Good day Mr Zervaas and thank you very much for the question.
There are a number of reasons why Disaster Risk assessment exercises fail and I will touch on some of
these in my brief below. Indeed a properly conducted disaster risk assessment process is an iterative
process requiring proper planning, consultation and feedback throughout the cycle. Further, there are a
plethora of Disaster Risk assessments whose objectives and purposes are also very different, requiring a
fairly diverse pool of expertise and the information required to conduct an effective assessment is
normally not centrally located, requiring resources to mobilise both technical and administrative
capacity. The assessment itself is not easy and at times the technical capacity for coordinating them is
simply not available. Inadequate planning and communication and a lack of alignment between the risk
assessment process and the strategic activities of the various Departments and stakeholders also
presents its own challenges. In some instances ineffective risk prioritization criteria are used thereby
defeating the ultimate objective of the assessment. Some risk assessments are conducted far from the
actual community that is affected by the typical hazards and in certain instances there is a lengthy lapse
in time between the initial hazard identification exercise to the risk analysis processes. The failure to
communicate and validate findings to gain alignment on identified key risks with the community is also
one of the key shortfalls. The assessment itself should not be viewed as the end of the risk management
process as this often leads to the premature failure of the risk mitigation programme.
A more integrative approach to Disaster Risk assessment is outlined in the International Standard on
Risk Management (ISO 31000:2009) and in fact a new standard (ISO 31000:2018) has recently been
promulgated. The new version of ISO 31000 was published on the 15th February 2018. The process flow
outlined on: https://www.ajg.com/media/1697375/overview-of-iso-31000-2015.pdf should be viewed.
The process starts with setting the context of the risk assessment and consists of three main steps
Risk identification, Risk analysis and Risk evaluation.
Establishing context means understanding the risk management context in order to define the purpose
and scope of the risk assessment. During this time stakeholders are consulted and engaged and criteria
for decision making is set. This compliments well with the ‘Words into Action” guidelines Element 1
which is complimented with Policy and Technical scoping in element 2.
Risk identification: In terms of the National disaster risk assessment perspective, this step is concerned
with a high-level scoping of hazard, exposure and vulnerabilities to define the direction for the rest of the
assessment process. This step relies on the knowledge and experience of stakeholders, data on past
disasters and risk information to draw initial conclusions about the importance of a specific hazard,
assets, known vulnerabilities and major impacts of concern. Consideration for both extensive (frequent,
low impact events) and intensive (occasional, high-impact) events, as well as any potential cascading
events. In the Words into Action Guidelines, disaster risk identification starts in element 2 and is
completed with more technical depth in element 6.
Risk analysis: In this step a detailed understanding of the disaster risk is sought, including detailed
hazard analysis, exposure analysis, vulnerability and capacity analysis. It provides insight into the
interaction of a single hazard or a multi-hazard with the exposure and all dimensions of vulnerabilities.
The risk analysis also reviews and evaluates the effectiveness of the existing capacities (termed control
measures under ISO: 31010). This is critical in identifying targeted measures to manage the risk. It also
assesses the level of certainty or “confidence level” with regards to current capacities and controls in
place. This section is covered in elements 6 and 7 of the Words into Action guidelines.
Risk evaluation: It allows for risks to be prioritized for purposes of managing. The multi-hazard disaster
risks analysed for likelihood and impact are presented in various ways to facilitate visualization and
prioritization. Risk prioritization is adjusted based on the understanding of capacities, risk perception
and risk acceptance of the stakeholders and the availability and level of resources to manage the risks.
At this stage of the assessment input from those owning the risk who will ultimately be responsible for
disaster risk reduction should be sought.
At the end of the day, all stakeholders should be represented through coordination and communication
mechanisms that help define the priority disaster risks. Thereafter, there would then be a legitimate basis
for disaster risk prioritization. The society can now state the risks of high importance that require
immediate attention, those that could be tolerated or neglected, and the risks that need to be closely
monitored. This process is covered in elements 8 and 9 of the Words into Action guideline.