Security officials, such as the branch of the United States Department of Homeland Security called the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, and other public or private disaster coordinating council, are in charge of assessing environmental conditions and situations in order to determine the vulnerability, the probability, and the severity of potential natural and technological hazards in a given geographic area. Identifying these elements prior to actual disasters or calamities helps in preventing or lessening loses or damages that will result from natural or technological hazards.
There are two identified kinds of hazards that might endanger the lives of the people: natural hazards and technological hazards. Natural hazards are brought about by geologic processes. Examples of natural hazards include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, landslides, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. (Nelson, 2007) The impact or the magnitude of consequences brought about by natural hazards are uncontrollable, although its occurrence is in some ways influenced by man’s daily activities and decisions. On the other hand, technological hazards are brought about technical or scientific failures that significantly affect man and the environment. Examples of technological hazards include dam failures (collapse of structure), fires (uninhibited fires in rural or developed areas), and the discharge of hazardous materials or substances to the environment, nuclear-related incidents, national security hazards, power interruptions, and disruption of telecommunication lines. (MBJ, 2001) Technological hazards, unlike natural hazards, are influenced by man-made technologies, with the extent of damages uncontrollable, and at times undetermined.
Vulnerability or susceptibility as it is related to hazards describes the potential effects or consequences of natural and technological hazards and how these consequences influence the environment and human life (Nelson, 2007) Assessing probability and severity of hazards means the identification of potential natural or technological hazards and determining the magnitude of predicted loses and management, and how hazards will less likely or greatly produce impact to human life and the environment. Security officials are in charge of assessing these aspects of prevention, identification, rehabilitation, etc. from natural or technological hazards.
FEMA established a Mitigation Directorate in order to calculate risks from natural or technological hazards and implement appropriate measures to decrease loses or damages to human life, the environment, properties, public establishments, etc. The Mitigation Directorate has three divisions, the Risk Analysis Division, the Risk Reduction Division, and the Risk Insurance Division. (FEMA, 2008)
The Risk Reduction Division oversees planning proposals for FEMA other partner organizations, and the state or federal government to implement in order to prevent the potential loses or damages of natural or technological hazards. The Risk Reduction Division employs strategic engineering concepts and advanced technology to spot incoming hazards, vulnerabilities, probabilities, and severities of natural and technological hazards. The Risk Reduction Division is active in controlling the operations and exploitations of lands, plans and practices in building the physical attribute of structures and establishment, and other related activities in order to prevent hazards or accidents in the future. The Risk Insurance Division is in charge of providing insurances to land owners and the implementation of rules and regulations for land owners to follow. (FEMA, 2008)
To identify hazards, security officials conduct risk assessments, surveys, and inspection in all areas and structures to determine deficiencies or failures to follow quality standards, the law, and other related rules and regulations. Assessments and inspections are handled by organizations implementing specific objectives aligned with concerns regarding particular natural or technological hazards. For instance, The National Fire Protection Association is in charge of supervising the rate and the risks of technological-related fires in rural and developed areas. The NFPA is in charge of assessing the risks by inspecting establishments pertaining to revisions regarding fire exits, available fire extinguishers, the arrangement, quality, and functionality of electrical circuits, ventilation, lightning frequency level, etc. From the assessment, the NFPA is able to determine potential hazards in a particular area or establishment. (MBJ, 2001) This process is also followed by other organizations concentrating on forest fires, floods, nuclear releases, etc.
Assessing the probability and severity of natural or technological hazards are mostly based on statistics and stored data. To follow-up the example aforementioned regarding technological-related fires in rural and developed areas, probability and severity of this particular hazard is determined by analyzing statistics recorded by the NFPA. NFPA collects and obtains information regarding the occurrence of fires nationally, as well as the causes, the type of structure or environment, etc. The statistical data from NFPA is synthesized with information from other related agencies. In this case, the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) lends a hand and approximations were based on the said data. The date determines what types of places geographically and types of structures are most susceptible to fires. Moreover, it determines the time of month, the environmental factors, and relevant information that presumes when, how, or why fire hazards take place. (MBJ, 2007)
In general, assessing the vulnerability, probability, and severity of natural and technological hazards is dependent on scientific processes engaged in by the state or federal government, public or private organizations, as well as the community. The state or federal government is in charge of funding for risk assessment, survey, inspection, and other processes that assist in predicting what potential hazards are imminent in a specific area or situation, the vulnerabilities, probabilities, and severities that will arise from natural and technological hazards. These processes are carried out by specific private or public organizations that concentrate in separate fields, such as floods, droughts, dam failures, fires, etc. The government and organizations are also in charge of information dissemination and hazard education. Finally, the state and federal government, private and public organizations, and the community work hand in hand to implement strategic plans to prevent assessed loses or damages from natural or technological hazards.
FEMA. (2008). “Mitigation Directorate.” Retrieved August 24, 2008, from FEMA. Website:
MBJ. (2001). “Technological Hazards.” Retrieved August 24, 2008, from FEMA. Website:
Nelson, S. A. (2007). “Natural Disasters and Assessing Hazard Risks.” Retrieved August 24,
2008, from Tulane University. Website: