duration: 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, 1 year, 2+ years.

    These event classifications drive a quartermaster list (what is needed) and skills matrix (how to). The skills matrix can’t be overlooked; this is where you teach them to fish!

    I read your articles daily, thanks!

  7. This article links the likelihood of a disaster with the scale (neighborhood, state or national). That may be true sometimes, but not always. To me, likelihood and scale are 2 different factors that may or may not be linked.

    • I think that the vast majority of the time they are linked, at least for the ones in the possible and probable. The ones in the plausible area are the ones that might or might not be related.

      If you looked at the examples I gave for the probable, job loss, house fire, power outage I’ll bet those things happened in the thousands across America. But they really only affect the people it happened to.

      Now if you look at the things in possible, we have had a few economic collapses, the one that impacted the most people would be the Great Depression. We haven’t ever had an EMP, though there has been a major solar flare back in the 1800’s. The last true pandemic was in 1918 it had minimal affect then, but a similar solar storm would be a major grid down event now. The last Caldera eruption was believed to be like 60 million years ago. If we had an eruption of the Yellowstone caldera today, it would impact the entire country, if not the entire earth.

      I’m not trying to be argumentative, if there is a flaw in my thinking I want it fixed. So if you have some examples that don’t fit in please let me know.

      • Carl Rooker says:

        I see no flaw in your thinking on this matter. To spend everything on events that are possible, but unlikely, wastes resources that can be spent on what is likely to happen, and for the Lord’s Work. To prepare for the likely things would make people prepared for a vast array of the possible things, and do so better than to prepare for the unlikely.

        Good job.

  8. Great analysis, Chris. I really like your approach.

    If someone was to develop a list of critical incidents for Possible, Probably, or Plausible scenarios, please remember one critical incident that should be placed in ALL THREE CATEGORIES: radiation breaches or meltdowns from Nuclear Power Plants.

    This potential critical incident could result from terrorism, operator negligence, or as we have seen in Japan, severe weather which resulted in what I call a Trilogy of Critical Incidents: Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Power Plant Meltdown. (As a side note, I believe that the Japanese government AND the impacted power plant’s licensed operator were BOTH gross negligent and conducted terrorism on their own exposed workers and citizenry AFTER the initial critical incident occurred.)

    For those of us who may say that a nuclear power plant critical incident is an unlikely event to impact them because they do not live or work in proximity of a Nuclear Power Plant, then I suggest they examine the locations of the various nuclear plants in our country (Google Earth has good files), and examine the Prevailing Winds. Then see if your location is ANYWHERE downwind of a plant.

    However, regardless if you are directly downwind or not, we ALL would be impacted in some manner if a Nuclear Power Plant meltdown occurred within CONUS directly (radiation fallout) or indirectly (disruption of local, state and Federal commerce). Just at varying degrees of impact.

    Let’s pray that it does not happen.



    • I think the threat of a critical incidence at a nuclear power plant is real, but I think it might only go in the possible and plausible. I can only find three or so incidence in the last twenty years. For it to be probable there would have to be usual occurrences of it, but it only affected a small portion of the population.

      This is one of the major potential threats that could impact a huge portion of the population if we saw a grid down event that lasted for more than two weeks, or coordinated terrorist strikes.

    • Almost all nuclear plants in the US have stored rods for years. If the electric power fails, the pumps that circulate the water for those rods, will fail. Then the water will boil away as steam, & the radioactive rods will overheat, resulting in radioactivity being released in the air. All this with no warning for those nearby.

      We don’t live near a nuclear plant, but depending on the wind, we could still get some fallout.

  9. Hey Chris, awesome site, and awesome topic. I would like to add an item. Practice. I know that I am preaching to the choir here, but for anyone new, or has been into getting prepared for while (more on that in a minute), take the time to drill and practice. I starting preparing as a means to feel I had some control after 9/11. BTW, I was not even close, but my sister was in the pentagon, unhurt, praise God. I starting planning for events kind of in the manner you describe, but never practiced. Last winter the power was out for 6 days at my house, and I realized that while I had Kerosene, I had no pump to get it out of the barrel. We managed, but I then started actually practicing, and it has helped a lot. Thanks again for the fantastic site.

    • Hi Mike,
      Glad you like the site.

      You’re spot on about practice, and drilling. It helps find flaws we hadn’t considered.

Speak Your Mind