Hazard Vulnerability Analysis – What Are You Prepping For?

Posted: November 29, 2014 in All Others, SHTF Preparedness, Theories & Ideas
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Congratulations. If you are reading this, you have just started or are thinking about prepping and you deserve a hardy congratulations for making a decision to accept responsibility for yourself and your loved ones. You have made a choice that most people now days have refused to make. The path you have chosen to undertake will help ensure you and your family’s survival during times of great catastrophe and social unrest. Now, you need to answer this question, “What type of an event are you prepping for?”

After the Collapse

What are you prepping for?

There are several ways to answer that question, but unless you have done some research you will just be taking a stab in the dark. A Hazard and Vulnerability Analysis (H/VA), should direct you in your prepping efforts and allow you to prep for those events that are most likely to occur in your area while negating those events that won’t happen. For example, if you are in the mountains of Colorado it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put your efforts in to prepping for a tidal wave. In the same token, if you are living in the Gulf Coast area it makes no sense to put a lot of effort towards prepping for winter weather.

Simply, the H/VA is a method of determining which hazard is most likely to affect a given location. The H/VA allows the user to focus their attention on areas which present the highest threat. If the H/VA indicates that flooding is the highest concern for your location, then the individual or group should focus their efforts toward flooding preparation and planning. If the H/VA indicates that severe earthquakes are the highest threat for a given area, then the actions of the individual or group should be focused towards that end.

There is a second and most often not discussed benefit to conducting an H/VA. The knowledge that is gained by conducting research of a given area. By conducting a comprehensive H/VA, you will gain significant knowledge not only of the history of the area, but also the current infrastructure of the area. Transportation routes, factories and materials and other locations that may present both hazards and benefits to you during a large scale event. The knowledge gained of the area can mean the difference between life and death in a survival situation.

There are four (4) main goals to any H/VA:

  • Identify hazards in a given geographical location.
  • Characterizing the hazards.
  • Applying a rating assessment.
  • Demonstrating the results.

If performed correctly, the resulting list would be exhausting. There is no place on earth that is safe from any and all hazards. Whether the hazards are man-made, natural or conflict based, no place on the face of the earth is safe from hazards. However, if the H/VA is performed correctly, it will provide the developer/user a factual based assessment of the hazards likely to occur within the area.

Hazards That May Affect the Continental United States (The Lower 48)

This is just a partial listing of the hazards that may affect the lower 48 States. This is not a complete listing, but it is a good place to start. All of these hazards may not affect your local area or your bug-out location, but again this listing will give you an idea of some hazards. I cannot stress enough that where you live will have different hazards that you must address in your H/VA.

I have divided these in to 2 categories, Natural and Man-Made.

Natural Hazard
Drought Wildfires
Earthquake Winter Storms
Floods Ice Storms
Extreme Heat Heavy Snow
Hurricanes Dust storms/sandstorms
Landslides Extreme temperatures
Debris Flow Subsidence
Thunderstorms Insect infestations
Lighting Asteroid Impacts
Tornadoes Famine
Tsunamis Foreign Animals Disease
Volcanoes Pandemic


Man-Made Hazard
Hazardous Materials
Nuclear Accident
Electromagnetic Pulse
Terrorist Attack
Nuclear Blast
Chemical Attack
Economic Collapse
Civil Unrest



The first step of the simple H/VA is research. You have to conduct research into what hazards are the most likely to affect your area. You want to center your efforts on those hazards which you may experience within your area.

The best place to start your research is the National Weather Service (NWS). The NWS keeps very detailed records with on-line access that anyone can review. A good starting point is your local NWS website. NWS will have a link on their page for local historical event. The NWS site will provide you all the information you will want in reference to weather for your local area.

For earthquake type events, the United States Geological Service (USGS) is your best bet. Again, the USGS website is a great resource for historical information. It may take some work to get to the information, but it is well worth the effort in the end. The USGS will also have information on other hazards than earthquakes.

FEMA is another great place to data mine. On FEMA’s website you can find a list of all the major disaster declarations that the President of the United States has signed over the years. They also have mapping that shows you what counties are affected by the declaration. This is a good resource to use if you are in one state and your bug-out location is in another location.

Another place I head for is the state and local Emergency Management Agencies websites. Most state and local agencies, if not all have their H/VA’s published on the internet. The H/VA’s will have a lot of information that you are looking for. Those H/VA’s will also contain information on industrial and other man-made hazards that are issues within the state. The only drawback to these H/VA’s is that they will be broad. If you are looking for a local information, you will have to weed through a ton of stuff to get to what you need.

And don’t forget about your local library and newspapers. Both will have an abundance of information on the local area. They may also be able to point you to other sources of information. The more information that you gather the more accurate your H/VA will be. And that’s what you are trying to develop, the most accurate picture of the area and the events that may affect it.

Now that you have a ton of information gathered what are you going to do with it? For me the trick is getting the information into a useable format. At this point you really only have two options, hand write a list or use a spread-sheet to make a chart. I use the spread-sheet option, and I highly recommend you use it also. The spread-sheet allows you to work with the data a lot easier than the written list.

Construction of a Simple Spread-Sheet H/VA

The best way so far that I have found to put all this information gather is in a spread-sheet. There are a lot of advantages to constructing a spread-sheet for your H/VA. The spread-sheet will allow you to manipulate the data in to several different formats and even charts and graphs that you can use if you need to brief a group using the information.

So you will understand what I am talking about here, I will go over the parts of the spread-sheet and give a definition for the parts.

Row – The cells running across the sheet.

Column – The cells running up and down.

In the first column, list all the hazard that may affect your area. You may want to leave a blank cell between natural and man-made hazards. There may also be others items that you may want to separate with a blank cell for ease in finding the item or some other issue. Your sheet should look something like the below sheet.

There are several items that will be listed on the first row. The first row will be the labels for a number of items. These items will be discriminators for your H/VA. The more items you list in the first row that more accurate the H/VA will be. Below are some of the issues that I am concerned with when I am contracted to conduct an H/VA for organizations and people.

Probability Natural Gas Impacts
Frequency Duration of Natural Gas Impacts
Predictability Fuel Impacts
Human Impact Duration of Fuel Impacts
Duration of Human Impact Food Supply System Impact
Property Impact Duration of Food Supply System Impact
Duration of Property Impact Local Impacts
Transportation Impacts Duration of Local Impacts
Duration of Transportation Impacts Regional Impacts
Communications Impacts Duration of Regional Impacts
Duration of Communications Impacts National Impacts
Power System Impacts Duration of National Impacts
Duration of Power System Impacts Global   Impact
Water Systems Impacts Duration of Global   Impact
Duration of Water Systems Impacts Restoration Possible

A key point to remember is that the more discriminators that you use, the more precise your H/VA will be.

Once you have entered the discriminators to the sheet, you are ready for the work to begin.

Assigning Values to Discriminators

Each of the discriminators now have to have a value assigned to them. This enables the information to be analyzed and the level of risk to be determined. This can be done several ways, however, I have found that if you assign a numerical value to an answer from a question. For an example, let’s look a Tornadoes and Probability. Simply answer this question, “How often does a tornado occur in your area? Once, twice or seven times a year?

If tornadoes occur once or less I would say the probability of a tornado occurring as low. If tornadoes occur 2 to 4 times I would say that the probability is medium. If the tornadoes occur 5 or more times the probability would be high. Take a look at the chart below:

0 to 1 Low
2 to 4 Medium
5 or more High

Now go through each of the discriminators and assign a numerical value. Some of these values may need to be weighted. This simply means because of the effect of the hazard, the value must be increased to show added risk values.

Assigning Values

Once you have completed assigning a value to the discriminators, rack each hazard with newly assigned value alphanumeric value. Now we each understand that words cannot be added to equal a numeral, so those words have to be changed to a value.

Using the chart above, simply add another column and assign a numerical value to each of the discriminators values. See the chart below.

0 to 1 Low 1
2 to 4 Medium 3
5 or more High 5

So, if the chance of a tornado occurring in our area is medium, then the probability value would be 3.

Do this for each of the discriminators you have listed. Once you have this completed, your sheet should look something like the chart below.

Hazard Probability   Frequency   Predictability  
Drought High 3 Once 1 Yes 1
Earthquake Low 1 Once 1 No 3
Floods High 3 10 or More 10 Yes 1
Extreme Heat Low 1 X3 3 Yes 1

Once you have made it this far, you are almost done.

Determining Risk

Next step in this process, add the numbers across the sheet. The higher the total the more of an issue the hazard will be.

Once you have these values, you can go through the same process as you did with the discriminators. Once this is complete the sheet should look like this.

Total Risk Level
109 High
54 Medium
61 Medium
99 High

Now you know your risk according to the discriminators you used. Your final product should look something like this.

Hazard Risk
Drought High
Earthquake Medium
Floods Medium
Extreme Heat High

Some Points to Remember

  • You can also simply put together on a sheet of paper, however if you do this you will want to use a pencil.
  • The more research you conduct, the better the assessment will be.
  • Use more than one source.
  • The assessment should be updated yearly.
  • County level is about the smallest area you want to go because of records.
  • Ask for you local Emergency Management Agencies assessment, it could save you a lot of work.
  • Computer programs are your friends when conducting this assessment.
  • If you don’t want to tackle this project yourself, pay someone to do it. These Hazard and Vulnerability Analysis are well worth the cost.
  • A good assessment can and will save you labor and money in the long run.

As always, we at BYP-US will be happy to do an H/VA for you. Just use the contact section of this webpage.


  1. Jason says:

    This is very well organized. It reminds me of the OSHA chemical hazards assessment process. Maybe like yourself, I know all this information & take it for granted, most people do not hear about processes like this & others.
    Your list is what you make of it, you could have 1 page of hazards or 1,000 pages of hazards. There are some pretty good computer programs anyone can purchase to help them better organize their assessments.
    One area of advice is, do this not by yourself but with your family & anyone else you wise to include in the assessment scenarios. One person can’t think of everything so the more minds you have to throw ideas around the more comprehensive any list of hazards will be.


  2. Prepper Farm says:

    The manmade disasters are definitely the deadliest. Most of the natural disasters (with the exception of drought) are short lived, and the recovery begins immediately. Manmade disasters hit, and possibly hit over and over. The sustained nature of them is what makes them so deadly.


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