Module 0: Systematically selecting Hazards and Stressors

Module 0 is a preparatory action integral to the process of a risk-based vulnerability assess- ment, and ends with a kick-off meeting with the stakeholders. Imagine a situation where the city council has officially decided to pursue such a process, and the mayor subsequently tasked the head of the environmental or city planning department with the management of the process. Within the administration, someone (let’s assume: you!) will eventually be assigned as operational manager (coordinator) of the IVAVIA project. You will have to as- semble a project team consisting of internal and external officials and stakeholders, and to eventually start the project with a kick-off meeting.

As IVAVIA is about risk-based vulnerability assessment, the methodical identification of relevant hazards, drivers, and stressors is a key element for a successful application of IVAVIA. This does not necessarily mean that you have to start from scratch. Most cities know about their relevant hazards and the responsible departments or persons should be included in the process. However, you should not restrict the analysis to the already known threats but also think about future scenarios that might introduce new challenges for the city caused by climate change, e.g. referring to non-climatic drivers (called stressors) add- ing or changing impacts from hazard.

This identification should be done before the official kick-off meeting, so the purpose of this module 0 is to introduce and explain the very first preparatory activities that should be conducted by the coordinator up until then. The following steps help to formulate an initial overall plan as well as identify the relevant hazards, drivers, and stressors. It will thus serve as informational and motivational background for participants of the later stages of the project. Steps 0.1–0.3 should be presented in the course of the kick-off meeting as planned in Step 0.4 of this module.



Step 0.1: Identify the hazards considered as potentially relevant

In this step, you will identify which hazards can potentially affect your city and choose which ones to include in your study. Relevant sources for this identification process include the experts from your city, like the experts from the civil protection department, earlier climate risk or vulnerability assessments, and local climate studies. Be broadminded in your consideration of choices. It is easy to reduce the list in a later stage, but comparatively hard to add further hazards once the process is underway. A more concrete prioritisation of the potentially relevant hazards will follow later.

It might be the case that your city is actually already focusing on a certain type of challeng- ing hazard, either initiated by the city on its own, or by superordinate administrations. In that case, it would still be reasonable following the procedures described below. For ex- ample, if there is an existing national agenda to reduce the effects of heat waves, focusing on this alone could lead you to overlook other threats and possible dependencies between different threats. A systematic analysis (on a local level) as described here can still provide new insights for the priority setting. You should consult stakeholders, e.g. universities and knowledge institutes for support, e.g. by sending them a questionnaire.

As a result of Step 0.1 you should provide a list of hazards that are potentially harmful for your city. In many cities, there will be one or two types of hazard that quite obviously stand out as the primary causes of potential loss. You may have reason to exclude any others as their occurrence ranks between ‘never’ to ‘highly improbable’; be aware, though, that this depends on what timeframe you are looking at. You should consider types of hazard that are deemed very rare but would cause very high losses. As already stated, be generous at this stage. For the recording of selected hazards and their past occurrences you could, for example, use a questionnaire and record the consulted stakeholders and other information sources—including a justification for the selected hazards—in a spreadsheet.

Be aware that you will need to consider hazards both from a current and future perspec- tive —both are necessary. The current perspective is based on records and experience of haz- ard events, which is the topic of Step 0.2, while the future perspective is where future climate scenarios need to be introduced. This will be covered in step 0.3 and step 1.4 of module 1.


Step 0.2: Gather information about the identified hazards

module04In this step, you gather information in order to document the relevance of the initially se- lected hazards. The collected information will also be useful in later stages of the assess- ment. Information about past occurrences of the hazards and the past trends regarding the relevant drivers should be easily available, like official hazard or climate statistics of your city, region, or country. If you are lucky, the person or department responsible for environmental issues within the city or superordinate administrative levels will be able to provide information such as:

  • the historical return periods (expected frequencies) of the respective hazards,
  • the past intensities (e.g. high water marks, precipitation in l/sqm/h, wind forces (1-12)),
  • the past recorded impacts, and

Aside from historical information, initial information about expected future climate change-related developments should be collected, like climate studies including projec- tions for your city, region, or country. Probably, such information has already been acquired within the city departments or at regional level. Experts from city departments or regional authorities may support you in checking if the existing information fits the purpose, or if updates or extensions would be adequate. You may additionally consult local media as well as various public and private, national and international online resources such as:

  • European Climate Risk Typology is a RESIN tool that provides data on climate risk fac- tors (like hazards) for European countries at the spatial resolution of NUTS3 regions (RESIN 6).
  • EM-DAT (Emergency Events Database, was initially set up by the WHO (World Health Organisation) and the Belgian It contains essen- tial core data on the occurrence and effects of over 22,000 mass disasters in the world

from 1900 to today. Their website states that: “The initiative aims to rationalise decision making for disaster preparedness, as well as provide an objective base for vulnerability as- sessment and priority setting.” Figure 8 shows sample data from their website.


Figure 8: Spreadsheet downloaded from a query to EM-DAT.

It shows a summary of hazards (Disaster) that happened in Spain since the year 1900 ( (retrieved 2016-09-29)). More de- tailed searches within this portal are available. Source:

IVAVIA provides a context and scope for the identification and prioritisation of adaptation measures best preventing losses caused by future occurrences of hazards. Adaptation measures of this kind probably also have been implemented in the past. If your city has adapted to risks in the past, then you should create a list of such significant historical ad- aptation measures. If available, the adaptation ‘events’ could be sorted into the timeline of significant historical hazards.



Step 0.3: Identify generally relevant drivers and stressors 


Hazards are mostly seen as climate-related extreme events of a delimited duration. Human activities interact with climate change effects; and this interaction of climate (change)- related and non-climate-related trends increases the probabilities, intensities and, hence, the risks of those hazards happening. We term climate-related trends as drivers. Non-climate- related trends that have an influence on vulnerability and risk are called stressors. Both may have an important effect on the system exposed and increase its vulnerability to climate- related risk. Both can be short term, but are mainly long term. To summarize:

  • (Climatic) drivers in general include: sea-level rise, increased temperatures, lack of precipitation, and increase of
  • (Non-climatic) stressors include: land use change, urban sprawl, deforestation, migra- tion, population and demographic change, economic development patterns, techno- logical change, changing

Such drivers and stressors and their future developments can have a strong negative or positive impact on future risk depending on the direction of their developments. In this step, you should try to get some initial statements from domain experts about their opinions regarding relevance and direction of those developments for your city. Points of contact include local universities and knowledge institutes, and—mainly in larger cities— Environmental departments, Emergency departments, and departments responsible for social and economic matters.

module08Step 0.4: Kick-off meeting and management decisions

module09Of course, having a successful kick-off meeting is crucial for the whole project. You might consider the meeting as successful if:

  • many important stakeholders approve, in principle, to support the project;
  • potential methodological approaches to govern the process are discussed and agree- ment is reached on how to approach the process;
  • a general timeline for the whole process has been negotiated; and
  • the set of project participants, including those having been suggested and agreed on in the meeting, are agreed upon, and are close to confirming their


Achieving good results demands professional preparation of these issues and further requires:

  1. a set of slides explaining the need of the risk-based vulnerability assessment process that includes the information about the specifically relevant hazards and their poten- tial future developments as collected earlier;
  1. a presentation and statement of the political context of this specific project, ideally presented by the responsible contracting body;
  1. a set of slides explaining the overall risk-based vulnerability assessment process and
  1. a set of slides explaining the concrete next steps immediately following the kick-off meeting including responsible

For points 1 and/or 3 you may consider inviting external experts for presentations.




21828-200Proceed to Module 1