In the context of this portal, the goal of a disaster assessment process is to provide objective and transparent information for making decisions on countermeasures to reduce disaster risk.
The stages of a disaster assessment, as suggested in part by the ISDR publication: Living with Risk: A global review of disaster reduction initiatives, are the following (shown in the order in which they are normally conducted).
- Hazard identification to identify the nature, location, intensity and likelihood (probability or frequency) of a threat
- Vulnerability analysis to determine the existence and degree of vulnerabilities and exposure to a threat(s)
- Capacity analysis to identify the capacities and resources available to reduce the level of risk, or the effects of a disaster
- Risk analysis to determine levels of risk
- Risk evaluation to make decisions about which risks need countermeasures and priorities
Risk communication means the imparting and exchanging of information about the existence, nature, form, likelihood, severity, acceptability, treatment or other aspects of risk. Risk communication is important at each stage of the disaster assessment process.
Challenges for disaster assessment
There are a number of challenges for effective disaster assessment. They include, but are not limited to those shown below. Users are encouraged to look for ways and means to overcome the challenges when selecting and applying tools and case studies.
- Disaster assessment should reflect local knowledge and culture. The importance of this approach should not be underestimated.
- Disaster assessment should be part of a comprehensive disaster risk reduction programme, for example a programme based on the Total Disaster Risk Management (TDRM) approach. The TDRM approach involves identifying, analyzing and managing disaster risks by the following: -
- Establishing the disaster risk context
- Identifying the disaster risks
- Analyzing the disaster risks
- Assessing and prioritizing the disaster risks
- Treating the disaster risks
- Monitoring, reviewing and communicating
- Multi-hazard risk assessments are difficult to accomplish due to the different approaches in assessing individual hazards. But multi-hazard risk assessments are important to properly feed into disaster risk reduction strategies. Hazards should not be considered in isolation.
- Often there is a huge gap in the understanding and application of assessment tools between the technical or academic institutions undertaking these tasks and the local authorities and communities involved in the exercise. Serious risk communication efforts are essential.
- The distinction between risk assessment and risk perception is important. Risk perception may be considered in an assessment process, but it should not dominate the process. Decision-makers require relatively objective information for impartial decision making.
- Each stage of the risk management process should be recorded appropriately. Assumptions, methods, data sources, analyses, results and reasons for decisions should all be recorded. The records of such processes are an important aspect of good governance.
- Disaster assessment is not usually visible and not a priority for decision makers. The reality is that disasters influence the goals, objectives and policies of decision makers. Generally, but not consistently, the influence is negative. Therefore, decision makers should be involved in and informed on the disaster assessment process and its results.
- While hazard mapping has been improved by the wider use of geographic information system (GIS) techniques, the inclusion of social, economic and environmental variables into GIS models remains a major challenge