Community Planning: Methods
  • description
  • more detail
Risk assessment involves analysing threats (or 'hazards') facing a community. It should ideally be used in all planning - since most communities face some kind of threat. But it is most necessary for vulnerable communities prone to natural or human-made disasters.

Risk assessment comprises three elements:
  • hazard analysis understanding what hazards exist, the likelihood of them occurring, their likely intensity, and their effect.
  • vulnerability assessment understanding who or what is vulnerable to the hazards.
  • capacity assessment understanding what capacities exist within the community to reduce vulnerability.

A range of methods can be used to make it easy for communities to make their own risk assessments as a basis for taking action to reduce risks (see box right). Most involve group work, preferably with trained facilitators.

The end result is a clear understanding by the community of the nature and scale of the risks it faces. It is then possible to determine what is needed to reduce the risk; for instance new local initiatives, outside resources, technical expertise.

Completing a vulnerability and capacity matrix

Completing a vulnerability and capacity matrix
General and risk-specific information from secondary sources and community profiling sessions is ordered into categories and placed in a matrix as shown above. This is usually done in group sessions using a large wallchart. A separate matrix is completed for each hazard. Separate charts can be completed for men and women and for different ethnic groups. Completed matrices can be used to test a proposed initiative's impact on a community's vulnerability and capacity, and to monitor it during implementation.

  • Big benefit is in obliging planning to consider natural and human-made hazards and infrequent threats all too often ignored.

  • Involve local emergency services; an invaluable source of knowledge.
  • Varies depending on approaches adopted and numbers involved.
Some participatory risk assessment methods

  1. Hazard and risk mapping
    Locating hazards on maps along with people, buildings and infrastructure at risk from those hazards ( see also Mapping).

  2. Simulation exercises
    Acting out the effect of possible hazards. Either to assess the impact of new initiatives on existing risk levels or to understand the impact of past hazards ( see also Simulation).

  3. Hazard or threat ranking
    Prioritising the importance of various hazards according to community perceptions and needs ( see also Community profiling).

  4. Vulnerability and capacity analysis
    Compiling a matrix of a community's vulnerabilities to, and capacities to cope with, each hazard identified (see matrix in first tab)

Hazards checklist
Typical hazards that may face a community but are often ignored until it is too late. They range in seriousness but the same principles for assessing and reducing risks apply to all.

Is your community ever threatened by:

  • Accidents (car, rail, air)
  • Armed conflict
  • Civil unrest
  • Cyclone
  • Deforestation
  • Drought
  • Earthquakes
  • Environmental degradation
  • Epidemics
  • Fire
  • Flooding
  • Migrations (forced)
  • Over-development
  • Pests
  • Pollution
  • Tidal waves
  • Tornadoes
  • Tourism (excessive)
  • Traffic congestion
  • Tribal wars
  • Typhoon
  • Volcanic eruption
Thanks: Roger Bellers, Nick Hall

Last updated on: 9 August 2008