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Threat Assessment: the first step in security planning

Threat Assessment: the first step in security planning

In the last installment I left you with the idea that planning your personal security is something that you should make the effort to do. You’ll havemore effective defensive preparations (you’ll get better results) and more efficient ones too (you’ll make the best use of your preparedness resources.) As I’ve pointed out in many books and articles, those preparedness resources are limited; you don’t have an inexhaustible supply of time, energy, or money. You need to get results from the resources you spend, but without some sort of guidelines it’s easy to get sucked into “fun” instead of “safer”! We’ll start with threat assessment: figuring out the dangers you face and how important each is to your planning process.

Where do you go? What do you do?

The first step in threat assessment is to sit and think about yourself. Well, more precisely: think about your life, your activities, where you go and what you do. Think about your home, where it’s located and how it’s laid out. Think about where you go on vacation, what hobbies you have, what you do for leisure and recreation. Consider those places outside of the home where you often spend time: work, house of worship, board meetings, coaching Little League. Your physical condition also needs some consideration. Finally, give some thought to how you get from place to place, and the routes you often take; does weather affect your travel? Do you cross any bridges or go through congested urban areas?

Like I said, think about yourself. Now do the same thing for your family. Once done, you’re ready for the next step: identifying the threats.

Identifying your threats

In every activity, at every location, for any kind of transportation, you face identifiable danger of some sort. We’re going to call any manifestation of any danger a “threat”. Now it’s easy to get into the habit of thinking of threats as being criminals or terrorists, but I’d like you to broaden your thinking. A threat is any person, object or event which places you or a loved one in danger of death, severe injury, or significant alteration of your life.

What kinds of threats might you face? Well, of course there are always the bad people, the evil people, that everyone thinks of. When I say “self defense” most people conjure up rapists and muggers, but it goes much deeper than that. Fire, for instance, is always a threat whether you’re at home, in a restaurant, or out camping. (I once had to evacuate a long-term camp in a wilderness area due to a massive forest fire!) Auto crashes are certainly a threat, as are workplace accidents, pedestrian fatalities, natural disasters, and even man-made disasters. Consider all of those dangers you’re exposed to as threats to your life and well being.

Consider the threat of a job loss or severe economic downturn; what would happen if there were a drought in your part of the country? How about an accident that closes the only road into your town for a couple of weeks? A monthlong power outage? These are all things that have happened somewhere in this country just in the last year! How about having your gas main, electrical service, or water cut off during a major storm? (My wife and I had to deal with a widespread week-long power outage, in the middle of winter, twice in our lifetimes — once when we were living in one of the most affluent cities in our state!) Finally, a big risk might be unresolved health issues that are under your control.

These are all threats, and are all things you need to consider in your planning.

Don’t get too carried away, however; a threat needs to be plausible! That is, there is a sufficient history of occurrence that it would be reasonable to assume it could happen to you.

Calculating risk: the core of threat assessment

As you’ve no doubt surmised, not all threats are equal. Some happen more often than others; the more often, the higher the incidence. For each threat on your list, decide whether it’s of high incidence (happens often, or is more likely to happen) or low incidence (less often or lower likelihood.) Give each a number between 1 and 10; the larger the number, the higher the incidence.

Once you’ve done that, consider each from the standpoint of the impact it would have your life; this is called the consequence. This one’s a little harder because any given incident can have numerous effects: health, finances, psychological trauma, and so on. Consider all aspects and given each one a number between 1 and 10 — again, the higher the number the higher the consequence.

Now add the two numbers for each item to come up with a single rank. This number gives you a rough idea how much of your resources (time, energy, money) you should spend on preparing for each threat and the priority or urgency of preparation. It’s very unusual for someone living in the United States to have threats that are both highest in incidence and highest in consequence, so unless you’re very unusual you probably won’t have any threats that rate a ’20’! Likewise, if you have identified threats that rate a ‘2’ you probably don’t need to worry too much about preparing for those.

This process of threat assessment should, if you’ve been both thorough and realistic, result in a rough game plan: you know what you need to deal with and how important each is. The next step is to decide what you’ll do first.

– Grant Cunningham


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  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On July 8, 2016
Tags: awareness