Risk Management during a disaster

by Jan 25, 2022Preparation, Survival


Risk management is something we do every day without thinking about it.  While driving the car we are on the lookout for hazards and use our skills and experience to react accordingly.  But we don’t have skills in all areas, it is hard to risk assess something you know nothing about.

 The next thing we need to know is the stages of risk assessment so we can come up with the best course of action.

  1.  Identify the hazards
  2. Identify the risks
  3. Identify multiple control measures
  4. Implement the control measures
  5. Review the control measures during and after the event.

 Download this free risk management template to help you create your own risk assessment.

If you are unsure of how to handle a particular problem ask someone skilled in the subject or do some research in various ways to solve the problem.  There are several control measures for each situation. 

Carry out the research online before the event happens as there probably won’t be internet available after the event.

 Not all situations can be totally controlled so the plan will have strategies to reduce the impact of the event. 

 A good risk assessment has multiple control measures as one measure is not enough.  If that measure fails you don’t have a backup control measure.

A well thought out risk assessment should reduce the problem not create new problems.  Such as making people sick, injured, mentally ill or dead.

 If your control measures are creating new problems they need re-assessment or ask yourself, do you need that control measure in the first place.  When calculating the risks include your control measures in the assessment.

 Originally Risk Assessments were aimed at Personal injury or death but these days they can take other losses into account.  Losses such as property, asset, economic and environmental.

 One plan you should have is how to risk manage Covid.

Identify the hazards

A hazard is something that has the potential to cause injury or loss.

 Types of hazards

 Safety – spills, electrical, working at heights, confined spaces

Physical – weather conditions, extreme heat/cold, radiation, loud noise

Biological – body fluids, bacteria, virus, pathogens, parasites, animal wastes, medications. 

Chemical – fumes, gases, caustic, fuels, herbicides, pesticides, oxygen depleting

Ergonomic – heavy loads, poor posture, repetitive strain injury, work service design

Organisational – stress, bullying, overwork, violence, harassment

 To assess the hazard you need to work back to the core problem.  A knife on the bench is not going to jump up and kill someone.  The knife in the hands of a crazy person is a hazard (so is the crazy person). 

The hazard with the knife on the bench would more likely be an unclean workplace where something could be knocked onto the floor.

 Another example is during disasters.  A chainsaw on the shelf is not a hazard.  Someone who is untrained using a chainsaw is a hazard as they may handle it wrongly and injure themselves or others.

 A leaning tree is a hazard, a fallen tree is not a hazard unless it is lying across the road.

 When carrying out your risk assessment you need to identify real hazards, not an imaginary one.  Assessing if the dam will burst and flood your home is irrelevant if you have no dam in the area.

Identify the risks

A risk is a result of being exposed to the effects of the hazard.  Risks can be classed minor (cut on finger) to Catastrophic (death).  To calculate the risk you need to know the Impact and Likelihood of loss from the hazard.


 Using a risk calculator

 A risk calculator is a tool used widely in the safety world to assess the risk of exposure to a hazard.

 There a numerous Risk Assessment templates and calculators on the internet for you to use.

 Determine the hazard/s and the risks.  To start with you work out the risk for the situation without any control measures.

  • Extreme risk is not tolerated so control measures are mandatory.  (One or more fatalities, severe injuries, disabilities)
  • High risk is still not great it still needs the risk reduced with control measures.  (Major injuries, disabilities and loss of function)
  • Moderate risk needs some minor control measures.  (Broken arm, stitches, teeth damage)
  • Low risk can be managed on-site, still have some control measures.  (cut, scratches, sprained ankle)

 For example, gardening in a thunderstorm.

Hazard – lightning, risk – death, severity Catastrophic, likelihood Possible the risk is Extreme.





Risk Calclulator

Identify the control measures

Multiple methods and procedures you can put into action to reduce the impact of the hazard.  The control methods have a priority of most effective to least effective.  Having more than one control measure is the best option in case one fails to control the situation.

 The levels of the Hierarchy of Controls (in order of most effective to least effective) include

Eliminate – eliminating the hazard from the environment (energy provider turning off the power)

Substitute – substituting the hazard for a less risky option (hand saw instead of chainsaw)

Isolate – isolating the hazard from the people (barriers, locked containers)

Engineering – designing something to mitigate the effects of the hazard (safety features on chainsaw)

Administration – changing the way people work with the hazard (procedures, warnings)

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – The least effective method used to reduce exposure to the hazard. (masks, helmets, safety boots)

For example, the basement is flooded.  Control measures –

  1. Have energy provide disconnect power to the house. 
  2. Secure the basement to prevent kids from going into the water.
  3. Pump water out of the basement. 
  4. Ventilate the basement to dry it out to prevent mold. 
  5. Have building inspector check basement for structural damage.





Review the control measures

 Are your control measures working?  If not why not?  Some or all of your plans may need amending.  Make the changes and repeat the stage above. 

 After the event assess the whole situation what causes the problem and how you can prevent it from happening again.  Prevention is the best control measure.  Once you have worked out the situation you can make adjustments to your emergency plan.



Key points

A disaster can be very confusing and overwhelming.  Having a set out process to manage the hazards and risks such as a risk assessment with reduce injuries and possible deaths. 

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Identify the risks
  3. Identify multiple control measures
  4. Implement the control measures
  5. Review the control measures during and after the event.

 Download this free risk management template to help you create your own risk assessment.

If you don’t have a plan I have created this workbook to help you develop one.  You can purchase the Disaster Plan Workbook for Families” here.  


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