Disaster Risk Knowledge

Disaster Risk Knowledge

Comprehensive information on all the dimensions of disaster risk, including hazards, exposure, vulnerability and capacity, related to persons, communities, organizations and countries and their assets

Risks arise from the combination of hazards, exposure of people and assets to the hazards and their vulnerabilities and coping capacities at a particular location. Assessments of these risks require systematic collection and analysis of data and should consider the dynamics and compounding impacts of hazards coupled with vulnerabilities resulting from unplanned urbanization, changes in rural land use, environmental degradation and climate change. The level of risk can change depending on the actual impacts and consequences of hazards. Therefore, the risk assessment must include an assessment of the community’s coping and adaptive capacities. It is also important to gauge the perception of the level of risk faced by those who are vulnerable. Studies of human interaction and reactions to warnings can also provide insights to improve the performance of early warning systems. Risk assessments should be used to identify the location of vulnerable groups, critical infrastructure and assets, to design evacuation strategies including evacuation routes and safe areas, and to expand warning messages to include possible impacts. For example, maps based on risk assessments help to motivate people, prioritize needs and interventions and guide preparations for disaster risk management measures, including prevention, preparedness and response.

Key Actors

National, subnational and local disaster management agencies; scientific and technical agencies such as meteorological and hydrological organizations, health authorities and geophysical agencies; engineers; land use and urban planners; researchers and academics (including from social science); organizations and community representatives involved in disaster/emergency and disaster risk management

The Checklist

1.     Are key hazards and related threats identified?

  • Characteristics of key hazards (e.g. geographical extent, magnitude, intensity, disease transmissibility, frequency, probability), including possible cascading hazardous events, are analysed, historical data evaluated and potential future risks assessed
  • Hazard maps (dynamic and multi-hazard, when possible) are developed that identify the geographical areas/people that could be affected by hazards

2.     Are exposure, vulnerabilities, capacities and risks assessed?

  • Assessment and quantification of exposed people, services (e.g. hospitals) and critical infrastructure (e.g. electricity and water works, quality of building stock) conducted and mapped for all relevant hazards, as well as of any compounding risks, at local level in both rural and urban areas and coastlines
  • Impacts to critical infrastructure and secondary risks associated with these impacts are evaluated, and risk management solutions considered to increase resilience
  • Vulnerability factors such as gender, disability, access to infrastructure, economic diversity, societal inequalities and environmental sensitivities considered
  • Vulnerabilities of key economic sectors at national to local levels assessed
  • Historical and indigenous knowledge integrated into risk assessments
  • Activities that increase or compound risks (e.g. urbanization and land use) identified and evaluated
  • Risk assessment results integrated into local risk management plans and warning messages in a clear and easy-to-understand language with attention to how different people assess information
  • Legislation and cultural norms assessed to identify gaps that may increase vulnerability

3.     Are roles and responsibilities of stakeholders identified?

  • Key national government agencies involved in risk assessments (including hazard, vulnerability and capacity assessments) are identified and roles defined
  • Legislation or government policy mandating the preparation of hazard, vulnerability and capacity assessments for all areas are in place
  • Responsibility for coordinating hazard identification and risk information (exposure, social and physical vulnerability and capacity) assigned to one national organization with a view to consolidating approaches and monitoring linkages and cascading impacts
  • Process developed for scientific and technical experts to assess and review the accuracy of risk data and information
  • Process developed to actively engage rural and urban communities in local hazard and risk assessments taking into consideration the needs of all people (women, children, older people, people with disabilities, etc.)

4.     Is risk information consolidated?

  • Central standardized repository (including but not limited to a Geographic Information System) established to store all event/disaster and risk information
  • National standards (where possible, following international standards) established for the systematic collection, sharing and assessment of risk information and data related to hazards, exposures, vulnerabilities and capacities
  • Standardized vulnerability data and information disaggregated by sex, age and disability
  • Process established to maintain, regularly review, and update risk data, including information on any new or emerging vulnerabilities and hazards, with roles and responsibilities of stakeholders identified along with appropriate funding

5.     Is risk information properly incorporated into the early warning system?

  • Information on the geographical extent of hazards used to define safe areas and evacuation zones
  • Risk information on vulnerable groups (hazard, exposure, differential vulnerability) used to identify and define evacuation routes and location of temporary shelters
  • Risk information on different types of assets reviewed to outline procedures to minimize damage or loss of such assets once a warning is issued
  • Process established for continuous update on new or emerging risks (e.g. due to urban expansion or establishment of new settlements) and potential changes to some hazards (due to changes in land use) to update safe areas, evacuation zones and shelters


Linkages with Other Elements

Understanding the risk profile of the country provides critical information for the other multi-hazard early warning system elements, namely:

  • Detection, monitoring, analysis and forecasting: Identification of what hazards to monitor, where to monitor and how to optimize the observing and monitoring network. It is critical that warnings include risk and impact information.
  • Warning dissemination and communication: Evaluation of communication strategies to ensure messages are reaching the population and of whether the communication equipment is able to withstand an extreme event.

Preparedness and response capabilities: Development of disaster preparedness and response plans, development of exercises to test and optimize the effectiveness of dissemination mechanisms, emergency protocols for evacuation and disaster response, and development of public awareness and education campaigns.