Perceived Risk versus Actual Risk

In the realm of prepping and survival, risk assessment is crucial. In assessing risk, you have to consider both how likely the disaster may be, and how severe also. You can’t spend all your time and effort prepping for severe but rare disasters, while ignoring more common but more moderate situations.

However, when assessing risk, there can be a wide gap between perceived risk and actual risk. Some harmful situations may seem likely, because they are in the news often. But the chances it will happen to you may be rather low. Other situations are either common or inevitable, and yet many people fail to prepare.

If you live in an earthquake prone area, a major quake may be uncommon. But on the other hand, it will happen eventually. Do you have an earthquake preparedness kit? Many people do not. An earthquake hasn’t happened in their area for what seems like a long time, so they imagine it will not happen anytime soon. The actual risk is high, but the perceived risk is low.

Hurricanes happen every year. But depending on where you live, the odds of being struck by one are higher or lower. The problem is that a major hurricane striking your area is relatively uncommon, and so people do not prepare. They have not been struck in a few years, so they give a lower risk assessment to that problem than they should.

I was talking to a couple recently who purchased a propane-based generator for their house, just after Superstorm Sandy. Beforehand, the perceived risk is low, but immediately afterward, the perceived risk is high. That is the most common reaction to disasters. Prepare after or during the storm, not before. By comparison, preppers must evaluate risks in advance, in order to be well-prepared.

Terrorism is in the news constantly. So the perceived risk seems high. But if you live in the U.S., what is the actual risk that you or your family will be harmed by a terrorist attack? Perhaps the actual risk is much lower than the perceived risk. The same may be said for other harmful events that often make the news, but are relatively rare. In a nation of 322 million persons, how likely it is that you will be affected by an attack?

“Doomsday Preppers” are so-called because they overemphasize rare severe disasters, even ones which are unlikely to occur in their entire lifetime, while ignoring common disasters. Don’t make that mistake. Unusual severe disasters are interesting to read about, but they deserve less of our time and resources than the more likely events.

Which are the most likely SHTF scenarios? I’ll attempt a partial list, in no particular order:

* Natural disasters, depending on where you live: earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, major snowstorms, etc.
* Power outages, regardless of the cause
* Economic disaster, most likely a partial collapse of the economy, not a total collapse
* Similarly, a partial collapse of the health care system
* Disruption to the food production and distribution system
* Breakdown of law and order
* Oil and gasoline shortages

You can suggest other likely scenarios in the comments section.

– Thoreau

3 Responses to Perceived Risk versus Actual Risk

  1. I would add droughts as a potential natural disaster. Depending on geographic location, the effects on crops and livestock can definitely cause shortages or hardships for those who rely on them. Having preps can help soften the blow somewhat.
    On the other hand, floods fit neatly into the natural disaster category and can occur almost anywhere as we found out in Texas last year and again this year (after several years of drought). They can be rapid and may require quick relocation. Just something for people to think about.

  2. Unless you are including this as part of the breakdown of the health care system, you have to consider a good old fashioned pandemic which then incorporates three or four of the other top categories. Not only do you create an economic disaster because folks are fearful of their job sites, but you then have a breakdown in law and order, disruption of food production and distribution, and problems with fuel distribution. What could be more catastrophic?

  3. It is so easy to get lost in the worry of a coming disaster. Disasters happen, and as individuals and communities, we will all be needed to help. I thought I would include a link of ways in which to get involved.