Understanding Flood Risks

Often risks are understood only superficially by equating them with the occurrence of an extreme event or hazard (flood, drought, earthquake, storm, landslide etc.) caused by natural forces or by a combination of natural forces and human influences. Although the occurrence of a hazard is obviously the primary precondition, it is only one component in the creation of risk. From a human point of view an extreme event in a space where nothing exists that can be harmed (e.g. a storm on the ocean with no ship or aircraft in range) does not constitute a risk. Thus the second component in the creation of risk is the fact that somebody or something has to be at risk; i.e. being exposed to a hazard. Finally it is decisive whether the people who are exposed to the hazard are vulnerable to the hazard or not. Only if all three components are given at one place at a certain time, a risk exists. Thus flood risks can be reduced not only by decreasing the magnitude of hazards, but also by reducing exposure of people and their activities to flooding and diminishing the vulnerability of flood-prone communities.


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