One of the most important things you can do to prepare is to assess your risks of what you may need to be preparing for. There are general preparedness skills and techniques that will serve you well in any emergency situation. But if you live on the coast of South Florida for example, you probably do not have to spin your wheels too much preparing for earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions – but you really should have a great Hurricane Survival Plan in place.
Risk assessment basically boils down to thinking about “what is the worst that can happen, and how likely is it to happen to me.” Governments, corporations, healthcare facilities and other entities vital to infrastructure, have a vested interest in understanding the risks to their operations. So the good news is that emergency preparedness organizations have invested a whole lot of time and research into compiling risk assessment data, and there are many reliable websites where you can access regional risk assessment maps, and find exactly what you could be facing where you live.
According to FEMA (www.ready.gov) there are actions that should be taken before, during and after an event that are unique to each hazard. Identify the hazards that have happened or could happen in your area and plan for the unique actions for each. Local Emergency management offices can help identify the hazards in your area and outline the local plans and recommendations for each. By contacting the local emergency management office or local Red Cross office, you can find out what types of disasters are considered most likely to occur in a specific community.
The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, (IBHS) says that no matter where you live, natural hazards exist that could significantly damage or even destroy your home or business. However, the severity and specific types of risks vary considerably by geographic region. A complete evaluation of your specific property location may be the most effective way to determine the true exposure. You can obtain a list of the natural hazards that may affect your area, and the potential of various man-made risks by accessing this Natural Disaster Risk Map as compiled by NOAA and the American Red Cross.
IBHS suggests that once you have determined the likelihood of a particular hazardous event occurring in your area, the next level of risk assessment is to figure out how vulnerable your home and property is to harm, and to prepare accordingly.
Insurance and Financial Risk
Part of your risk assessment, needs to also include an evaluation of your insurance needs. Insurance can be the only way to rebuild or get yourself back on your feet after a hurricane, flood, earthquake or other serious natural or man-made disaster.
The results of your Regional Risk Assessment will help clue you into what coverages you should have. Be sure to check your policies. Often standard homeowners insurance does not include coverage for the disasters most likely to occur where you live. For example, if your home is on the beach in a hurricane zone, flooding and storm damage may be excluded from the policy. It is vital to purchase all extra coverages that may be required to protect your assets from natural disasters.
If you are the owner of property, be it residential or commercial, always insure the building and its contents at replacement-cost, to ensure that everything will be restored at today’s prices.
Final Thoughts on Risks
FEMA also advises that an integral part of knowing your risks, is knowing how you will be notified in the event of an emergency. Find out from local government emergency management how you will be notified for each kind of disasters — both natural and man-made. You should also inquire about alert and warning systems for workplace, schools and other locations. Methods of getting your attention vary from community to community. One common method is to broadcast via emergency radio and TV broadcasts. You might hear a special siren, or get a telephone call, or in rare circumstances, volunteers and emergency workers may go door-to-door.
In some ways risk is also a matter of your perspective. Different people, different ideologies, even different governments perceive some risks differently. For example, some people think we are at great risk due to the effects of Global Warming, or we are on the brink of a world- wide energy crisis due to oil depletion, while others continue to doubt the veracity of such claims. For that matter, there are those that believe we are at risk of an alien invasion, or zombie apocalypse!
The point is, if you take the necessary and proper action to prepare for your actually assessed and identifiable risks, you will be better prepared for all risks… known and unknown!