What is a hazard?

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Business ・APA ・6 Sources

A hazard is a threat, either human or natural, that can result in death, property damage, injuries, environmental degradation, and socioeconomic disturbances. Community risks are natural, technological, or human-caused disasters that harm the community both directly and indirectly. Community hazards are assessed through community risk assessments.


The Geographic Information System (GIS) aids in the identification and quantification of community hazards and values at risk. This approach has been used to assess prospective community threats such as flooding and earthquakes (Anderson & Holcombe, 2013). The dangers have both short and long-term consequences, which include:Property loss

  • Overwhelmed public resources
  • Loss of business income
  • Injuries and loss of life
  • Change in community demographics as well as
  • Change in the economic base of business due to changes in the community.

Characteristic of the hazards

In most cases, floods do not occur randomly. Instead, they happen in areas with geographical proximity to water bodies and areas where there is a prolonged occurrence of rainfall and no effective drainage systems (Blaikie et al., 2014). Some of the characteristics of floods include:

  • They can be caused by different anthropogenic and natural phenomena like prolonged rains and high temperatures which increases the melting of the snow
  • They do not occur randomly
  • It is difficult to determine their duration because in most cases they recede very slowly and do not vanish completely
  • Earthquakes refer to vibrations in the earth's crust that leads to shaking at the surface. In most cases, they are highly unpredictable. The main characteristics of earthquakes are:
  • Their onset is sudden
  • Earthquake-prone regions are well identified by geological features as well as past occurrences
  • Major effects come from the ground movement and fracture of the rocks underground
  • It is not possible to predict their time, place and magnitude

Severity and frequency

On the one hand, the severity of a community hazard is determined by looking at its magnitude. The magnitude of a hazard is its strength, the stronger the disaster the more its severity. On the other hand the frequency of a hazard is its return interval in different sizes.
According to the GIS system, an earthquake with a magnitude of over 8.0 occurs on average once annually. However, earthquakes of only 3 or 4 occur many times in a day. The severity of an earthquake can be measured using the Richter scale where the magnitude is expressed in whole numbers and decimal fractions (Anderson & Holcombe, 2013). For instance, a magnitude of 5.3 describes a moderate earthquake while a 7.3 denotes a major one. Every whole number increase in magnitude represents a tenfold increase in measured amplitude.
Secondly, the severity of an earthquake can be measured using the Mercalli scale which classifies them by the resulting damage. This method helps in drawing pictures of the impacts along a transect from the epicenter.
The severity and frequency of floods can be measured using the stilling well which helps in measuring the height of a float in a hole dug alongside a river. Using pipes the river water is connected to a cylindrical encasement in the well commonly referred to as the "the gauge house." The main aim for this is to ensure that the water within the subterranean chamber is similar to that in the river (Paton & Johnston, 2001).The severity of floods can also be measured by looking at the energy released during the hazardous event. The damage is characterized by the volume of inundation, depth of flooding, the rate of rising of water as well as the velocity of flow. The reoccurrence intervals of floods range from multiple times annually to once in a year. This allows scientists to know when floods of different magnitudes and intensity will occur in different areas (Blaikie et al., 2014).

Risk Estimate

The chances of a flooding event in Baltimore city can be described using different terms. However, scientists prefer the Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP) method. For instance, a flood with 1 percent AEP has just one in a hundred chance of being exceeded in any year. The 1 percent AEP event has an acceptable risk for planning purposes almost everywhere in the United States.

Effects of the community hazards

Some of the social impacts of earthquakes include the loss of life and property destruction. Additionally, the hazard can disrupt the transport and communication links which makes trade difficult. When it comes to economic effects businesses are destroyed which later leads to extra cost of rebuilding and reinvesting (Pine, 2015).Moreover, Earthquakes has some negative environmental impacts as when they occur the built landscape is mainly destroyed. Some of the notable natural and human landmarks are also lost when earthquakes occur.
The immediate social impact of flooding is damage to property, loss of life as well as deterioration of health conditions due to waterborne diseases (Smith, 2013).When floods occur economic activities normally come to a standstill as roads, bridges, and power plants are disrupted and damaged.
Acceptable level of risks
The American building codes always consider chances that structures will undergo partial or total collapse following intense earthquakes and floods. For buildings with high quantities of toxic materials that pose substantial risks to the public, there is a small probability that their damage will lead to the release of those substances (Paton & Johnston, 2001).This is mainly because the building codes ensure that there are fewer chances of total or partial collapse for such buildings.

Risk reduction opportunities

One of the main opportunities for reducing the harmful effects of floods is introducing better flood warning systems. This involves providing people with more time to take actions during flooding. Another way is modifying businesses and homes so that they can be able to withstand floods (Pine, 2015).Another way is tackling climate change as it has led to extreme weather events. Americans should try and limit the increase in global average temperatures to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial levels.
When it comes to earthquakes, it is clear that we cannot prevent them from occurring. However, we can significantly reduce their effects by constructing safer buildings and offering education on earthquake safety. Another way is constructing seismic hazard maps which take into account both the size and the frequency of earthquakes in different areas.
Local emergency management organizations should provide citizens with knowledge related to the hazard in their regions as well as their risks. They should provide information concerning the weather as well as how people should protect themselves in case of a community hazard (Cutter, Boruff & Shirley, 2003).The organizations should also ensure effective integration which involves strong and widespread social network during and after disasters.
The management organizations should also incorporate mitigations into new developments. This involves ensuring that new developments are located, designed and constructed to withstand natural hazards (Smith, 2013).The information from risk assessments and zoning regulations should be used to limit the development of hazard-prone areas. Additionally, the organizations should ensure that compatible uses of floodplains should is incorporated into the local planning as well as zoning to reduce losses.
Population distribution and growth mainly increased urbanization, and population density increases the vulnerability to community hazards (Smith, 2013). For instance, the coastal populations are highly exposed to coastal floods, tsunamis as well as hurricanes as compared to other populations away from the regions.
Community hazards can turn ordinary days into life-threatening situations. Disaster preparedness plans help in reducing the effects of the hazards. The first step in community preparedness is identifying the needs of local disasters (Smith, 2013).The needs can include having efficient community warning systems to provide information on evacuation routes, temporary shelters as well as other procedures. The warning systems involve local radio and television stations.
Another way is maintaining a sufficient neighborhood directory. The directory should have a list of homes and their mobile numbers and email address. This makes communication more accessible in times of disaster (Cutter, Boruff & Shirley, 2003). Additionally, there should be preparations to cater for people with special needs because they require special assistance at such times.
In conclusion, it is evident from the above discussion that floods and earthquakes are among the main community hazards. Both of them vary in severity and frequency. They also have adverse effects which include the loss of lives and properties. However, with adequate community preparedness, the negative effects can be reduced.


Anderson, M. G., & Holcombe, E. (2013). Community-based landslide risk reduction: managing disasters in small steps. World Bank Publications.
Blaikie, P., Cannon, T., Davis, I., & Wisner, B. (2014). At risk: natural hazards, people's vulnerability and disasters. Routledge.
Cutter, S. L., Boruff, B. J., & Shirley, W. L. (2003). Social vulnerability to environmental hazards. Social science quarterly, 84(2), 242-261.
Pine, J. C. (2015). Introduction to Hazards Analysis.
Paton, D., & Johnston, D. (2001). Disasters and communities: vulnerability, resilience and preparedness. Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, 10(4), 270-277.
Smith, K. (2013). Environmental hazards: assessing risk and reducing disaster. Routledge.

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