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Understanding risk: what makes a risk assessment successful?

Richard Murnane (GFDRR Innovation Lab, World Bank, Washington, DC, USA)
Alanna Simpson (GFDRR Innovation Lab, World Bank, Washington, DC, USA)
Brenden Jongman (GFDRR Innovation Lab, World Bank, Washington, DC, USA)

International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment

ISSN: 1759-5908

Article publication date: 11 April 2016

Abstract

Purpose

Understanding risk is more than just modeling risk; it requires an understanding of the development and social processes that underlie and drive the generation of disaster risk. Here, in addition to a review of more technical factors, this paper aims to discuss a variety of institutional, social and political considerations that must be managed for the results of a risk assessment to influence actions that lead to reductions in natural hazard risk.

Design/methodology/approach

The technical approaches and the institutional, social and political considerations covered in this paper are based on a wide range of experiences gleaned from case studies that touch on a variety of activities related to assessing the risks and impacts of natural hazards, and from the activities of the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.

Findings

Risk information provides a critical foundation for managing disaster risk across a wide range of sectors. Appropriate communication of robust risk information at the right time can raise awareness and trigger action to reduce risk. Communicating this information in a way that triggers action requires an understanding of the developments and social processes that underlie and drive the generation of risk, as well as of the wider Disaster Risk Management (DRM) decision-making context.

Practical implications

Prior to the initiation of a quantitative risk assessment one should clearly define why an assessment is needed and wanted, the information gaps that currently prevent effective DRM actions and the end-users of the risk information. This requires developing trust through communication among the scientists and engineers performing the risk assessment and the decision-makers, authorities, communities and other intended users of the information developed through the assessment.

Originality/value

This paper summarizes the technical components of a risk assessment as well as the institutional, social and political considerations that should be considered to maximize the probability of successfully reducing the risk defined by a risk assessment.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the donors of the GFDRR for financial support and the authors that contributed case studies to the Understanding Risk In An Evolving World (www.gfdrr.org/sites/gfdrr/files/publication/Understanding_Risk-Web_Version-rev_1.8.0.pdf).

Citation

Murnane, R., Simpson, A. and Jongman, B. (2016), "Understanding risk: what makes a risk assessment successful?", International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 186-200. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJDRBE-06-2015-0033

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited