Defining And Identifying Hazards And Risks During Disaster Management
It might first be useful to look at some definitions:
Definition of Hazard:
‘something with the potential to cause harm or injury’
Definition of Risk:
‘the likelihood that it will actually cause harm or injury’
Definition of Risk Assessment:
‘the process of identifying hazards and assessing the severity of harm and likelihood that will occur’
There are many very good reasons why hazard and risk assessment needs to be conducted regularly. Some of the most important are:
- To identify problems and potential problems
- As an aid to decision making
- To assist with resource allocation
- To identify priority actions
All of these are key roles in emergency management.
There are literally dozens of different Risk Management Models. Some are just general models, designed to be used for almost any type of emergency management scenario. Others are more specific; IT related, cyber security related, global natural disasters. If you can think of a situation, there will be a risk management model for it somewhere. The easiest way of identifying a suitable risk management model for your organisation is to search for ‘images for risk management models’ on the internet. You will find dozens there and by looking behind the image you will get an explanation of the way the model works.
One of the most popular models for hazard and risk assessment in emergency management is the 4 stage model:
Each of these stages is very important in the overall risk management process:
Prevention and Mitigation – Activities that either prevent the occurrence of or reduce the effects of a hazard.
Preparedness – The process of building the EM function and capabilities to respond to or recover from any hazard
Response – Activities that address the immediate effects of the onset of an emergency and help to both reduce casualties and damage, and speed recovery
Recovery – The process of restoring life back to normal
Stage 1 – Prevention And Mitigation – To produce effective disaster management, prior preparation and planning is essential. The disaster management team must be identified and trained. Disaster
management objectives must be established. Risks must be defined and identified at all levels. The best people to identify risks are those who are working in the environments in which the risks occur. For example, the identification of risks which occur in hotels is best left to the hotel management. Risks which might impact on the nation as a whole are best identified by government bodies. Once all risks have been identified, decisions must be made: how probable is it that the risk will occur ?; if the risk does occur how severe is the impact likely to be ? Mitigation is the process of identifying action that can prevent or reduce risks. The mitigating actions that are taken will depend upon a number of issues, such as available finance and other resources. And
Stage 2 – Preparedness – The process of researching, planning, sourcing and equipping emergency teams with the information, knowledge, skills and resources to do their job effectively. It is at this stage that detailed emergency plans will be drawn up and tested. It’s not sufficient to just produce a plan. If the plan is not tested it will be worthless.
Stage 3 – Response – Activities that address the immediate effects of the onset of an emergency and help to both reduce casualties and damage, and speed recovery
Stage 4 – Recovery – The process of restoring life back to normal
Risk in the Context of Emergency Management
It is obvious that in emergency management the focus of risk management must be related to the problems that an emergency may cause. It is not possible to adopt one risk assessment that will cover all types of emergency. Different types of emergency will produce different types of risk and hazard. Even similar emergencies will produce different types of risk of hazard. For this reason, in emergency management separate risk management plans must be produced for each type of emergency which may occur.
For example, an oil fire may produce the following risks:
- Physical damage to property
- Smoke damage
- Loss of life
- Loss of information/data
- Loss of infrastructure
- Damage to national reputation
- Loss of national income
- Environment damage
Other types of emergency situation will produce a different set of risks.
Many of these risks will require specialist input to produce the best risk management plan, so it is very important that all risk management activities adopt a multi-agency approach to achieve their objectives. This produces challenges of its own for many reasons which are covered in a separate book in this series.
The fact is that no-one has a monopoly on good ideas and even the best laid plans will change when tested in real life situations. To assist emergency managers, the web sites listed below will prove helpful in preparing for emergencies and producing a risk management plan.
Risk Management Web Sites
http://www.preparednessllc.com/resources/resources.html USA resource for risk management information and legislation
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/36/contents UK Civil Contingencies Act which details steps which must be taken by different levels of authority when planning and responding to emergencies
www.hse.gov.uk UK health and safety legislation
http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/MajorEmergency2D.pdf/Files/MajorEmergency2D.pdf Eire Framework For Major Emergency Management. Excellent guide and prompt for emergency managers everywhere
http://www.em.gov.au/Documents/Australian%20Emergency%20Management%20Arrangements.pdf a similar document to the one above designed by the Australian Government
To read more on Disaster Management Hazard and Risk Assessments grab my book onKindle.