Risk Assessment for Preppers

Risk Assessment is a vital skill for everyone who wants Self-Reliance. The reason Risk Assessment is important is so we can prioritise our efforts. We all know there are only so many hours in a day and a very limited budget to spend on preparing. For instance, I’ve been doing a Risk Assessment recently, I found my biggest risk is job loss. Since the hazard is losing my employment, a consequence is that I won’t be able to buy food or pay rent. Becoming Homeless is pretty severe and the likelihood is medium due to our current staff levels and my probation period coming to an end. So my risk rating is high. As well as ensuring my work performance doesn’t drop so that I’m not dropped, a cautious individual will also create contingencies.

I’m going to cover definitions first. Having a clear understanding of the terminology is important so you can discuss your Risk Assessment with others. Once we’re all on the same page, I will explain the Hazard Register, how it works and why it will help you. Then, I will explain the Hierarchy of Control that you use to manage risks. Finally, I will show you how to put it all together, to create your own Risk Assessment.

Definitions of Risk Assessment

  • Hazard – A hazard is any condition or situation that will cause a negative consequence.
  • Consequence – A consequence is any negative impact on you. This can be an injury, an inconvenience, a loss of money or time, damage to reputations or relationships.
  • Severity – Severity is a measure of how much damage a particular consequence can cause. I measure Severity from 1 to 5 and have descriptions for each level as well. Very Low = 1, Low = 2, Medium = 3, High = 4, Very High = 5.
  • Likelihood – Likelihood is how likely you are to suffer a particular consequence. I measure the Likelihood the same way I measure Severity.
  • Risk Rating – We calculate the risk rating by multiplying the Severity by the Likelihood. This gives us a number that we can use to prioritise which hazard to deal with first. The higher the number the more seriously we need to take that hazard.
  • Hazard Register – The Hazard Register lists all the hazards we have found, the consequences, the severity, likelihood and risk rating of each consequence and an average risk rating for each hazard.
  • Hierarchy of Control – The Hierarchy of Control is what we apply to a hazard to reduce the severity or likelihood of its associated consequences. I will explain how this works later.

Hazard Register

# Hazard Consequences Severity Likelihood Risk
1 Flash Flooding
  1. Cut off from Work/Home/Escape
  2. Damage to Property/Buildings/Crops
  3. Drowning
  1. L (2)
  2. M (3)
  3. VH (5)
  1. VH(5)
  2. M (3)
  3. L (2)
  1. 10
  2. 9
  3. 10
  4. 9.67
3 Cyclone/Severe Storm
  1. Can cause flash flooding and bushfires
  2. Electricity/Communications Grids Down
  3. Fallen Trees and Branches
  4. Hail and Lightning Strikes
  1. See H1+H2
  2. M (3)
  3. M (3)
  4. M (3)
  1. See H1+H2
  2. H (4)
  3. L (2)
  4. L (2)
  1. See H1+H2
  2. 9
  3. 12
  4. 6
  5. 7.98
5 Loss of Employment
  1. Becoming Homeless
  1. VH (5)
  1. M (3)
  1. 15
  2. 16

This is an excerpt from my hazard register. I have other hazards in my actual hazard register but this excerpt will be sufficient as an example.

How does the Hazard Register Work?

The first column acts as a serial number so that it’s easier to refer to the hazard later. Next, we have a description of the Hazard. The next column has a list of the associated Consequences. The fourth column is the Severity, it has a list with the same number of items as the consequences. Each list item corresponds to the adjacent consequence, the fifth column is identical to the fourth but records the likelihood. Finally, we have the risk rating, each item in the Risk Rating column is calculated by multiplying the corresponding likelihood by the severity; finally, the bottom number in the Risk column is the average of the ratings in that cell. Consequently, I know which hazard to work on first.

Calculating Likelihood

I determine the likelihood and severity of each consequence based on knowledge and experience. For instance, I have been cut off from work by flooding before, so I know that it is very likely to occur again. However, the only consequence I suffered was lost wages so I consider it only a low severity. Since I consider the loss of employment to have very high severity, it could make me homeless. And Hazard #3 can actually cause Hazards #1 and #2, so rather than list all the consequences again I put a note in and include the average risk rating from those two in the average risk rating for Hazard #3. So from this example, you can see that the major hazard I have to plan for is being told I no longer have a job.

Hierarchy of Control

The Hierarchy of Control gives us the five options for controlling any risk. So we start at the top and work our way to the bottom. We can use multiple levels, however, the higher the level the more we reduce our risk.

  1. Elimination – Remove the hazard and don’t suffer any consequences.
  2. Substitution – Change the hazard for something that does not have consequences.
  3. Engineering – Build something that removes/prevents/reduces the consequences or likelihood.
  4. Administrative Controls – Create procedures, to avoid or reduce the severity of consequences and reduce the likelihood.
  5. PPE – Personal Protective Equipment that reduces the severity of consequences.

You will need to be creative and think outside the box in applying these principles.

Putting it all Together

So how do you apply the Hierarchy of Control to your Hazard Register? How do you create a Risk Assessment? I like to think of this part as a massive brainstorming session. No idea is bad, the more ideas the better it is. So ask people you trust for ideas, ask experts, and ask the internet. Whatever you need to do to get as many ideas as possible. However, you need to bring order to the chaos. So, ask specific questions rather than general questions. For instance, “How would you eliminate damage from falling trees and branches during a storm?” rather than “How do I protect myself from a storm?”

To be effective and to ask specific questions you need to focus on one problem at a time.  First I create a table for each consequence with five columns. Then I list all the ideas I have in their respective columns.

H3.3 Fallen Trees
Elimination Substitution Engineering Administrative Controls PPE
  • Remove all trees
  • Only remove trees or branches that might cause damage
Remove trees and plant shrubs instead Install Props on danger trees to stop them falling Regularly inspect trees for dangerous branches Wear a hard hat and safety boots if you have to go outside in high winds

Here, there are two ideas for elimination, and one idea for each of the other controls. Ideally, I would remove any tree or branch that is likely to cause damage. However, that is a costly and time-consuming task. Removing all trees and replacing them with shrubs is also a time-consuming and costly task. So until I can remove the offending trees I can construct some props that will hold the trees in place until they can be scheduled for removal.

Please note, you do not have to implement only one idea. Here, I would build a prop on any tree that is causing the concern, then implement a regular inspection procedure for trees that are in danger areas. I would remove the dangerous trees as soon as possible and avoid going near them without appropriate PPE.

Completing the Risk Assessment

Repeat this process for all of your hazards and consequences. Always seek to reduce the severity and likelihood of the consequences. When you have your list of ideas and the priority you need to act on them you can make your plans.

I am interested in finding out what risks you guys are facing. Tell me in the comments, how you performed your risk assessment. Then, check out my post on planning, maybe it will help you create a Risk Management Plan.

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