Preparing For Trouble: Probable vs. Possible


I was listening to the latest episode of Bob Mayne‘s “Handgun World” podcast this morning on my way to the range. In this podcast, Bob talked to Jon Hodoway of Nighthawk Custom Training Academy about vehicle carry and every-day preparedness. Jon brought up a subject which I think bears talking about: What sorts of threats we prepare for.

In his talk with Bob, Jon drew a distinction between preparing for what’s possible and preparing for what’s probable. There are people who feel they need to carry six AR-15 rifles, a dozen handguns and enough food and water to resupply a small garrison in their vehicles because, hey, space aliens, zombies, and al Qaeda terrorists could attack simultaneously while a hurricane, tornado and earthquake are all happening. Could this happen? Anything’s possible, I suppose, but Jon made a good point: Lots of things that are technically possible aren’t likely, and so tailoring our tools, training and gear to these improbable events means two things.

First of all, if we equip ourselves to this level, we’re carrying around a lot of unnecessary gear and spending our scarce training resources (time and money, both of which are limited for most people) on preparing for situations that we will, in all likelihood, never experience. Second, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in these improbable horrors that we aren’t prepared for more mundane and less exciting, but much more likely, occurrences. This is why you sometimes see people with an arsenal of guns and ammo but no first aid kit.

Jon suggested a specific set of goals which guide his decisions about what sort of gear and training he’ll need for the types of crises he thinks he’ll most likely encounter. I’ll let you listen to the podcast to find out those decisions, because I think Jon’s discussion of them is instructive. But I will say this: Whether or not you set your goals and guideposts in the same places Jon does, you owe it to yourself to spend some time thinking about what types of situations are realistically plausible and what you’d need to have on hand in order to see yourself through them. Being unprepared or under-prepared is definitely a problem, but being prepared for the wrong threats is a problem too – and that zombie blaster and super-duper ammo are not so useful in an earthquake, which is a much more likely threat here in California than zombie attack.

What types of crises do you think are probable, as opposed to merely possible, in your circumstances and environment? Do you feel properly prepared for the right kinds of emergencies, or have you stocked up for something that’s possible but exceedingly unlikely? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Photo credit: stock.xchng


  1. I’ve given this topic a lot of thought over the years. There is a happy medium, but it is different for each person and can change often.

    I carry a gun every day, everywhere I go here in Wyoming. The chance that I might actually need to shoot to save my life, or that of someone else, is quite remote here… but it could certainly happen, even if it was only an attack by a wild animal. In spite of the fact that there is little or no crime here, I’d rather have it on my hip and never need it than not have it.

    As a home health and hospice nurse in the 1990s, going from home to home all over So. Calif., I carried a full pack of water, some dry food, blankets, extra clothes, and quite a bit more when I had to drive to remote desert areas. In 14 years of that driving, I never once had to use my emergency supplies. But a car problem or a washed out road on a deserted highway would have changed that fact in a heartbeat. You just never know.

    The sad part is that I could pack as much of the water, food, etc. as I wished, but both state law and company policy made it illegal and very dangerous to my job to carry ANY sort of weapon for self defense!

    Even though I never had a flat tire or car breakdown on the deserted roads, I frequently discovered myself in seriously dangerous city neighborhoods and situations where I could so easily have become a victim of crime. Good situational awareness and listening to my gut instinct helped me avoid any direct attack, but there were many dicey moments to say the least. Fontana, the barrios of San Bernardino and Riverside, the endless tract homes in Pomona… not nice places at all, especially after dark.

    Realistic evaluation of actual risks, and careful preparation for them is essential. Most of the supplies we stock or carry can be used for a great many different situations. But some potential dangers can’t be reliably predicted, especially those we pray hard will never happen. We must be as ready for them as possible anyway. 🙂

    • I agree with you, both about your comment that realistic preparation is essential and that California’s gun laws are absolutely nonsensical. Hopefully they’ll change at some point, because an awful lot of people who deserve the right to protect themselves are being denied it by the arbitrary and burdensome legal climate here.

      Thanks as always for your comments – lots of good food for thought!

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