Essential Three: Multi-hazard Risk Assessment-Know your Risk

"Maintain up-to-date data on hazards and vulnerabilities, prepare risk assessments and use these as the basis for urban development planning and decisions. Ensure that this information and plans for improving resilience are readily available to the public and fully discussed with them."


Unless cities have a clear understanding of the risks they face, planning for meaningful disaster risk reduction may be ineffective. Risk analysis and assessments are essential prerequisites for informed decision making, prioritizing projects, planning for disaster risk reduction measures and identifying high-, medium- or low-risk areas, according to their vulnerability and the cost effectiveness of potential interventions. A well-maintained database of disaster losses and a Geographic Information System to map hazards, vulnerabilities, the exposure of people and assets and capacities will provide the foundation for the risk assessment.


Determine the nature and extent of disaster risk

  • Led by the appropriate city department, prepare a comprehensive risk assessment and risk maps with loss scenarios, including the impact of climate change, using technical expertise available through city entities or local technical institutions.
  • Enlist, as necessary, technical support from national, regional and international experts. Make sure to consult and involve local stakeholders. Make the information available to the public.

Disseminate risk information and apply to development decisions

  • Prioritize actions based on an analysis of the urban plan, land-use zoning, investment decisions and worst-case scenarios for emergency preparedness plans and exercises.
  • Make the results available through websites and other means of information.
  • Update the risk assessment, preferably annually.

Establish a city-wide geographic information and monitoring system

  • Consider creating a geographic information and monitoring system that includes input data from and is accessible to all actors, including civil society, the production sector (for example, agriculture, mining, commerce and tourism) and the scientific and technical community.
  • Maintain outputs in the city’s Geographic Information System (GIS).

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  • Latin America

  • National and City Governments Introduce Requirements to Review Disaster Risk Impact on New Development Projects
    Many countries, particularly in Latin America, have systems for assessing the impact of disaster risk on productive infrastructure. The UNISDR Global Assessment Report 2011 highlights Peru, which established a pioneering legal requirement that all public investment projects be evaluated for disaster risk. If the risk is not addressed, the project will not be funded. Of the US $10 billion investment approved in 2008, about a half was to be executed by local governments.
    Similarly, under its Disaster Risk Management (DRM) framework, the city of Cape Town has established the principle that the Municipal DRM Center be involved in the project review process on all new development projects.
    Read more about opportunities and incentives for disaster risk reduction management at: and consult Cape Town’s DRM framework at

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  • Cuttack (India)

  • Data Collection and Risk Mapping for Urban Development Planning
    Mahila Milan is a women’s group taking leadership roles in informal settlements. The mapping process in Cuttack, India is carried out by community organisations comprised of residents of informal settlements and other districts, through a partnership between local Mahila Milan groups and local slum dweller federations. The data gathered is used to generate digital maps for city authorities and to negotiate support for upgrading or relocating houses, thus reducing disaster risk. This process is applied in all informal settlements and results in an accurate, detailed and disaggregated database on risk and vulnerability for the entire city, showing the boundaries of all informal settlements.
    < For more information:

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  • World Bank, UN-Habitat, UNEP, and Cities Alliance

  • An Urban Risk Assessment Framework
    The World Bank, with UN-Habitat, UNEP, and Cities Alliance, has developed an urban risk assessment framework based on experiences in many cities. The urban risk assessment offers a flexible approach that project and city managers can use to identify feasible measures to assess a city’s risk. The methodology focuses on three reinforcing pillars that collectively help to understand urban risk: a hazard impact assessment, an institutional assessment, and a socioeconomic assessment. The assessment is based on four principal building blocks to improve the understanding of urban risk: historical incidence of hazards, geospatial data, institutional mapping, and community participation. The URA is flexible in how it is applied, depending on available resources and institutional capacity in a given city. Read more at:

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  • The basic components of a risk assessment include:

    - Historic loss data: Prepare and maintain an updated database of disaster losses from past events and current potential hazards in the city.

    - Hazard assessment: Establish and map the nature, locale, intensity and probability of hazards (including natural events, technological and other man-made hazards).

    - Vulnerability assessment: Determine the degree of vulnerability and exposure to the hazard of the population, development sectors, infrastructure and ongoing or planned city projects. Map and work with populations in high-risk areas.

    - Capacity assessment: Identify the capacities and resources available institutionally and at neighborhood or district level.

  • Risk assessments will provide local authorities, investors and the general community with vetted and updated data, maps and other information on hazards, vulnerabilities and risk in order to take decisions regarding timely interventions before, during and after a disaster.