Emergency Planning Basics

Planning for the Worst: Risk Assessment

Posted by Jason Perez on

Planning for the Worst: Risk Assessment
When the next disaster strikes, will you be ready? Yes. You'll be prepared if you've done a risk assessment. But what is risk assessment? And how will it help you and your family?

3 Reasons Why Risk Assessment is Essential For Your Family

Scenario #1

You wake up to the smell of smoke and quickly realize that your house is on fire. Anxious thoughts are racing through your mind: Where are the kids? How do I put out the fire? Will we be able to get out of here in time? You're frozen, trying to figure out what to do first...


Scenario #2

You're sitting at home watching the news when you hear several reports about the outbreak of a global pandemic. The government is talking about putting your town under lockdown. You start to worry. Will you be able to work? Should you pick up the kids from school? Do you have enough food to last throughout the lockdown? In a panic, you run to the store to buy supplies for you and your family, but they're cleaned out...


What was missing in these two scenarios? Risk Assessment. How can this analysis benefit your family?

#1 SAFETY: Understanding the risks you'll face is the first step in preparing your family to face a disaster.

#2 PEACE OF MIND: You'll be able to calmly address the situation instead of panicking.

#3 PROPERTY PROTECTION: When you understand the risks, you're able to act quickly, lessening potential property damage.

What is Risk Assessment?

Risk assessment is a two-step analysis tool that will help you know what to expect when you come face to face with a disaster. How does it work? (1) Identify Potential Hazards (2) Analyze the Risks

STEP 1: Identify Potential Hazards

Some disasters can happen anywhere, like a house fire. But certain areas are more prone than others to specific types of disasters. Californians are concerned about wildfires. Florida residents are at risk of hurricanes and tornadoes. Those living in flood zones worry about rising water levels. So start by doing some research about your area. And write out a list of disasters you might face. Check out the helpful resources below.

Red Cross Common Disasters Across the US

Click the link below to navigate to an interactive map. You can click on the state you live in and see a list of hazards that are more common in your region.

Columbia University's National Center for Disaster

This site has an even more detailed regional map.


Navigate to ready.gov for a list of natural, human-caused, and technological hazards.

STEP 2: Analyze the Risks

For each potential hazard, determine what assets are at risk. The thing you want to protect the most, of course, is lives. Could facing this disaster put you or your family at risk? Could your home be damaged or destroyed? Next, think about how you can mitigate these issues and prepare yourself and your family to face this disaster. A common emergency that many people deal with is a house fire. Let's analyze the risks together.


The lives of you and your family, your home, and your property.


Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including each bedroom. Test them every month to make sure they're functioning. Consider getting homeowners or renters insurance.

What Comes Next?

A risk assessment will allow you to create the most effective emergency plan for your family. For a house fire, you would plan an escape route from each room of your home. Do family fire drills twice a year, making sure everyone can get out quickly (in less than two minutes). You'll also need to determine where you'll meet once you've left the danger zone. A thorough risk assessment is the foundation of disaster preparedness.

The Result?

Scenario #1

You wake up to the sound of your fire alarm going off. Although you feel a little anxious, your family knows the escape plan and each person acts fast. You're all out of the house in less than two minutes. And you're quick to call emergency services. There's some damage to your property, but much of it is recoverable and insurance will cover the rest. Mostly, you're just glad your family is safe.

Scenario #2

You're sitting at home watching the news when you hear several reports about the outbreak of a global pandemic. The government is talking about putting your town under lockdown. You're a little worried, but you don't panic. You have an emergency stock of food and supplies that should last you and your family about a month. And you have all the personal protective equipment you need to take care of necessary errands.

So how will you react to the next disaster? After a thorough risk assessment, you'll be ready to face whatever comes your way.