Everything can’t be done at once, so prioritise

Preparedness can get expensive, and really quickly. People can throw an awful lot of money, time and effort at it, yet achieve very little. It is not long before they realise that everything cannot be done at once. With the limited resources available to use all we have to prioritise to get maximum effect, in short to get the biggest bang for your buck!

The easiest way to do this is to carry out what is known as a “Threat Assessment”.

Everything went wrong
Photo by Dion Tavenier on Unsplash

Threat Assessment

To some the term “Threat Assessment” may sound quite scary. It’s almost like you’re going to fight off terrorists or deal with a huge meteor strike on the Earth. So let’s start by taking out the Hollywood and bringing a little reality to the table.

What exactly is a “Threat Assessment”?

When we’re talking about personal or family preparedness, we need to consider what could affect your safety, cause damage to your property or stop you enjoying the lifestyle you want.

For example, installing baby-gates at the top and bottom of your staircase. You have seen there is a risk of your child falling and put barriers in to stop them accessing the staircase from either end.

Installing domestic CCTV or a burglar alarm protects (hopefully) your property from being damaged or stolen.

A very topical subject during 2020 was the maintenance of food and domestic supplies. (Remember the great toilet roll panic of March?) So having cupboards or freezers with food stored, basic cleaning products etc. are another example of carrying out a threat assessment in your head and taking action. You just didn’t label it as such.

So whilst your first thoughts may tend to the movie style disaster, in reality it is much more mundane.

A Threat Assessment (TA), is a continuous process of assessing what may cause harm, disruption or damage to assets or a way of life, then taking action to mitigate those threats.

Getting started

The first step is to come up with a list of things that could happen that would:

  • Affect your safety or the safety of your family
  • Damage your property
  • Affect your lifestyle or way of life

The first thing that always springs to my mind is losing my job.

Without my job, I would struggle to pay my bills, buy things I want or go to places I want to go to. So for me, that is my personal number one. Of course if I lived in a place that was in a state of war or with a high risk of terrorism, then perhaps I would place personal and family safety at the top.

So you’re starting to realise this list could get very big, quite easily. In fact, the more you think about what could affect you or your family, the more items you will end up adding to your list.

It is important you write this list down. It is very easy to forget things and that means they will not be addressed. The first time I carried out this exercise, I ended up with over fifty items on my list after only ten minutes.

If you haven’t already, write a number in front of each item on your list.

Now remember, we can’t do everything at once.

Somehow we need to prioritise the items so we can take action on the most important ones first. To do this we need to consider two factors:

  • What is the Impact of the item we’re considering?
  • What is the Likelihood of that item occurring?

Think of impact of how damaging or life altering the item in your list would be if it occurred. It may only present a minor inconvenience, such as the mains electricity supply going off for an hour. Or indeed it could be life-threatening if you’re undergoing kidney dialysis at home without a battery backup. It needs to be ranked by you as your circumstances are unique.


Think of Likelihood as being the probability of something happening. A meteor hurtling towards Earth makes for a great film script, but the likelihood of it happening is extremely low. However, if you live in a high crime area, you may consider the prospect of having your car broken into as high, so you would get a car alarm fitted.

So for every item on your list you’ll need two columns; Impact and Likelihood. Go down your list and assign High, Medium or Low for the Impact and Likelihood for each item.

Now if you’re like me, I have trouble picking out the items to tackle first at this stage. We need another piece of paper. Now we need to make a chart we can add the numbers of each item to, using their Impact and Likelihood scores.

Can't do everything - prioritise the list

Keep adding the items to your chart until everything has been added. Once everything is on, you should get something similar to this.

We can now see groups or clusters of items that fall into the High, Medium or Low categories.

If like me, you have limited resources, whether that be time or money, you’ll now be aware that everything can’t be done at once. So we need to prioritise what we do. Start by tackling the High Impact / High Likelihood items on your list. As these pose the biggest risk to you and your family. Then work your way down the priorities in mitigating the risks the items pose.

Change over time

It is extremely important to remember that things change with time. What is important today, may not be a priority next year. If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it is how fundamental aspects of our lives can change almost overnight.

So it is imperative that you carry out this process regularly.

It does not need to become all-consuming or result in you permanently living your life in fear. However, reviewing it on a monthly basis, if not more often, may allow you to remove certain items, or add items you forgot to consider first time round.





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