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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Risk Analysis and Preparation Levels

[Edit #1 2-4-2009 - Added Level 0, Color Coding, explanatory statement]
[Edit #2 2-28-2009 - Tweaks for clarity]
[Edit #3 9-28-2009 - Added Medical Emergencies to Level 1]
[Edit #4 4-11-2011 - Added Level 5XXX, updated Disaster List]

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 Disease: 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)
  • Medical - Plenty of OTC medications to relieve minor ailments (cold, stomach, etc for adults and kids) because your doctor will certainly be too busy, N98 masks to protect family members

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
  • Medical - backup prescription medications, extensive first aid supplies such as a military field kit, antiviral masks, gloves

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 temporarily and/or locally 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 - Extended Devastation - either a local area for a long time or a large distance.

Level 5XXX 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.
  • 2011 Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami/Meltdown - L5X - Blue (L5XXX for radiation evacuation zone) - Total local devastation, permanent in evacuation zone. Japanese culture luckily lends itself to teamwork - they even refuse to keep found money, having taught since school to turn found property over to the police
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 power...how 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!



Bullseye said...

Wow, what a way to get things started. Very useful post with great information. These are the kind of things we all need to look at in our areas. Really something to think about in detail. Thanks for the great post. Good Job and Welcome to the Network.

American Prepper said...

I think we do need something like this.

USMC said...

WOW still trying to learn how to use this blog stuff.

I agree with you all have been following the economy for two years now and thought this was coming for about four years now.

I hate to say it but see no fix to this and think it will only get worse. I have two new grandsons and want to see them and my kids get through this but they do not believe me as to how bad this will get I will keep trying.

I did allot of things in life the last was a computer professional so should be able to figure out how to use this and how it is all linked together.

Just wanted to say hi and hang in there I will figure this out.

American Prepper said...

USMC why don't you ask Dave if you can join up to be a contributor. If you're interested I will send you and invite to join the blog

irishdutchuncle said...

in reference to level 1x above, i don't think it's practical to try to run a heater on inverter power.

also i don't see a need for condition white or green, because they imply no threat. i'm in permanent condition yellow, and not just because i'm a coward. condition yellow describes the normal everyday life of anyone in philly. and it could easily spill out into the surrounding counties. (where i live) i'd rather not be confused with competing color codes, the official ones are adequate. they have no bearing on what level of preparation i plan to achieve for my family. after 9/11 the government strongly advised everyone to make some preparations. a word to the wise should have been sufficient. (but most are probably unprepared)

the official information from femur and the red cross are a good starting point for the preparedness minded, but not enough. any preparing beyond that however, should be done keeping OPSEC in mind. (pretend to be a good citizen, doing your duty)

irishdutchuncle said...

(i realize that you put a lot of thought and effort into this post, and i'm sorry to nitpick)(but it's what i do best)

DaveP said...

Irish: I think you are right about the heater/inverter thing...it *is* pushing it. I've been trying to figure out a way to get 1500 W out of solar/battery/inverter but it's too expensive so far. However, running one of the tiny ones (like 300W) might be doable and better than nothing. Anybody know how to make a heater or AC work from solar/inverter?

And, you are exactly correct, the "official" color codes have nothing to do with preparing your family, they are a meaningless political tool.

I do think the color system describes a couple of things that are important for Prepping:

1: Social services - ie: yes, we live mostly in Green or Yellow, but we strive for Blue or White. As tough as Philly is, some cities are in Orange.

2: Crime - a few different flavors here, there's a big difference between the poverty-crime of '70's New York, the gangster crime of '90's Russia, and institutional (ie: cop) crime of early 2000's Argentina, all of which require different responses.

Thanks for taking the time to write!


irishdutchuncle said...

one limiting factor is the battery. you will need cells somewhere between industrial forklift, and diesel submarine size, and they can't deliver their amp-hour rating for very long. unless you're a municipality or a utility using OPM, it's pretty cost prohibitive. (i've read stories about people getting great deals on surplus/gently used batteries from those types of sources)

their expected lifetime is a certain number of cycles, so you need large capacity to extend the time between charges. (one of the mechanics at work explained it to me that way) watts are watts, so there may be no need to run through an inverter at all, just for heat. they used to sell little windshield defrosters, you could plug into your cigarette lighter socket. (12 volt heating element and fan)

solar, wind and micro-hydro are all possibilities for an off grid system, but they may not be reliable enough to re-charge your battery bank. a fuel powered generator is needed to back them up. you might want to read jeff yago's articles on this subject in backwoods home magazine. i'm paraphrasing what i've heard and read; BHM is a great resource for first hand information. the alpha rubicon guys have some alternative power information up, over on the public side of their website as well.

Kymber said...

DaveP - Bravo! This post is really awesome, informative and helpful! My favourite line:

"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."

that is so very true!

Anyway - you should contact Bullseye and ask that this post be put up on the APN for further discussion. And more people could then comment to it/add to it. I have nothing to add to it at this point as I need to re-read and re-think about it.

But I am sure that the network could use a frame-work like this!

Thanks for the great post! I will be back often!

irishdutchuncle said...

back on the subject of heat, the house i was renting a few years back had an ancient gas fired boiler. the only power it required was from a transformer, (supplying low voltage) which powered the thermostat and turned on the gas to the burner. (pilot light lit the burner)(the oldest systems powered the thermostat with a thermocouple, heated by the pilot) your small inverter probably could power that easily. with such a system you could keep a family warm as long as there is still a gas company to keep feeding the supply.

sometimes the latest technology by itself, isn't the best. my family spent the ice storm of '58 huddled in the kitchen, by the gas oven, because the "modern" oil burner couldn't run without electricity. i was an infant at the time and didn't remember the event, but hearing it re-told, pointed out to me the necessity for always having a "plan B".

irishdutchuncle said...

now to the subject of when to have a gas mask. remembering the rules of three, if you go without air much longer than three minutes, there is a strong possibility that you will die. dehydration takes nearly three days to kill you. if the air you breathe contains asbestos, or volcanic dust you may live a long time, but lung disease (or cancer) will seriously spoil your quality of life way before it kills you. if volcano dust reaches the east coast, we're in much bigger trouble, but germs and asbestos are in lots of places, closer to home. many of the rescue personnel from 9/11 have developed lung disease. postal employees in NJ and DC were sickened and/or killed by the anthrax attack.

after you get your first two weeks of stored water and food, your sleeping bags, blankets and a kerosene heater, i think it's time to think about having a respirator mask or gas mask. the bandana you're carrying in your pocket is a good start, but not a completely adequate substitute for a mask.

irishdutchuncle said...

one more comment, and then i'll shut-up. the final edit of this post, (less the commentary) should be placed in a "read first" file so the explication is always available on the current page of the blog. if the world doesn't end for a while, there will be lots of material for new users to sift through, to get here. as Kymber said, there's a lot in this to think about, and i've re read it several times.

it would probably be good to map the alert areas, somehow. a bad situation in the "laurel highlands" may not require a red alert in pittsburgh or philly, unless it's likely to "drift".

Kymber said...

I just did a re-read...wow - there is a lot of information here that we really need to think about and consider!

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