Knowing Where To Focus - Writing A Threat Assessment

Knowing Where To Focus - Writing A Threat Assessment

Contributed by Rob Hanus


Whether you’re just beginning to write your preparedness plan, or if you’ve had one for a while, one of the best planning tools you can have is a threat analysis, also called a risk or threat assessment. Properly done, an analysis highlights the hazards and situations most likely to occur, and which are the most dangerous.

Once complete, your threat assessment tells you which disasters or events you should prepare for first. For example, you may be highly concerned with nuclear detonations and pandemics and may be thinking you need to focus a large part of your plan on these events. However, though the effects from these can be severe, both have a relatively low possibility of occurring. When you consider the potential damage from more likely disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, and storms, these are the disasters you should prepare for first.

It’s important to update this assessment on a regular basis. If you live in a well-established area, with little to no new development, a reassessment every one to two years is likely sufficient. However, if your home is in an area undergoing continual development, such as a new neighborhood or a booming commercial and industrial area, it’s better to update every six to twelve months, as new development can introduce new threats.

Start your analysis by writing a list of all the disasters, events, and situations you can think of, particularly those with the potential to directly affect you. Do some online research and drive around your area, writing down anything posing a potential threat, such as power plants, industrial chemicals, and nearby railroads or highways. If you’re unsure of what hazards they pose, you can check this list of disasters and hazards, which also has good information on how to prepare for these events. You can also check this comprehensive list of disasters and hazards, as a way to check the possible disasters.

Don’t forget to include frequent locations like work, school and anywhere you spend a lot of time. It’s important to keep in mind the proximity of a disaster can lessen or increase the severity of impact to you personally. Group your list of disasters into the following categories:

  • Personal - person, family, house, school, church, workplace
  • Local - neighborhood, town, city
  • Regional - county, neighboring counties, state
  • National and above - country, neighboring countries, globally

If you know how to use one, now is a good time to put your list into a spreadsheet, as you’ll soon be adding several more columns of information. This additional data will help you make decisions on the first threats to focus on. Below is a sample spreadsheet you can use as a guide on how to set up your spreadsheet, whether on computer or paper.

As you can see from the example, once you have the list of disasters separated into proximity, create four additional columns:

  1. Onset
  2. Likelihood of Occurring
  3. Severity of Impact
  4. Impact Score


Onset is how fast a disaster occurs and how much time you have to prepare. A Slow Onset means you have more time to prepare, as with a hurricane or winter storm. A Rapid Onset happens with little to no warning, such as with earthquakes and car accidents.

For each disaster on your list, assign an onset value, as follows::

1 = Slow Onset (more time to prepare)

2 = Rapid Onset (happens without warning)


Likelihood of Occurring is a value of how likely an event is to happen:

1 = Not Likely to Occur

2 = Somewhat Likely

3 = Likely or Unsure

4 = Probably Likely

5 = Very Likely to Occur


Severity of Impact is how much the impact would affect you or your family personally:

1 = Little or No Impact to You

2 = Some Impact

3 = Moderate Impact or Unsure

4 = Impact likely to Upset Normal Everyday Life

5 = Will Impact You Greatly or Severely


In the last column, take all three scores and multiply them together to provide an Impact Score:

Impact Score = Onset  x Likelihood of Occurring  x Severity of Impact


The Impact Score is an indexed number of all the factors considered, which makes it easier to see which events are likely to affect you the most. The higher the number, the greater the direct impact a disaster has on you personally.  In our example spreadsheet, the disasters or events having the greatest impact are a tornado, home fire, vehicle accident, and winter storm and are where you should begin preparing first.

Once you’ve finished your risk assessment, you can start focusing on preparing for those events with the highest Impact Scores. When those preparations are complete, move onto the next several highest scores on the list. Many disasters have a common set of needs, such as food, fuel, water, shelter, and so on. This allows you to get prepared for a wide range of disasters rather quickly.

Our next article will focus in on tackling the food storage component of preparing for these events and will cover things like why following lists online is not always a good idea, and food storage questions to ask.