Originally published on 18FEB2011 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

In preparing contingencies for emergencies or other events, it is essential to start by assessing exactly what one is preparing for. These events, which are simply called “threats,” are really a way to categorize and determine the probability of their occurrence. In evaluating the threats the typical urban/suburban family faces in Michigan, we look to the local weather, infrastructure, and socioeconomic histories. The “matrix” part of the phrase comes when the contingencies and preparations for each of these threats is addressed and evaluated. Some of these contingencies will be addressed in later articles.

For local severe weather events, Michigan has a history of strong thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, and snow storms. Luckily, these occurrences are generally well predicted and some advanced warning is usually available. So while severe, some preparations can be made ahead of time. Michigan does not see hurricanes, tidal waves, or widespread drought.

Infrastructure threats, such as power failures, are commonplace in Michigan. Detroit residents face poor medical and police response times from overworked public service providers.  Having many industrial areas, Michigan has faced forced evacuations in the past due to chemical leaks. Rural Michiganders have faced forest fire evacuations. All families face house or apartment building fires. Michigan does not typically face water shortages or sewage issues, nor are there any wild animal or insect plagues that can leave areas decimated without warning.

Socioeconomic threats consist of unexpected layoffs, being fired, or facing involuntary pay or hour reductions. These are threats, in that it affects a family’s financial capability to maintain itself and grow. Other threats in this category are violent crimes acted upon family members, home break-ins and robberies, or areas of civil unrest (think Detroit circa 1969).  These can be at home or wherever a person visits, such as the workplace, school, or en route to places.

Locally, Michiganders face national threats as well. The Cold War brought a long and sustained threat of thermonuclear warfare. Acts of terrorism normally assumed to happen only in the Middle East have happened in the USA and may continue to. A poor economy has contributed to a decline in the US Dollar’s value, which can cause alarming price increases and could lead to hyperinflation. Some scientists believe that Global Warming will have unforeseen effects on our climate. The Peak Oil theorizers believe that oil will become so scarce that it will cost more energy to obtain it than the oil itself.

The purpose of this article is not to tell the reader what to think, or what to prioritize, but rather to understand the threats that each Michigan family may face, and begin to determine what preparations each family can make to reduce the risk of harm from these threats. As stated above, this side of the “threat matrix” is just the threats. When contingencies are created, it will be realized that being prepared for one of these threats can actually carry over into being prepared for many.