So after an extended period of writing The Free Online Survival Guide I would like to present my suggested Framework for Preparedness: The Westfalian Risk Management Model. The aim of the Framework is to provide tools for individuals to access their own situation and take measures that make sense for their individual situation and setting.
The First Part of the model regards two aspects; (1) analyzing your own particular situation and understanding what type of Risks that you face in your particular setting. (2) The Second Part is to know yourself and what resources you have available both in the form of equipment and supplies but also to understand your financial situation. (3) The Third Part is to analyze your weak points and establish what Goals that you would like to reach and how to reach them.
Part One: Understanding Your Situation
The Risk Assessment
The First Part of the Framework is intended for help you to establish what type of Risks that you face. A tool that is often used by organizations that work with Crisis Management is Risk Assessments. A Risk Assessment is a structured tool to analyze the specific Risks you faced depending on the Probability and Consequences of specific Risks. Also keep in mind that most Risks can have a large variation; most Earthquakes can only be detected by electronic instruments but some can cause enormous devastation.
1.) Identify Potential Risks
2.) Try to establish the Consequence and Probability of the Identified Risks
3.) Based on the Probability and Consequences of the calculate the Risk Factor
When you try to establish the potential consequences of Risks I suggest that you try to look at what type of impact they can have in form of Causalities; disruption or destruction of Infrastructure, Economic Impact and Other Type of Effects. For more on the effects of disasters see the article Analyzing Risks. I suggested that you don’t stare yourself blind on the specific Risk Factor of certain potential Risks; A Risk Assessment is a tool to give you a basic understanding of the potential Risks; it’s an Assessment and the reality you later face may not correspond very well with this Assessment. It’s also important to keep in mind that even when it comes to “experts” they often make very different Assessments when it comes to the potential Consequences and Probability of different Risks.
Blind Spots and Ignored Risks
A Risk Assessment gives a clear picture of how you perceive your situation and the Risks you face. Another critical aspect that is rarely discussed by Organizations within the Crisis Management Community is what risks that is not included in the Assessment or what Risks that is Ignored. Two common examples of Risks that is highly debated are Peak Oil and Man-Made Global Warming; accepted as a threat by some and ignored by others. A factor for both these Risks are that they doesn’t correspond very well with the way most economical and political institutions perceive our world and the ideal of economical growth. Other types of Risks that can fall outside Risk Assessments are Wars between Democratic Nations or Long Term Shortages of Natural Resources. The Important Aspect is that you think about your own perception of the world and what Risks that you ignore or believe are very unlikely.
The Point is that a Risk Assessment can be a valuable tool; but the events that have the highest impact tend to be Risks that falls outside what we perceive as normal. You should try to understand your own assumptions and what they are based upon. If you have the opportunity I suggest that you read the Risk Assessment made by your local or regional Crisis Management agency and keep this in mind; what type of Scenarios do they prepare for and what Scenarios don’t they prepare for?
There are major events taking place that has an enormous impact that is not predicated by anyone. These large deviations from the “normal” development is often called “Black Swans” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb how introduced the concept. These events can have disastrous effects like the Terrorist Attacks on 9/11 2001 but also a positive effect like the invention of the Internet. This is a very long and complicated subject and I highly recommend Talebs book on the subject; but the point is: events that have enormous consequences takes place all the time, and no one is able to predict them. There are Risks that you can know that you ignore; but there are also potential Risks that you don’t know is there.
A Risk Assessment identifies some of the potential Risks that you face but it is also critical to link these Risks to your specific situation. If you live in a location where the temperatures during the winter can drop to very low levels it’s critical that you can cope with these temperatures if a natural or man-made disrupts the systems you depend upon for heat, If you live in a desert city that is dependent on water that is transported long distances it’s important that you can stay cool and that you need water storage that reflects this reality etc. Other factors like your housing situation and if you live a rural or urban setting are also important. Analyze your own situation and adapt accordingly; all settings produce their own specific opportunities and challenges; a SWOT analysis can be a good tool to get a better overview of your situation.
Part Two - Your Own Capacity
Knowing the Potential Risks You Face is an important aspect of preparedness but understanding your own capacity to deal with this type of situations is equally important. As a Framework to analyze your own capacity I suggest that you focus on three personal aspects; (1) your own Knowledge, health and physical fitness, (2) a deeper look at your economical and financial situation and (3) what equipment and supplies that you have available.
Preparedness starts with You. You can have the most expensive equipment available in the world; if you lack the knowledge and skill required to use the equipment is of little use. Your knowledge, skills and experience, health and physical fitness allows you to use equipment, improvise and utilize its full potential.
Knowledge is everything you ever learned; from history, to languages, mathematics, how different types of natural disasters work; symptoms of various diseases, how one navigates, knowing your local terrain etc. What type of proffesions do you know? What type of formal and informal training do you have? Start with listing what type of knowledge that you posses. During this process you will also discover something else; what you don’t know.
Skills and Experience are similar to knowledge; but often knowing how something should be done does not mean that you actually can do it. This is the case of everything from first aid, to building a fire, orienteering, swimming, driving a car etc. What types of skills do you posses and what type of relevant experience do you have that can help you deal with a Crisis or Survival Situation?
You’re Health and Physical Fitness is important for several reasons; having the strength required to carry a person or lift a heavy object can mean the difference between life and death; so can having the required endurance to walk to safety. But this aspect is also important during your everyday life; exercise reduces stress; makes you more alert and reduce the chance of contracting diseases like diabetes or having a heart attack. This area also includes other aspects like having the right immunization and a good dental health. I suggest that you start with visiting a doctor and dentist for a check-up to get a better understanding of your current situation. Health and Physical Fitness is also a long term investment that is very important since people today live longer and longer lives and thereby also has to be able to make a livelihood and work a longer period of time.
Some other question that you can ask yourself
• What is your Body Mass Index based on your Height and Weight?
• How often do you exercise?
• What is the longest distance you have ever walked?
• How long could you Swim if you had to?
• How is your Dental health?
• Do you feel Healthy?
• Do you feel Happy and what type of activities make you the most Happy?
One aspect that is often not discussed when it comes to Preparedness is a person’s economical situation. Having a solid economical situation can give the person the means that a person both has a better chance of adjusting to a changing situation but this also puts up limits to what kind of equipment, housing solutions, training and housing that can be afforded. It is quite clear that disasters does not affect all people equally; people with a high income normally has safer housing that can withstand natural disasters, has better access to education, information and the ability to leave if necessary. I suggest that you start with analyzing your economical situation in-depth; what sources of income do you have? Is there any commodity that you produce for your own needs like growing food; generating energy through solar panels etc? The second part of your analyze should cover your expenses; how much do you pay for your housing, electricity, heating, gas, telephone, internet access, insurances? How much is your expenses for food each month? Do you have any kind of savings and how much? Do you have any kind of debt and how big is it?
• Fixed expenses; Rent, Electricity, Gas, Cars, Mortgages, Food, Water etc
• Other expenses; entertainment, magazines, snacks etc
• Loans and Debt
Equipment and Supplies
Having the right equipment can often help you during different types of Crisis and Survival Situations; but there is often a tendency to have very strong focus on this area and not putting much focus on other aspects of preparedness. I would suggest that you start with making an inventory list of what equipment that you have today. This can be an easy task for some but might be a much harder task for others. When doing so I suggest that you try to organize the Equipment into different categories such as
• Water and Water Purification
• Clothing and Footwear
• Sanitation and Hygiene
• Heating and Energy
• First Aid and Medical Supplies
Part Three - Establishing Goals and the Way Forward
When you have completed the first two steps you have a basic understanding both of the Risks that you face but also what type of tools that you have to cope with these Risks. From here it’s time to establish your personal Goals and how you’re planning to achieve them. I suggest that you start with establishing what your weak points are and what areas that is the most important for you. From you can construct a Plan for how to deal with these weaknesses.
One good point to start is to analyze how long you can support yourself in various areas; how much water to you have available? How long can your food storage support you? How long can you maintain your current expenses if you would lose your job? How much supplies do have available in the form of toilet paper, washing up liquid, washing powder, fuel and other necessities? Asking yourself this type of question can help you to establish how long you can endure different type of scenarios without external assistance and help you to balance your preparations.
After you established your Goals it’s important that you approach these Goals from a realistic perspective. If you for example would like to pay of large debts or go from being relatively unfit to a having a very high physical fitness it’s important to understand that this will take time and an effort. Getting from one point to another is a process. By dividing your analysis of your situation into different categories it’s relatively easy to see where your strong and weak points are. The point of this is also to establish balance and avoid that you put all you effort into one category like stockpiling supplies. As an example having a year’s supply of food is not going to help you in a long term emergency if you only have enough water available to make it three days or if you deplete all you’re saving so that you can’t make it a single month if you become unemployed.
One method that is often used in project management is to establish interim goals in order to break down a larger task into more manageable components. For example if you have the goal of creating a food storage for one year you can break down this task into multiple steps and progress with task over time instead of buying all the supplies at once. This is often a good method since it will help you to discover what works best for you as you progress with task, no matter if it’s about figuring out what type of exercise that works best for you, what food you should store and how or to create savings.
Creating your plan should not only be an aspect for crisis and survival situations; it’s also about how you want to live your life. It seems to be more and more common that individuals spend all their time, resources and energy on prepping; having the ability to cope with a Crisis Situation is an important aspect that can mean the difference between life and death. The aim of this model is to help individuals get a balanced situation to help them prepare for a various forms of threats and problems; not to center their lives on preparedness.