Safety and Security in Life

So much can go wrong in life and we can prepare ourselves in so many different ways. I find it a little overwhelming.

There’s no guide to covering all the basic risks in life. There are plenty of individual guides on topics like emergency preparation, home fire prevention, and avoiding identity theft. But no all-in-one walkthrough.

That’s my goal: To write a guide to safety and security in life. Hopefully making it a little easier to be prepared and sleep well at night.

In this article, I categorize the different risks in life, to help you and I think about how to address them.

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How I’m approaching risks

Numbers and perceptions can be deceiving

Each year, around 0.0008% of the US population dies in house fires (source). With that low a percentage, it seems like a risk we can ignore, but consider:

  • For those who don’t take precautions, the risk percentage will be higher. Those who prepare bring the average down.
  • There’s no coming back from death. Families of those who died aren’t comforted to know that the odds were really low.

Before COVID-19, some may have considered it odd to have facemasks and hand sanitizer at home just in case of a pandemic. But it was as prudent then as it is today.

Preparing, not prepping

Many preppers optimize their lives for not only surviving but thriving after disasters. But that’s not an interest of mine. Instead, I’m interested in reducing my risks with minimal effort.

To illustrate how I think about reducing risk: Imagine your luck in life, with regards to preventable harm, as a batch of 100 dots. A few times in your life, fate chooses a dot from the batch at random. If a small green dot is chosen, no significant harm happens. For a small orange dot, some significant harm does happen. A large red dot results in an untimely death.

We can't prevent every disaster, but by reducing risks here and there we can give ourselves far better odds. A life with 20 risks is safer than a life with 40.

The right batch looks far more appealing than the left, with half the number of orange and red dots. We’d much rather have fate choosing from the right batch.

I view improving safety and security as reducing the number of orange and red dots. Either removing the possibility of some types of harm or reducing the impact.

Principles I’m Using

Take responsibility. Governments and health agencies have different incentives to us and their own risks to worry about. They have to get re-elected, protect budgets and justify every choice that doesn’t work out. I don’t envy them! They also need to consider the entire economy, not only individuals. We should look after ourselves, including educating ourselves on risks.

Be humble. We can’t predict the future, all possible disasters, or even their probabilities. It’s tempting to assume humanity will keep progressing in its ability to look after one another. Even if that turns out true, there have always been ups and downs. Being humble means assuming our time isn’t immune from disasters.

Impact over likelihood. When choosing a movie to watch, a 90% chance of selecting a good one sounds great. But a 90% success rate for surviving a plane flight? Not so much. By prioritizing high impact, low probability risks over the opposite, we’re more likely to survive to complain about those smaller annoyances.

Health and Finance get their own focus

I will write about Health and Personal Finance separately, keeping this guide to safety and security. Risks such as heart disease or bankruptcy require ongoing effort to manage. These are also fields in which we can thrive! Helping us enjoy even more parts of life. They deserve a more detailed focus.

Categories of Safety and Security

This is the mind map I ended up with, after grouping risks in life:

Safety and security in life, categorized into: 1. At home risks, 2. Digital life risks, 3. Out of home risks, 4. Getting help

1. At home

Safeguards

We should fortify our home against natural or unnatural disasters. No big insight here! Some examples are fires, floods, tornados, and gas leaks. We can also fortify against malicious intent, such as break-ins, or accidents, such as insecure furniture falling on someone.

Independence

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the benefits of being self-sufficient at home, allowing you to reduce the chance of being exposed or exposing others. If prepared in advance, you can immediately self-isolate without worrying about groceries or medications. Other extreme environmental conditions, such as smoke or extreme temperatures, may also warrant staying at home.

Living fully off-grid is not in my near-term future. But perhaps it’s possible to mitigate the loss of access to services, such as energy, internet, heating, cooling, food, or banks. I’ll have to postpone a billionaire bunker for now.

At home risks, categorized into "Safeguards" (fortifying the home) and "Independence" (being self-sufficient)

2. Digital life

Digital security is perhaps the most important category as it’s not intuitive, difficult to undo mistakes, and it’s going to get more complex over time. You need to make your accounts and systems difficult for third-parties to access and mitigate the possible impact of personal information being leaked. Some of this is requires rewiring our behavior, such as keeping quiet online when it comes to some personal information.

3. Out of home

Going out prepared

Wherever you’re going, there may be a few useful tools you can take. A car can be stocked with a medical kit, some water, and warm clothes. A few items in your bag might be able to mitigate some bad situations, such as a power bank to keep your phone charged.

Fleeing home

A natural disaster may be on its way, or your neighbor’s house may be on fire. There could be civil unrest or some currently-unimaginable reason it’s not safe to stay at home. Being able to flee your home quickly and with essentials is a huge advantage. Having a plan for where to go and how to get there may also be critical.

Out of home risks, categorized into "Fleeing home" (escaping danger) and "Going out Prepared"

4. Getting help

If you need help, how will you get it? How would you dial 911 or family if your phone is dead? If it’s not something for which you should call 911, who would you call? Where would you go if you needed to flee your home in a hurry?

What’s next

These categories cover the contexts in which we live. If we think of a new risk, it should be relevant to one or more of them. In upcoming articles, I’ll go deeper into each category with the goal of creating a simple guide for each.

Let me know in the comments which risks you’re most worried about.

If you’d like to be notified when a new article in this series comes out, plus other articles and insights in health, finance, and personal development, you can sign up for my newsletter.

Matt SchultzSystemizing life 🌱

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