84: Risk Assessment Principles and Threat Mitigation

Use these risk assessment principles to mitigate your most significant threats.
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There are some very basic risk assessment principles that will help you to identify potential problems, manage your risk profile, and mitigate your most significant threats.

Now many of you may be asking, well, what’s a risk profile? Your risk profile is all the stuff that identifies the threats to which you and your family, your home, your car, your dog, whatever are exposed to.

You determine your risk profile by analyzing what your personal assets are, what you have to protect your personal assets from, and what you have to protect them with.

Meet Ed Clark

But before we get too far down the road on this, I want to bring in a special guest for this interview.

My special guest is Ed Clark. Ed is a retired US Army Special Forces Officer and a global expert in security and vulnerability assessments. And today, he’s going to discuss risk management principles and give us some ideas on how to develop and manage our risk profiles and better protect our homes, our family, and our loved ones from the everyday trials of life.

And again, it’s worth remembering that we can take these philosophies and concepts and apply them down the road to our overall prepping mindset and strategy. So without further delay, let’s go ahead speak with Ed.

Brian: How are you doing, Ed?

Ed Clark: Good, excellent Brian. How are you today?

Brian: I’m doing well. It’s good to have you on the show. I appreciate you taking the time to come in here and talk with me and, hopefully, everybody that listens to us. Will you mind telling people a little bit about your background so people understand where you’re coming from and your level of expertise when they listen to this?

Ed: Sure, sure. So I’m a retired Army, US Army Special Forces officer. I spent four years as an infantryman, about a year in a ranger battalion, and my last 24 years as a Special Forces officer. I had a break in service and came back into active duty after 9/11, thinking I was going back to 5th Special Forces Group. Instead, I got pulled into this homeland security project?

So I was at Fort Leavenworth doing homeland security right after 9/11, and that’s when I started looking at managing risk and physical security and cybersecurity and things like that. I did some work for the White House, Homeland Security Council. We did vulnerability assessments for agriculture, fo, and agriculture industries. And from there, I left active duty again, and I went to help the coast guard establish their port security program.

After that, I opened my own business doing security consulting, and since then, I’ve helped PSA with their pipeline security program. I’ve helped DHS establish its chemical facility security program. And of course, consulting for various types of critical infrastructure, port facilities, schools, we have a school security program that we do.

Most recently, we’ve been doing a lot of active shooter seminars and consulting.

Brian: That’s awesome. Those port security projects, those are pretty big, aren’t they?

Ed: Yeah, it is. And that is my specialty. I tell people I can do one school or the entire school district. We offer a service that the US Coast Guard looks for called a Strategic Risk Management Program, the whole port facility, and all the different functions that it provides. It’s designed to identify the relative risks within the port to help that captain from the coast guard allocate resources. Where is the most significant risk? How much risk can I bite down?

Foundation of Risk Assessment Principles

Brian: Can we go over what the average person needs to do, one, to manage their risk profile and two, really to look at their home? People are concerned about how they protect their homes or come up with a proper home emergency preparedness plan for them and their families.

I know you usually talk about risk on a  big macroscale. If we can size down some of your expertise to how do people protect their homes and how can they better look at their homes so they know what the risk is, they’ll know how to address that risk and get a realistic view of their situation.

Some people, because they don’t understand risk too well, don’t ever really get a realistic view of what their risks are at home. Everybody knows about burglars, but they don’t know how to dissect that and get it down to the information they need.

Ed: Sure, yeah, and so any job that we do, all the work that we do, we do it with… that fundamental… the developing the foundation, like you said, with that risk profile. 

  • What it boils down to is, what do I have to protect? 
  • What am I protecting it from?
  • And what do I have to protect it with?

And then, after you identify those three things, you have to ask yourself: if I have to protect these assets, I have to protect them from these hazards, whether it’s a tornado or a hurricane or a flood.

Is it a threat? Is it an active shooter? Or burglar or home invasion? And then what do I have to protect it with? Do I have a fire alarm? Or do I have an alarm system? Do I have a dog? What kind of fence? Locks on my doors and windows? Things like that.

Risk Assessment Principles: What Are Your Assets?

Brian: When you say assets, are you talking about family members? Are you talking about physical property in the house? Is it the all-encompassing 360 degrees security of the home?

Ed: Right. So you have pretty much four types of assets.

You have people, obviously the most important. But some folks have different degrees of people. So some people might have, my family lives here. But I may also have housekeepers or gardeners that live on my property as well.

And they consider those, not that every life isn’t precious, but they in certain situations they may allocate more protection to the one group of people than the other. So yeah, people. It starts with people.

And then we have hard assets. Anything from your car to your lawn furniture to your stereo system. Hard things. Tangible assets.

And then you have consumables which can be anything from food that you have stored. You may have five years’ worth of rice and beans and dry good stored someplace. Or it could just be cash. Things like that. Items that we consume and that you have to go out and get more of if you use them.

And then the last one is intellectual property. And probably the most crucial thing there is, do you have Wi-Fi? That would be intellectual property. Or your computer files. Or things like that.

So those are the basic four types of assets that when we say assets we’re talking about.

Prioritizing Assets

Brian:  When you talk about consumables, are you able to prioritize certain consumables higher and more along the lines of hard assets? If the situation warrants and you have to rely on your food stockpiles, would you be able to prioritize those up higher into the hard assets or something else? Or is that just always just a stagnant…

Ed: No, each person is going to have to make those decisions by asking questions of himself. Questions like, what’s the consequence if I lose that asset? So, for instance, a lot of people spend time and effort to protect their car or stereo or things like that. When somebody steals your stereo, it’s probably insured if you have homeowner’s insurance. Because it’s usually insured, it’s not worth getting into a confrontation with a home invader. If they want your stereo let them take it.

Brian: Right.

Ed: You can buy a new one. But in a prepping situation, yes. So when you say okay, the people are typically the most important thing, so you might say I can live without this hard asset. But that food, those foodstuffs, you may decide they are more important than a shovel, a tractor, or something like that.

Brian: Right.

Ed: So, each person has to determine what’s the consequence of losing a particular asset? What’s the value of it to me? And I think in a prepping situation that food is probably going to be a higher value asset than maybe even a firearm. So, everybody’s going to have to make those decisions for themselves.

Brian: Sure. I assume that’s where your risk matrix and all that comes into play.

So we start off with what do we have to protect. And that starts with your people, your hard assets, your consumables, and your intellectual property. And then, what’s the next step?

Risk Assessment Principles: What Am I Protecting My Assets From?

Ed: So, my next step is what or who do I have to protect my assets from? The reality is that in your day-to-day life, if you live in downtown suburbia, suburban Atlanta, or Alexandria, someplace like that, there’s always the threat of some burglary or home invasion. But there are other possible crimes that you should be aware of. Therefore, you should know what the crime statistics are in your area.

It’s surprising, but a lot of people that have little children have no idea where the sex offenders live. And that’s completely fixable by looking online. There are a ton of different websites out there that you could look up the crimes and where they’re occurring in relation to your home.

So you might be worried about a burglary, but really there may have been 10 or 15 home invasions within a one-mile radius of your home.

So, you must understand what you’re protecting your assets from, and I’ll give you an excellent example of that.  For example, assume you and I have a company. We make two things at our company. We make marbles, and we make sugar cubes.

Then, I come into work one day, and I say, “Hey, um, hey Brian. Somebody sent us an email, and they said they’re going to attack our inventory.” You’re like, ”Oh holy cow. What do we do?”

We look at it, and with the marble, we make ten cents, and we earn a penny on the sugar cubes. So most people would think, well, based on the consequence, I’m going to protect the marbles.

But, if the threat attacks us with hot water, hot water’s not going to hurt the marbles at all. But it’ll dissolve all the sugar cubes. Likewise and vice-versa, if that threat is going to attack us with a hammer. Well, they hit the sugar cubes with a hammer, and maybe we go into the sugar packet business.

If you hit a marble with a hammer, is it fixable? I know I have engineers tell me all the time, I can fix that marble, but it’s never going to be a marble again. That’s why you must understand and say what is it that I’m up against?

And so you have to consider those threats. Whether it’s a sex offender, a home invasion, or a burglar, you have to look at the hazards. 

I lived in Louisiana for a while. Hurricanes were always an issue there. As well as tornadoes and flooding. People that live in California may have to worry about wildfires. And people that live in northern parts of the country may have blizzards and snow and things like that. So you have to understand what those potential hazards are. And those are the things you have to protect against.

In Louisiana, we almost had flood waters come into our house. So the big joke after that was that we put all the expensive furniture on the second floor and all the cheap on the first.

Risk Assessment Principles: What Am I Protecting My Assets With?

Ed Clark: And then, of course, the third part is what do I have to protect it with?

Let’s focus first on the threat. Let’s assume somebody that wants to come on to your property and take your stuff, regardless of whether they want to hurt you, steal your stereo or steal your food.

I won’t get into the stealing of your intellectual property, although they can do it if, for instance, they gain access to your Wi-Fi. Let’s deal with the physical, tangible assets for now.

The first thing you need to do is you need to define your perimeter. Mistakenly, too many times, people start at the skin of their house when they need to start out in their community. They need to find out who these criminals are. Do you have any criminals living on your street? Find out the types of crimes that are being committed.

Brian: So people need to extend their perimeter, even possibly beyond their property lines, to have an awareness of who the heck is out there that may be a threat?

Ed: Yeah, talk to the police. If you see a policeman, buy them a bottle of water. Ask him what he thinks. Discuss what he knows. Ask if he has any suggestions. Just get a better idea of what’s going on in your community. And then, from there, what you need is to have some way of knowing when somebody penetrates the perimeter of your property.

So, for instance, we live on a farm out in the country. We have dogs that bark when somebody comes up the driveway. But frequently, if the dogs are in the kennel or the barn, somebody will drive right up into the driveway, and before we see them, they’ll be in front of the house.

We’re looking at installing a sensor, so once you pull about ten feet up into my driveway, it’ll activate a camera that we could see it’s UPS or FedEx or somebody. But if it’s a car that you don’t know or a person you don’t recognize, now you have some forewarning. You can see them. If it’s a home invader, it’s probably not going to be somebody dressed up in brown shorts and carrying a cardboard box. You want to know when somebody gains access to the perimeter of your property.

Brian: So, in your case, you’re talking about putting a sensor out there. And you can go on Amazon and find those passive infrared beams that alert you with a beep inside the house when somebody breaks that property line.

Ed: Yeah, or you can get an activated camera. The retail possibilities are limitless. It can be set up to where it will activate the camera if you’re watching TV. You can get it put on your computer screen. The camera can send you a text message. But typically, it’s some alarm to tell you that somebody has penetrated this perimeter, and it lets you look out to see who it is. That takes us into our physical security protocol. Deter, detect, assess, delay, and respond. So, we want to try to detect that threat as soon as possible. It’s one thing to have UPS or FedEx. My joke here is, we live so far out in the country we buy everything online, so every day is Christmas. It’s FedEx, UPS almost every day here.

Brian: Amazon’s amazing, man.

Ed: Yeah, I know. And now they have these machines. You tell them to bring you stuff, and it shows up. I’m not buying one of those. So it’s not uncommon for us to see them. And I know the UPS guy. It’s the same guy almost every time.

On the other hand, we have three different FedEx guys, and it’s typically one of them, so it’s not uncommon to see FedEx trucks. So, when I see a pickup truck or somebody I don’t know, then I go out and confront them.

So when they get in my driveway that is probably a little over 100 meters long, when they get to the top of my driveway, I’m there. And typically, if I go outside the house, I’m armed.

So I’ve detected a potential intruder. Now I have to go out and assess their intent. And sometimes, it’s the mail delivery, so they use their POVs to deliver the mail. So they have a box or this or that. So you assess them, and they mean no harm, and they do their business and go on their way.

Now, suppose it’s somebody that you don’t know, well now you’re out there. You’re out there, and you’re assessing them as far away from your assets that you’re protecting as possible. And you can do that with cameras. If you’re not comfortable going out and confronting somebody face to face, you can do it with a camera and say, okay, I’m not going to go out and confront them.

But I don’t know them, so I’m going to make sure that my next layer of security is secure. So I’m going to put the kids back in their bedroom, and I’m going to do things like making sure that the doors and the windows are locked.

And I’m going to watch them as they approach the house, and I’m going to try to assess their intent. And if they’re there for nefarious reasons, you should be able to figure that out from watching them walk from your perimeter, whether it’s a sidewalk or, in my case, the driveway. As they walk up the sidewalk to come on to your front porch or when they come around into your side door.

And maybe they’re lost or Jehovah’s Witnesses or whoever it is, but you need to assess their intent. And if you do determine that it is some threat, then you need to initiate that viable response. For most people, that viable response is going to be dialing 911.

Somebody’s out, they’re walking up to my front door, or my front porch with a crowbar, or they’re wearing all black, or maybe they have a firearm in their hand. You need to call 911 and initiate that viable response.

So what do we do to delay them until that response force can get there? That’s when we look at things like door locks, most people put on a deadbolt, but the only thing holding that deadbolt in is about ¼ inch of pine board. For instance, it’s like when I travel, because I travel a lot. I carry a door jam. A rubber door stop that you use to hold your door open.

You can take one of those and kick it up in front of your door. So they make break that deadbolt frame. But that tiny little rubber door stop is going to go a long way in slowing them down. Is it going to keep them out of your house permanently? No. But the word is to delay.

And then you have to decide. Where’s the safest place in your home? If you do have a home invader or burglar, where’s the safest place in your home? And then you need to decide… other decisions you need to make, do you have a firearm, and are you trained to use it? And are you willing to use it?

The Bottom Line on Risk Assessment Principles

By thoroughly understanding risk assessment principles, you’re going to be able to perform a more accurate assessment of your own situation.


Stay safe, 


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