Risk Assessment

The purpose of an All Hazards Mitigation Plan (AHMP), such as Baltimore’s Disaster Preparedness Project and Plan (DP3), is to identify policies and actions that can be implemented over the long term to reduce risk and future losses. In order to do so, a major component of the plan is a RISK ASSESSMENT that identifies the nature, location, intensity, and probability of a threat, and then determines the City’s current vulnerabilities and exposure to those threats. At the same time, a risk assessment considers the capacities and resources available for the City to address or manage threats in the future.

A risk assessment is a multifaceted, ‘stepped’ process for identifying all of the natural hazards that have impacted, or may impact, the City. When conducting a risk assessment, the first step is the completion of a thorough hazard identification analysis. The HAZARD IDENTIFICATION process highlights the historical nature and extent of natural hazards that have impacted the City of Baltimore, considering the unique characteristics and potential consequences of each. This process also incorporates the magnitude associated with each hazard and the probability of that hazard occurring in the future. Using this recorded data alongside scientific projections to estimate the probability of future occurrences, Chapter 3 of the DP3 discusses the historical and contemporary impacts, as well as the extent of individual hazards in Baltimore.

A VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT, the second step of a risk assessment, is the process of evaluating the potential losses associated with a given hazard and estimating the degree to which property damage, economic loss, physical injury, or death are likely to occur. Through a vulnerability assessment, the risk assessment is expanded beyond identifying relevant hazards to fully understand how and why Baltimore is at risk, and where a risk may be greatest in Baltimore City.

Vulnerability, specifically, refers to the susceptibility of people, properties, and resources to the impacts associated with hazard events. The level of vulnerability depends on a number of factors, including location, construction, property contents, and the economic value of the function(s) being provided by an individual, facility, or system. Vulnerability may be intensified due to a lack of resources or information. Additionally, certain geographic areas or social dynamics may contribute to the circumstances that can make one population more sensitive to hazards than others.

The vulnerability assessment investigates the EXPOSURE (lack of defense), SENSITIVITY (degree to which a system is affected), and ADAPTIVE CAPACITY (ability to recover) of an individual or asset in regards to a particular hazard.

Adaptive Capacity is the ability of a system (in this case, the City of Baltimore) to adjust to changes in the environment—including climate variability and extreme shifts in weather—in order to moderate potential damages or to cope with the consequences of those changes. Adaptive capacity informs, and is informed by, a vulnerability assessment through important insights into the factors, processes, and structures that promote or constrain the City’s ability to respond to climate change or natural hazard events. Systems that are resilient to climate stressors are more adaptable and flexible and generally have a higher adaptive capacity. Relatively similar hazards could have vastly different consequences depending on a system’s level of adaptive capacity. While a low adaptive capacity can increase a system’s vulnerability to natural hazards, a high level of adaptive capacity may lessen the degree to which a system is vulnerable.

Responding through preparedness, adaptation, & mitigation