Since it's important to be prepared, I figured I'd look up some statistics to see what were the events that we had the most chances of encountering in our daily lives. That way, knowing that information, I would be able to prioritize what to prepare for.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a good list of events with their associated odds. I found a few that had information about the chances of dying during certain emergencies, but it's not exactly what I was looking for. What I wanted were numbers for the chances of an event occurring, not whether people died or not.
So, one by one I had to research specific events to get the exact statistics for this list. Many of the numbers come from insurance companies and governmental agencies.
What Are We Preparing For?
Below is a list of some of the common and uncommon events that we will experience through our lives. It would make sense to prepare for the ones that we probably will encounter first. Of course, these are broad statistics (mostly U.S. based) and some might not apply to you, depending on where and what region of the country you live in. Some events are so rare that even though I am providing sources, I wonder how those numbers really are calculated.
Car Related Incidents
-- Chances of Being Involved In A Car Accident - Once Every 18 years - Source: CarInsurance.com
-- Getting A Flat Tire - Once Every 5 Years - Source : ActiveTools.com
-- Car Broken Into or Stolen - 0.66% Chance [Calculated from Bureau of Justice Statistics]
Health Related Incidents
-- Sudden Cardiac Arrest - Nearly 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests (includes heart attacks) occur annually, and 88 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home. - Source: [Heart.org]
-- Risk of Developing Cancer - Men 43%, Women 38% -- Source [Cancer.org]
-- Risk of Dying From Cancer - Men 23%, Women 19% -- Source [Cancer.org]
-- Risk of Choking Death - 1 in a 100,000 average -- Source [Patient.co.uk]
Chances of Being the Victim of a Crime [Source: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics]
--Being Assaulted - 1.6% Chance
-- Assaulted With Use Of Weapon - 0.36% Chance
-- Getting Mugged - 0.2% Chance
-- House Burglary - 2.6% Chance
Other Random Attack Events
Chance of Being Attacked By A Dog - 1.5% [Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information]
Emergencies Dealing With Fires [Source: National Fire Protection Association Statistics]
-- Number of home fires your household can expect in an average lifetime: 5
-- Chances that someone in your household will suffer a fire injury in an average lifetime: 1 in 10
-- Non-Fire Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - 0.3%
Besides disruptions caused by natural disasters (usually downed trees in a large storm) and local outages caused by equipment failure or fire. Wikipedia has a list of large electrical outages. National Geographic has an in-depth scenario of a blackout as well.
There are four main events that can cause large scale outages:
- Grid Failure - Caused by cascading failures of sections of the electrical grid that fall like domino's. There are a number of mathematical modeling studies, one done in 2013 and another in 2014 that say that this is almost inevitable for a complicated system like our power grid to fail at some point.
- Solar Flare (Natural EMP) - 12% chance in the next ten years to have an extreme solar flare (Carrington Event size) leading to complete electrical wipe-out! [Source: Space Weather Journal]
- EMP Attack (man made) - It's impossible to get a percentage here, you just never know what will happen with terrorists or in a war with a foreign power, but Russia, China, and North Korea all have the capability and deploying a 'Super EMP' weapon.
- Sabotage - Although an attack like this would be somewhat more local, confined to a city for example, there is always the possibility of a cascading failure after an cyber or physical attack on the electrical grid. In 2013, 100,000 people in Arkansas were in a blackout after a two poles were cut.
-- Being Injured In A Tornado (if living in a Tornado Prone Area) - 0.22% Chance [Source: http://www.asktheodds.com/death/tornado-odds/ ]
-- Chances Your House Will Be Destroyed By A Tornado (if living in a Tornado Prone Area) - 1 in 10 Million Each Year [Source: http://www.flame.org/~cdoswell/tor_probs/vtornado_prob.html
I have researched this and there is not really a good overall number for me to be able to list. Obviously, earthquake dangers are very highly location specific. Here are a few examples:
-- The overall probability of a magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area is 63% in the next 30 years. [Source: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/nca/ucerf/]
-- There is a 10 to 15 per cent chance of a mega-earthquake hitting the northern segment of the Cascadia Subduction Zone an area that runs from Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino California.
--Natural Resources Canada estimates that within the next 50 years, there is a 5% to 15% chance of a major quake in the Ottawa/Montreal/Quebec City region.
Information about U.S.A earthquakes, visit the USGA Hazards Page.
Info about Canadian earthquakes, visit Natural Resources Canada Hazards Page
Since earthquakes are hard to predict, the chances of a tsunami being caused by one are even more difficult to put together. Nevertheless, here is what I found. Obviously, if you don't live near the coast this risk does not apply to you.
-- Inundation maps of California if a tsunami ever hit there. Highlights low lying areas susceptible to flooding.
-- East coast U.S. - Boston has highest tsunami risk [Source: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/04/19/study-boston-new-england-at-greatest-tsunami-risk-in-us]
Hurricanes and tropical storms affect a wide stretch and huge amounts of population since they affect the coastal areas where many large cities are. But, hurricanes season lasts only a few months of the year and they come only sporadically during that time. Nevertheless the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has compiled data for over 55 years that indicates the chances of a hurricane affecting a certain region.
-- New Orleans has about a 40% chance per year of experiencing a tropical storm or hurricane.
-- Miami has a 48% chance of experiencing a seasonal storm, but only a 4% chance of a direct hit by a category three or stronger hurricane.
Scientists admit that they can't predict when volcanos will erupt or how bad they will be when they do, especially for super volcanos which happen every 50,000 years or so. All they really know is where a previous eruption has occurred and if that area is still geologically active.
-- Map of currently active volcanos in the world. -- Map of Active Volcanos
-- Email updates of volcanic activity in the U.S. -- USGS Notification Service
-- The chances of a super volcano erupting in Yellowstone are 0.00014% each year. [Source: USGS Yellowstone Volcano]
-- There are five active volcanos in Hawaii. Here is the information on their status. -- Hawaii Volcano Information
Asteroids, or Near Earth Objects (NEO) as they are sometimes called, can usually be detected (especially the bigger ones) with plenty of warning. Right now they are all being tracked, and you can see the impact probabilities listed at a NASA run site. So far there is nothing being tracked that will hit the Earth.
However, sometimes they are hidden by the sun, and we have no warning whatsoever, as in the 2013 Russian Chelyabinsk Meteor.
The Most Important Is . . .
It was a real eye-opener researching for this article. There are many more potential threats that can harm us that I did not list, however I did not want to start delving into 'what if's', like a government collapse or attacking aliens. There's just no way we can measure that kind of stuff, even though there are possibilities that they can happen.
Although it is possible to mitigate almost all of these risks in some way or another, we can't hide ourselves away in the hopes that nothing bad will ever happen. But, overall there are really two main things that jumped out at me while putting this list together.
First, the health issues in the first section of the article. There are so many health related issues that there was no point in trying to enlarge this part of this list. The reason being is that in almost all preventable health issues, this is something we can control directly by eating properly and getting exercise. Nothing will affect our chances of having something 'bad' happen to us, in this case a disease, more than taking control of our diet and our physical fitness.
With part of health issues, I would include learning CPR and the heimlich maneuver as one of the most important skills to learn to protect those around us.
Secondly, the other risk that (and the most scary) are the chances of a solar flare and it's associated EMP effect on our planet, listed at 12% over the next ten years. This is huge for the destruction that it would cause! Unlike the other hazards which are more local, even though they may be large, at least some form of emergency relief would be forth coming even if it took weeks.
An EMP that affects everyone, everywhere, would have devastating effects as there would not be any help coming at all. The removal of electricity from our society with no hope of getting it back for years is surely the worst thing that can happen, and it has a high chance of occurring as well. Unfortunately, an EMP scenario requires the most preparedness both in physical preps, and in knowledge of survival skills.
It's taken a bit of time to sort through all this information over many days, and if you think I have made an error somewhere, if I've overstated or understated a risk for example, then please let me know.