This article will provide a brief introduction to Risk Management for Preparedness, but it’s techniques can be applied to every aspect of your life.
We each do Risk Management every day of our lives, often without even being consciously aware of the process. Some examples of day-to-day Risk Management are:
- Deciding if it’s safe to pull out into traffic
- Deciding if your child can go over to a new friend’s house
- Deciding if it’s safe to walk through an empty parking lot
- Deciding if you need to get help before you lift that piece of equipment
- Even deciding if it’s safe to tell your spouse about the bet you lost in the office football pool
The above are some examples of informal Risk Management. Risk Management can also be performed as a deliberate process. The deliberate process is better suited to riskier, more complex activities and operations and is a relatively easy process to learn if you take the time to practice it. In this article I’m going to discuss the U.S. Army’s way of doing Risk Management but simplify it a little and show you how this process can aid you in your preparedness planning and execution.
Note: For those of you familiar with the Army’s Composite Risk Management Process (CRM) I’ve modified the model to better support preparedness planning and survival situations. Also, I’m going to stop short of discussing the CRM Matrix. If there’s enough interest in this topic I’ll do a more advanced article explaining the use of that tool and perhaps tailoring a Risk Matrix specifically to help Prepography readers focus their preparedness efforts and keep safe in disasters, post collapse or survival situations.
As mentioned above the U.S. Army calls their program Composite Risk Management and applies the process to every operation and activity. The Army describes Composite Risk Management as “a decision-making process used to mitigate risks associated with all hazards that have the potential to injure or kill personnel, damage or destroy equipment, or otherwise impact mission effectiveness.”
As a prepper you can use this same tool, apply this same process to your preparedness efforts. This process can help the prepper with decisions as simple as deciding what type of backup heating to install in your home or to a decision as big and complex as deciding how long of a time period you need to prepare your family for.
Definitions and Description of Risk Management for Preparedness
Before we discuss the process in depth lets review the principles of Risk Management. Risks, which can also be described as ‘perils’ or ‘hazards’ should be evaluated in terms of probability and severity.
Probability: The likelihood of a risk happening. The probability can often be expressed as a percentage. For example: The likelihood of experiencing a flood if you live in the 100 year flood plain is 1% per year. For fuzzier situations you can break Probability into:
- Frequent: Occurs very often, known to happen regularly
- Likely: Occurs several times, a common occurrence
- Occasional: Occurs sporadically, but is not uncommon.
- Seldom: Remotely possible, could occur at some time.
- Unlikely: Can assume it will not occur, but not impossible.
Severity: The severity of risk occurring describes the effect it will have on your family, group, mission (goal), etc. Severity can be described as:
- Catastrophic: Complete preparedness failure or the loss of the ability to survive. Death or permanent total disability. Loss of critical supplies or equipment. Major property damage.
- Critical: Severely degraded preparedness capability or readiness. Permanent partial disability or temporary total disability. Extensive damage to equipment or significant damage to property.
- Marginal: Degraded preparedness capability or readiness. Minor damage to equipment or property. Lost labor (days) due to injury or illness. Minor loss of or damage to preparedness supplies or equipment.
- Negligible: Little or no adverse impact on preparedness or survivability. May include minor injury or slight damage to or loss of non-critical preparedness supplies or equipment.
Principals of Risk Management for Preparedness
- Accept no unnecessary risk
- Accept risks only when the benefits outweigh the cost
- Make risk decisions at the proper level of leadership. See our article on establishing a Preparedness Chain of Command and consider what types of risks are reserved for the senior family or group leader (or subordinate levels of leadership if applicable).
The Risk Management for Preparedness Process
Composite Risk Management is a continuous process made up of five steps and is designed to assess multiple risks to an activity or operation at once:
- Identify the Hazards: Identify hazards both to personnel and overall family/group survivability
- Assess the Hazards: Assess the hazards in terms of probability and severity. What types of injury, equipment damage or loss of supplies are expected.
- Develop Controls & Make Decisions: During this step you determine how you will deal with each risk or hazard identified. The four basic options you have to deal with each risk are:
- Avoid: These are the risks that just opt out of. Maybe you skip your trip to the local store because there is growing civil unrest in your area (and you read Prepography regularly so you have a deep larder, right). Note: Don’t confuse avoiding a risk with ignoring it…the former is a risk management technique, the latter is a risk management abandonment technique.
- Transfer: Transferring a risk is trading another party to assume that risk for you. Buying an insurance policy on your home is transferring the risk of loss by fire (etc.) from you to the insurance company. Many U.S. Government facilities overseas use local guards as the first, outer and riskiest layer of defense to transfer the risk of death or disability from U.S. citizens to a local or third country national security force.
- Mitigate: These are the steps you take to reduce risks you must take. For instance, if you have to repair your roof you mitigate the risk of falling by tying yourself off to your chimney. Another example of mitigation would be secreting a portion of your supplies off site to reduce the risk of losing all your supplies to fire, tornado, theft or burglary. Note: Remember that you can use multiple mitigation techniques for each risk.
- Assume: These are the risks you must accept to function. You should only assume risks that can’t be further reduced using one of the other three techniques described above. Note: You must assume the ‘residual risk’ (remaining risk) of those risks that you mitigate. Implement Controls: Now that you’ve developed your risk controls (step 3) you work those controls into your routines, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s), and lesson plans for family/group members. Supervise and Evaluate: Make on the spot corrections, enforce the standards you’ve created, evaluate their effectiveness, make changes as appropriate. This step is where the accident is actually avoided!
Once you’ve completed the Risk Management process, you begin again, and don’t be afraid to jump to an earlier step at any time. For example…while supervising you may identify additional hazards.
As a prepper you’re already sensitive to the concept of Risk, now you have a tool to help you manage those Risks. I hope that our Risk Management for Preparedness tool helps keep you and yours safe, happy and healthy in good times and bad.