Planning for the Possible or Just the Probable?

Planning for the Possible or Just the Probable?

Colleen Quinn
Jul 16, 2010

You may have heard by now that the Washington area was rattled by a 3.6 magnitude earthquake about 5 o'clock this morning (the largest recorded ever by the USGS within 30 miles of Washington), prompting calls to local emergency services and lots of excited conversation on the Metro. Though transplants from California have been walking around my office muttering "Earthquake? That was no earthquake!", other folks have been talking about the need to check with insurance agents and home inspectors about possible damages. More than one person has mentioned that though they always get flood insurance in DC, they never even contemplated possible earthquake damage.

All of which raised the question of whether most folks plan for all possibilities or just plan for the probables, and whether or not those decisions grow from an assessment of the current situation or are informed by past experiences. My husband grew up in the midwest and so is always alert to the possibilities of tornadoes whereas I am always shocked when a twister touches down briefly in this area. On the other hand, I grew up in DC and so would never have contemplated a basement rental in college; several friends from out West who pooh-poohed my concerns were horrified when torrential summer rains flooded their Georgetown digs.

What about you? When you are making decisions about your home (where to live, what kind of insurance to get, etc) do you plan ahead for every possible situation or just for the ones that you consider most likely? If you only consider the most likely, is that based on the actual probabilities for your area or on what you think is most probable based on your experience? Have you ever been on the wrong end of such a decision?

Images: 1. Tornado in Parker CO by Ryan-o, 2. Hurricanes Darby & Celia by NASA, 3. Flooding in Nashville by tandemracer, 4. Sandstorm in Kuwait by Steve Copley all licensed for use under Creative Commons

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