Hazards and Risks – what’s the difference and why does it matter?

Last week I had an interesting and engaging conversation with a group of young people that were just starting to make their own Emergency Preparedness plans both for their families and their fledgling businesses when the topic of hazards and risks resulted in:

“… but risk is the same as hazard? How are they different?”

Indeed, it’s a common enough confusion, mostly because risk is often defined in terms of hazards so fuzzyness creeps in. Also, a number of different definitions and understandings exist, all depending on who you ask and what their frame of reference is. That does not help practical people that want clear guidance fast.

Luckily, I recently attended a brilliant conference on Risk and Disaster Reduction in London, the UCL IRDR 5th Annual Conference where Sir Mark Walport in his keynote speech on communicating risk and hazards gave an excellent example which I hope he won’t mind me passing on to you. The imagery he used was this:

source: https://www.kidssoup.com/sites/default/files/media/ploverbird-crocodile.jpg

What do you see? A massive hazard. But how about risk? What exactly do you know about the CONTEXT in the above?

How about now?

source http://www.newsiosity.com/sites/default/files/styles/flexslider_image/public/CrocTeeth.jpg?itok=LGwOT9ea

Well, better him than me I’d say for I’m not that brave but you certainly begin to see where this is going:

Talking about hazards is necessary but not sufficient

(as scientists love to point out) and that’s precisely why it matters to draw the distinction.

In order to build better preparedness and resilience, we need to continuously assess and monitor risk, meaning the probability or likelihood of (often complex) scenarios as well as the severity of impact over time. As per Sir Mark’s slide, this concerns

1506UCL-Walport

Professor Sir Mark Walport; Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of Government Science and Engineering Profession at UCL IRDR 2015

hazard: a source of harm or damage

threat: an intent or determination to inflict harm or damage

exposure: the condition of being exposed to harm or damage

vulnerability: the susceptibility to being harmed or damaged

uncertainty: current degree of knowledge as unknown or doubtful

 

To get a better idea what risk assessments and a risk matrix can look like

have a look at the National Risk Register 2015, page 11. Naturally, these high priority risks as currently identified by the UK government change and shuffle in line with the changing situation in the UK and around the world. Keep an eye on regularly published updates and consider the risks particular to your own environment and situation, also in line with any information your local resilience forum can provide. You may also find our extensive preparedness resources useful.

That’s exactly where I left the group of young entrepreneurs and family men and women. However, as with them I also want to stress here:

making a plan is necessary but not sufficient

for – and yes, you’ve heard it all beforeEmergency & Disaster Preparedness: Get a Kit - Make a Plan - Be InformedAnd finally, are you still curious about  The Crocodile and the Plover Bird? It’s a good story.

Have a great week!

Monika


thank you for sharing and helping raise awareness for Emergency Preparedness!

 

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7 thoughts on “Hazards and Risks – what’s the difference and why does it matter?

  1. Katie

    Interesting post with clear examples and excellent links to resources. You tick all the right boxes. Brilliant blog!!

  2. Colin

    I was looking through some of your blog posts and found them all very informative and relevant ! Keep on posting

  3. Jean

    Nice to see that you’re pulling quality info into a public blog like this. Good job spreading the word 🙂

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