How likely is too likely?

The recent flurry of interest in the giant volcano under Yellowstone National Park got me thinking about disasters. Obviously hoping that a given disaster won’t happen isn’t an acceptable strategy, as the response to Hurricane Katrina indicates. Yet at the same time it would be foolish to waste time planning for things that are ridiculously improbable, such a giant asteroid strikes. So where is the dividing line? What is the lowest probability for a given event, for which we should still prepare for?

I don’t know that a giant asteriod collision is ridiculously improbable. It’s just that there’s not a damn thing to do about it unless you happen to have just met an alien named Abin Sur.

Actually its NOT just the probability you need to worry about IMO.

Its the consequences IF it happens and what if anything you can do to either prevent or lessen it in the first place, or what you can plan to do IF the bad thing happens.

Right. Risk Management involves assessing both the severity and the probability of an occurence/outcome to arrive at a nebulous figure that makes muckety-mucks feel better. Or worse, if that’s your thing.

When you mean, “improbable” do you mean dinosaurs returning from the dead to bring about chaos to human existence? At least to me, that would be improbable. Once things have realistically been deemed as probable in the realm of catastrophe’s to the world or people with in it whether large or small groups. It is then when we should make preparations for the prevention and aftermath. It has been proven that Earth has been struck by large masses from space, with the force 10-100 times stronger than an atom bomb in its history. Masses strike every day, just not significant enough to cause alarm. But to sit back and divide the importance of preventing any negative occurrence, (while being aware of it,) is unwillingness to live or fight to live.

There are things that govern taking prevention, like, money, manpower and those who don’t put enough importance into it. There’s always that guy that says, it’ll never happen. Low and behold,…it happens. I believe we’re progressively learning to avoid this.

So I believe the dividing line between what we should do against “probable” catastrophic events are dictated by whether we have the ability to do so. I surely hope that those who can do something about destruction don’t simply sit back and wait for a sure sign that something is going to occur. We all know destruction is too abrupt to wait for it.

The most basic form of the equation is probability x severity = risk. From there, you can compare costs versus risk reductions to determine effective risk management strategies. Some things (hurricanes, mega-volcanoes) are impossible to prevent, so you look at damage mitigation. Some things (airplane bombings) you try and prevent entirely. Some things (asteroid impact) are preventable, but it would take such fantastic effort that you mostly ignore the threat.

My cynical answer to the OP: the risk is too great when it’s in the budget to prevent the perceived risk. Actual risk has nothing to do with it.