Odds of Everyday Emergencies

Odds of Everyday Emergencies @ Common Sense Homesteading

What are you preparing for?  There’s been a lot of hype lately about the zombie apocalypses and Doomsday Preppers, but most of us just want to be able to take care of ourselves and our families during “everyday emergencies”.

We’ve made up a list of events that many of us will encounter at some point in our lives. Many of these estimates come from the National Safety Council website.  Others are from additional sites around the web.  Numbers are for estimation purposes only, just to give you a feel for what’s real and what’s hype.

What Are You Preparing For? Odds of Everyday Emergencies

  • Lifetime: Get Heart Disease 1 in 6
  • Lifetime: Get Cancer 1 in 7
  • A major Solar Flare 1 in 8 by 2020 (doesn’t kill you but you might wish it had)  see below for more info
  • Lifetime: Have a Stroke 1 in 29
  • Lifetime: Die in a motor vehicle incident 1 in 98
  • Lifetime: Die from Intentional self-harm 1 in 109
  • Lifetime: Unintentional poisoning by and exposure to noxious substances 1 in 126
  • Lifetime: Falls 1 in 163
  • Lifetime: Assault by Firearm 1 in 321
  • Lifetime: Cat occupant death 1 in 368
  • Lifetime: Pedestrian death 1 in 701
  • Lifetime: Motorcycle rider death 1 in 761
  • Lifetime: Accidental drowning and submersion 1 in 1,103
  • Lifetime: Exposure to smoke, fire, and flames death 1 in 1,344
  • Lifetime: Cyclist death 1 in 4,381
  • Lifetime: Firearms discharge death 1 in 6,609
  • Lifetime: Air and spaaace transport incidents death 1 in 7,178
  • Lifetime: Death from exposure to atomic current, temperature, and pressure 1 in 12,420
  • Lifetime: Death from exposure to excessive natural heat 1 in 13,217
  • Lifetime: Odds of being murdered 1 in 18,000
  • Lifetime: Cataclysmic storm 1 in 29,196
  • Lifetime: Death from contact with hornets, wasps, and bees 1 in 79,842
  • Lifetime: Death from earthquake and other earth movements 1 in 97,807
  • Lifetime: Death from legal execution 1 in 111,779
  • Lifetime: Death from lightning 1 in 134,906
  • Lifetime: Bitten or struck by dog 1 in 144,899
  • Lifetime: Odds of dying in a Tsunami/Flood 1 in 558,896
  • Lifetime: Odds of an asteroid or meteor killing you directly 1 in 625,000
  • Lifetime: Death from fireworks discharge 1 in 652,046
  • Lifetime: Odds of dying from parts falling off an airplane: 1 in 10,000,000
  • Lifetime:  Odds of zombie apocalypse: 1 in 345,957,987, 900, 042 (possibly less)
Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

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Some events are much harder to predict as they are more likely to occur somewhere else and only impact you remotely to a lesser or greater extent.

What are the Odds of War?

Calculating the likelihood of local, regional or global wars are hard.  Given human history and current behavior of governments around the world, the odds, unfortunately, are increasing. Add in terrorism and the odds of a small impact to your life from war somewhere are greater than 1 in 10, depending on the time period in question. A larger widespread man-made disaster impacting fuel prices are probably in the 1 in 20 to 1 in 50 range.  Smaller conflicts around the globe have been letting off steam since the WWII, but there are strong polarizations building up between many groups around the world, most notably radical Islam and anyone who opposes it.  Increasing demand of growing populations for land and resources will also raise tensions.

What are the Odds of Financial Collapse?

Financial collapse has happened many times before, with smaller short term recessions and full blown depressions. We are seeing major financial problems in Europe and the USA. A good chunk of the globe is in partial or full recession. Combine all of this with possible increased instability in the middle east and you increase the odds of at least a global recession if not a full global financial failure. Add a full war into the mix and the odds go way up. Many people believe it is almost inevitable that we will see massive inflation based on government spending and monetary policy from 2005 through 2013. Even if its not the end of the world, we can expect some serious financial events because of runaway government spending, the same thing that would happen if we spent more than we had individually (just multiply it by billions of dollars).

What are the Odds of an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) as the result of a nuclear weapon going off?

Many preppers fear this attack. We agree it would be serious. What does an EMP do? If a nuclear bomb were exploded high in the atmosphere over the east coast, nearly that entire area would be without power in a few minutes. The EMP doesn’t hurt people directly, but an EMP can damage/destroy electronics within range of the pulse. The odds of an EMP attack are probably comparable to a lighting strike or global war, so it’s unlikely but not impossible. The recovery time for an EMP could be weeks, months or years, depending on the scope of the attack and the scope of damage to the electrical grid nationally.

Note:  The situation with EMP attack may be heating up, due to recent activities in North Korea. WND.com reports:

The bomb test that North Korea conducted over the weekend was a “miniaturized” nuclear device – suggesting to U.S. sources that the day of a North Korean “Red Dawn” EMP attack that could decimate the American power grid might be closer.

The latest test was described by United Nations observers as twice the size of North Korea’s 2009 nuclear test but that the device was “small and light.”

In the 1980s movie “Red Dawn,” American teens fight back against invading Soviet forces. In a recent remake, it’s North Koreans who are invading, and they launch an EMP strike to cripple the U.S. electrical grid.

North Korea news media announced that the detonation was a miniature nuclear device, which suggests that North Korean scientists are working on a bomb capable of fitting on their three-stage Taepodong-3 missile, which already is capable of reaching the U.S.

The North Koreans successfully had tested this three-stage missile within the past month.

What is of concern are a number of factors involving first the testing of the missile and now the nuclear device.

The three-stage missile is assessed by the U.S. intelligence community of being able to reach the West Coast of the U.S. During the test, the North Koreans also orbited a package which they claim was a satellite.

Please visit the article for additional information.

What are the Odds of a Major Solar Flare Hitting the Earth?

A major solar flare or large Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) would be similar to the EMP from a nuke. The question is, “How big it might the CME be?”  Solar flares hit earth regularly, and odds are that a big one will hit earth eventually. The question we can’t answer is when and how big. A big one solar flare could occur anytime, or not occur for another 300 years.

The Carrington coronal mass ejection (major solar flare) occurred in 1859 for multiple days impacting the entire planet. The results: telegraph wires burst into flames, touching off fires (while in other cases fire crews were called to fires that did not exist, due to the fiery lights in the sky). Telegraph machines scorched paper printouts, stunned operators with atomic shocks, transmitted gibberish, and continued working for hours even after being unplugged from the batteries that powered them. For two days, the light show and electromagnetic storm continued, then faded. Even at this lower level it would be devastating to our modern electronic environment. A tiny solar flare event caused Toronto to be without power for an entire day in 1989. Again the odds of this are hard to predict but over a 10 year period, the likelihood is as high as 1 in 8. Source

What are the Odds of Peak Oil?

Many people believe that a massive “dry up” of oil will occur and this will result in a global economic collapse resulting in a collapse of society. There is even an MIT study called The Limits to Growth. We don’t believe in this, we believe that the creativity of the human mind will overcome limits. The idea that hydrocarbons only come from dinosaurs or organic matter is not holding up astronomically. There is absolutely no doubt hydrocarbons are on multiple planets in our solar system and there is evidence they exist throughout the universe. Regardless of the science, the concept of “peak oil” is still possible due to political, economic and social activity.  It’s unlikely, but possible.

What are the Odds that We Will Run Out of Natural Resources?

There is another camp that believes we will run out of natural resources (iron, wood, water…) fill in your favorite item. This might even apply to food which is more logical as food production varies with weather which is quite hard to predict, much less control. Two years of even minor interruptions in food production would impact global food prices. Make the interruptions medium or large and it would be equal to or worse than a global economic collapse.  This is a serious area of concern.  Improvements in reducing waste should be made, as well as developing new, lower impact technologies to use resources more wisely, and to recycle existing waste.  (Think “Cradle to Cradle” design.)

What are the Odds of a Major Power Outage Taking Out a Large Section of the Electrical Grid?

These are hard to predict, unless they are widespread (see Solar Flare / EMP). Regardless of the big events, small interruptions in service are likely and actually likely to get worse given an aging power system, power plants being retired without compensating power generation increases and overall economic problems. If the electricity isn’t working in your house and you don’t have light, water or heat, it really doesn’t matter why.  Check out our post on Emergency Power Options for ideas on how to keep the basics powered up when the grid goes down.

Collectively this information can seem overwhelming, but if you focus on covering the basics, you’ll be ahead of many people.  Stock a few days of food and water, and have a extra fuel in case of a storm, build from there. Balance all the crazy input with what you know to be reasonable.

We’ll be working our way through more preparedness posts this year for those of us who aren’t going to be building million dollar underground bunkers or eating roadkill on a daily basis.  😉


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  1. e. penn says

    Well, the odds of a Zombie Apocalypse are certainly disappointing, but one can still dream, can’t one? Seriously, I was interested in the 1 in 126 chance of poisoning/noxious substances. No one has been more addicted to consumerism and disposability than I. That was two cases of e. coli and a third mysterious other form of food poisoning ago. From food contamination. Outside my home.

    I like your section on solar and emergency power. I live in a metro area on the eastern seabord, and while we kept power during Sandy and this last storm, we were without power for a week after Irene. So, I’ve been in the market for more sustainable forms of living not because I loathe the infrastructure, or want to give it “the finger,” I just figure if I don’t know it’s unreliable by now, then I must not be as smart as my mama tried to raise me to be.

  2. ghbrown says

    The real chances of getting cancer, according to the American Cancer Society,
    Males — 47%
    Females — 38%

    Malfunction of the heart and circulation system will kill 40% of Americans

    We should worry most about our lifestyles and diets, and take the necessary steps to prevent these problems.

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