The Paranoid Prepper: Low Probability Events

One of the things that makes preppers look, . . . paranoid, is the fact that the preparations are all for low probability events.  Too many of us are then unable to discuss what we are preparing for without sounding like we are scared to death of something that is an unlikely, low probability, event.

Remember Y2k?  I do.  The whole world went crazy prepping for that one.  I was a consultant at the time and got hired to work on Y2k for a financial firm.  I figured that someone, somewhere, would probably have a problem with Y2k, but that it would be rapidly solved, and that was if nobody did anything to get ready.  However, industry went nuts over this thing and people were willing to pay good money to avoid the chaos they hallucinated.

Some ding dong in my client company decided the model for worrying about Y2k was a natural disaster, like an earthquake, or a hurricane.  I was trying to picture the sort of injury you could suffer if an accounting system failed and couldn’t come up with one.  Broken arm?  Nope.  Broken Leg?  Nope.  Scraped knee?  Nope.  Nonetheless, I was directed to check all the first aid kits to insure they were fully stocked.  Yeah, Y2k was that crazy.  I spent 18 months preparing for that non-event and getting paid very well for it.  😊  The same people worried about whether the water supply would fail.  With our 19th century, gravity operated, water system, that struck me as another silly thing to be concerned about.  Was gravity going to stop working because of a computer with the Y2k bug?  The main problem with the water system is century old pipes failing, not computers.

Then, less than two years later, I experienced planes flying into the World Trade Center.  Want to guess how much time I spent preparing for that one?

My conclusion from this was that while there are lots of things that could go wrong, I was unlikely to predict what would go wrong, or when it would occur.  More importantly the only one who could do a better job predicting than I could was Murphy, and he was not talking.

Low probability events are not “never gonna happen” events.  In fact, they probably will happen someday.  For instance, we’ve been worried about nuclear war since the 1950s.  We haven’t had one in that time.  Obviously, nuclear war is a low probability on any given day.  Most non-preppers don’t give nuclear war much thought today.  Does that mean we will never have one?  My guess is that someday there will be a nuclear war, whether the USA is involved remains to be seen, but someone will have a nuclear exchange someday.  Will it happen in my lifetime?  Maybe, maybe not.  Maybe something else will happen instead.  It is a low probability event.

Economic Paranoia

Each of us has something that concerns us enough that we decided to become preppers.  One of the crazy things we all saw on “Doomsday Preppers” was people who were prepping to an extreme for one kind of an event, but not for other types of events.  My favorite overhyped concern is “Economic Collapse”.  I think the reason folks are so worried about this one is the 2008 financial crisis.  Many people lost money, so a repeat is a legitimate concern.  However, how many people died?  Zero.  Did society collapse?  Not so you would notice.  Despite this there are folks on the Internet absolutely convinced that the economy is going to collapse in the next month and the result will be complete social chaos with mobs all trying to kill each other.

Can an Economic Collapse occur?  Absolutely, but it is far less likely now than in 2008.  Banks are stronger, housing is financed more securely, people and businesses are running their own finances more conservatively.  Are the effects likely to be as bad as the most fevered preppers believe?  Not in my opinion.  Granted, we still have a government that spends too much, taxes too much, and regulates too much, but in the private sector we are in far better shape.  I’ll stop here before I cross the no politics line. 😊

We also have an example in Venezuela, but Venezuela is the result of 20 years of communist rule.  I would argue that the economic collapse in Venezuela is due to government mishandling of the economy, not a spontaneous economic collapse event.  What one needs to be concerned about is a socialist government takeover, not an economic collapse.

How to prep for economic collapse?  Just manage your finances conservatively, and do the same type of prepping you would do for anything else.  That is all there is to it.

EMP Paranoia

EMP is also a favorite among preppers, which is due to a couple factors.  One is the book “One Second After” which was a huge hit and educated many people to the dangers of an EMP.  The other is the long term catastrophic consequences that are predicted for an EMP.  Nonetheless EMP remains a low probability event.  Again, EMP is not “no probability”, but a low probability event with huge consequences.

How to prep for an EMP?  You pretty much need to do what you would do for any other type of disaster, but have supplies to last for a rather long time, due to the time it would take to make repairs and replace equipment.

Pandemic Paranoia

Epidemics occur from time to time, and new diseases, or variants of old diseases, are discovered regularly.  However, an actual Pandemic, i.e. a worldwide epidemic with catastrophic loss of life, hasn’t occurred in the era of modern medicine.  The closest we have had was HIV/AIDS, which is a bummer if you contract it, but hasn’t proven to be TEOTWAWKI.  The number of people affected outside Africa, especially in areas without modern medical care, is enough to be disturbing, but hasn’t brought society to the point of collapse.

Ebola, which I wrote about in an earlier post, never became much of an issue outside West Africa.  Overall, one has to conclude that a Pandemic could happen, but is a low probability event.

How to prep for Pandemic?  Depending on the situation, start with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and be prepared to ramp up to isolation if it gets out of control.  Additionally, you will need supplies to last through a quarantine.

Terrorism Paranoia

As someone who was there on 9/11, it seems peculiar to be describing terrorism as a low probability event.  The only folks minimizing the threat of terrorism these days are left wing political figures.  (Okay, so when I said no politics earlier I fibbed.)  However, the point again is that terrorism is not a zero-probability event, but a low probability event.

How to prepare for terrorism?  If you can get a CCW permit, do so.  If you are in an area where you cannot get a CCW permit, like the Peoples Republic of New Jersey, be prepared to avoid certain areas and be prepared to take cover or evacuate any location on zero notice.  Know your exit routes.


Common, everyday events, require no preparation.  Similarly, zero probability events require no preparation.  Zombies?  How much preparation do you need for a metaphor?  Low probability events are the real threat.

The good news is most disaster scenarios require the same preps.  You need water.  You need food.  You need shelter, and so on.

What requires prepping are low probability events, with serious consequences.  With that understanding, keeping some perspective around what you are prepping for is a bit easier.  Not everyone is going to prep.  They just aren’t going to get concerned about low probability events.  If you want to convince others to prep, you will be tempted to overstate the risk involved.  Avoid that temptation because it makes you look, . . . paranoid.  ☹  That reduces your credibility and defeats your purpose.  Avoid drama and try to sound like a Boy Scout promoting “Be Prepared!” 



Paranoid Prepper

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