In the aftermath of a significant problem I'm trying to express that the necessary steps have been taken to reduce the chances of it happening again. I can't guarantee it won't happen again, otherwise "prevent" would be perfect. The only other word I've been able to come up with is "mitigate" which incorrectly conveys that the effect of the next disaster will be diminished, not that it's less likely to happen at all.

"We've taken measures to ______ another disaster."

I'd prefer a single word, but a phrase is okay as long as it sounds less awkward than "We've taken measures to reduce the chances of another disaster occurring."

  • 1
    also "attenuate" or "minimize"
    – bookmanu
    Aug 31, 2018 at 15:35
  • 3
    Prevent is okay here: "We've taken measures to prevent another disaster."
    – Ahmed
    Aug 31, 2018 at 15:56
  • 1
    What is awkward about "reduce the chances of another disaster occurring"? It conveys the meaning in a precise, understandable way. Aug 31, 2018 at 16:07
  • 1
    What's wrong with avoid? Do you feel it's not strong or formal enough?
    – user221615
    Aug 31, 2018 at 22:00
  • 2
    "reduce the liklihood of" is about the best I can come up with. Sep 1, 2018 at 0:21

8 Answers 8


The first word that came to mind for me was mitigate. As you have ruled that word out, I'd like to offer up avert for your consideration.

We've taken measures to avert further disasters.

Merriam Webster defines avert as:

avert - transitive verb-

1 : to turn away or aside (the eyes, one's gaze, etc.) in avoidance

"I found the sight so grotesque that I had to avert my eyes … —John Gregory Dunne"

2 : to see coming and ward off : avoid

"avert disaster"

Some synonyms for avert: avoid, fend off, forestall, prevent

Consider also: safeguard which can be either a noun or a verb.

We've taken measures to safeguard against another disaster.


We have implemented safeguards.

Merriam Webster defines safeguard as follows:

safeguard - noun -

1 a : pass, safe-conduct

b : convoy, escort

2 a : a precautionary measure, stipulation, or device

b : a technical contrivance to prevent accident

safeguard - transitive verb -

1 : to provide a safeguard for

2 : to make safe : protect

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avert

[2] https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/avert

[3] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/safeguard


obviate TFD

(tr) to avoid or prevent (a need or difficulty)

As in:

"We've taken measures to obviate another disaster."


The more I think about it, "prevent" may actually be the word you want. You may feel that to prevent something means to make certain it does not happen, but that is almost never truly possible. And, if "prevent" really did mean that, then people could never talk about preventing cancer.

Of course, if you want to emphasize the fact that there is no surefire preventative, you might want to be more explicit. Then my best suggestion would be something like Reza's answer, or perhaps "reduce the likelihood of."

  • I agree. You're not saying "we've prevented another disaster," so you don't have to guarantee that it won't happen again. You're saying, "We've taken measures to prevent another disaster," so you need only guarantee that you've taken measures. You're not asserting that you've prevented anything. In other words, "take measures to prevent" is a phrase meaning "reduce chances of occurrence."
    – Nathan
    Sep 1, 2018 at 5:26
  • You're absolutely right. Prevent is the right word, and measures to prevent is the right concept. That's why after safety incidents, organizations identify and take preventive measures., i.e. measures intended to prevent the recurrence of the same incident and similar incidents. May 14, 2020 at 23:22

"Militate against", not to be confused with 'mitigate against', is the five-dollar expression to use here. Unfortunately most readers these days are liable to take it as a typo and think you mean "mitigate", but it is a lovely phrase depending on your audience -- and hits the intended meaning exactly.

  • 2
    The definition of militate is perfect, but the fact that it looks like such an obvious typo would prevent me from using it. Nice suggestion though.
    – Altay_H
    Sep 10, 2018 at 21:38
  • @Altay_H -- I know, maybe there is a word for not being able to use a word because people will assume that you have made a mistake? I would not shy away from this one in an academic context, as it really is pretty common (if somewhat dated) usage, but it sounds like you are in a business environment -- so there is a much better chance of people not being familiar with the phrase...
    – jkf
    Sep 12, 2018 at 5:33

"Militate against" not to be confused with mitigate.


\verb (used without object)

1) to have a substantial effect; weigh heavily:

Source: Dictionary.com

  • 3
    @ Frank Rodriguez Your answer is correct, but you should perhaps give a little more depth and show research in your answer, such as the dictionary definitions of the two words, in order to prove yourself. I am upvoting you anyway, because I think this is a brilliant answer--this is just a very good suggestion for improving your answer. There are people on here who don't take kindly to un-researched answers and will not upvote you even if you are right :)
    – Naomi
    May 15, 2020 at 1:27

"Minimize the risk of" might be a good collocation.

  • 3
    Hi @RezaMortezapour. Welcome to ELU. I notice that you are a new contributor, and it looks like someone (not me) has downvoted your answer. Unfortunately they didn't leave a comment to explain, but I think I can help fill in their omission. Could you possibly expand on your answer a little bit? If you were to include a citation with a source and or an example sentence it would help to improve the quality of your answer. People tend to frown upon single line answers, and prefer an answer that gives some explanation and context.
    – Lumberjack
    Aug 31, 2018 at 19:25
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    minimize (UK USUALLY minimise) /ˈmɪn.ɪ.maɪz/ verb [T] ↑Verb Endings for minimize 1 C1 to reduce something to the least possible level or amount: » We must minimize the risk of infection. » Environmentalists are doing everything within their power to minimize the impact of the oil spill. Sep 1, 2018 at 19:26
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    Cambridge adv learners Sep 1, 2018 at 19:27

The obvious plain language choice is "avoid" but "avert" is also fine although they have different shades of meaning (for the "avoid" think "detour around" implying no disaster in this case, while for "avert" think "turn aside" implying a last second action).

I would not use "obviate" (would be thinking of being able to forget about the possibility or the need to prepare - usually used with "need") or "mitigate" (think minimize the consequences) in this context because they don't quite fit.

  • Avoid is indeed the word I was looking for. I'm not sure if that means I should accept this answer or if it's better to accept the most popular answer.
    – Altay_H
    Sep 10, 2018 at 21:35

If circumstances that are conducive to or perquisite to a disaster are present (or ever present), then stave off is idiomatic.

Water rationing is used to stave off a water disaster during a drought. Here, the condition is temporary and the staving off strategy is also temporary. This is the most common usage, particularly in the press, where staving off is used frequently in association with the threat of political disasters. The idea is mostly to avert the disaster until the threat dissipates. It often emphasizes tactical, rather than strategic responses.

Another usage applies to delaying, slowing down, or lowering the probability of something that is more or less inevitable. Merriam Webster lists forestalling as a synonym. The following is a news article title from Harvard's School of Public Health. After disaster, social ties may help elderly stave off cognitive decline. The article concludes "the findings suggest that interventions to promote civic participation could help promote cognitive resilience among older disaster survivors, the authors said." So this is about strategic planning and programming to mitigate future disasters.

Stave off is also used when there is an ever present threat of disaster. I found several examples of staving off used with terror attacks. These involve permanent strategic adjustments to operations. Almost all dictionaries recognize this usage, and vary in how they communicate the idea that it more common to use it to refer to a temporary or expedient measure to deal with the particular matter at hand than for strategic measures.

Stave off

1 : to fend off staving off creditors
2 : to ward off (something adverse) : forestall trying to stave off disaster

"Stave off." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2018.

2 stave something off
Avert or delay something bad or dangerous. ‘a reassuring presence can stave off a panic attack’

"Stave." en.oxforddictionaries.com, Oxford Living Dictionary online

Longman's Business Dictionary is the only one I found that effectively restricts stave off to matters of limited duration.

From Longman Business Dictionary stave something → off phrasal verb [transitive] to prevent something bad from happening or affecting you for a short period of time
The company is restructuring in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy.

"Stave off." www.ldoceonline.com, Longman.

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