Multi-Hazard Risk Assessment

Event Organisers: 

Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation

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Distance course in

Multi-Hazard Risk Assessment


Certification Location Start Duration ECTuition fee Registration deadline NFP registration deadline Register
Certificate Distance 13 May 2013 6 weeks 5 EUR 1000 / 500 13 Apr 2013 02 Oct 2012 Register

Owing to increased and climatic extremes, we are faced with the rapidly growing impact of disasters worldwide. There is an urgent need to incorporate the concepts of disaster risk management into planning, sustainable development and environmental impact assessment. Disaster risk management requires the assessment of risk, which is a multidisciplinary endeavour.

The course explains how to conduct a risk assessment using spatial information on hazards, elements at risk and vulnerability with the aid of GIS and remote sensing, and how this information can be used in risk management, with a focus on urban areas.

For whom is the course relevant?

This course is designed for all those who have to carry out risk assessment and require knowledge and skills in using a GIS to handle the necessary the procedures, such as professionals working in governmental and non-governmental organizations, planners, engineers, architects, geographers, environmental specialists and university teachers. Some basic background in GIS is desirable, although not strictly necessary as the course follows a step-by-step approach that enables participants to rapidly acquire the basic skills in handling GIS software.

What will be achieved?

The course will guide participants through the entire process of risk assessment, on the basis of a case study of a city exposed to multiple hazards. At the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • understand the concepts of hazard assessment, elements-at-risk mapping, vulnerability assessment and risk assessment
  • formulate the spatial data requirements for risk assessment
  • use GIS to generate an elements-at-risk database
  • apply various methods for vulnerability assessment
  • generate risk maps using qualitative and quantitative methods
  • understand how risk assessment is used in risk reduction and disaster preparedness.
  • What is the course content?

    The course is composed of a number of sessions. Each session has a PowerPoint presentation and a document introducing the session topic. Each session also has exercises and assignments, including maps or materials to be handed in. The course is based on a study load of one module of three weeks (5 ECTs), which is offered in distance form over a period of six weeks. Below is a summary of the sessions and detailed content.

    Session Theory Exercise
    00: Getting started Set up Blackboard account; install ILWIS software; get to know the tutors and fellow students  
    01: Introduction to risk assessment Introduction to disaster risk management and risk assessment Generation of a hazard profile using disaster databases; introduction to ILWIS and the RiskCity dataset; learn the various hazard problems by evaluating high-resolution images
    02: Obtaining spatial data for risk assessment Presentation of data requirements for the various types of hazards; sources of spatial data Defining spatial data requirements for risk assessment; iInternet search for information on risk assessment; acquiring free and low-cost data; generating 3D image data using Google Earth; stereo image interpretation
    03: Hazard Assessment Hazard types; main concepts of hazard assessment; frequency-magnitude relationships Frequency assessment; selection of hazard assessment example (flooding, landslides, earthquakes, technological hazards, volcanic hazards, etc.)
    04: Elements-at-risk assessment Types of elements at risk; classification of buildings, infrastructure, lifelines, critical facilities; population information; collection of elements-at-risk information Generating an elements-at-risk database from scratch; generating an elements-at-risk database using available data (building footprint map, census data and LiDAR)
    05: Vulnerability assessment Types of vulnerability; social vulnerability; physical vulnerability; methods of vulnerability assessment; participatory GIS; spatial multi criteria evaluation Defining vulnerability curves; spatial multicriteria evaluation for vulnerability assessment
    06: Risk assessment Loss estimation models; HAZUS; qualitative risk assessment; QRA; basics of flood risk, seismic risk, landslide and technological risk assessment Creating risk curves; selection of risk assessment method: flooding, earthquakes, landslides, technological hazards.
    07: Risk management Risk evaluation; risk governance; risk communication; cost-benefit analysis; using risk information for emergency planning; spatial planning, and environmental impact assessment Multi-hazard risk assessment for buildings; assessing economic losses; cost-benefit analysis

    08: Final project and examination

    How to do such a study in your area?

    Final project:
    Selection of project topic related to risk assessment and its use in risk management

    Multiple choice exam

Why choose this course?

The course has been designed over a long period of time and has been tested many times in different countries. It is based on a course book with assignments and an exercise book with GIS exercises. Active interaction with lecturers and fellow students takes place via internet. The general approach of the course is task-based learning that blends theory and practice. The study load is 20 to 24 hours per week. All materials including (most of) the software will be provided online in ITC's digital learning environment Blackboard. Most materials will be sent on a DVD to enable convenient offline study.

Learning from a distance, how is it like?

The general approach of the course is task based learning which blends theory and practice. The study load is 20 to 24 hours per week. All materials including (most of) the software will be provided online in ITC's digital learning environment Blackboard. For convenient offline study most materials will be sent on a CD-Rom. We will use email for individual communication and a discussion board in Blackboard for group communication.

Admission requirements

Academic level and background

Applicants for the Distance programme should have a Bachelor degree or equivalent from a recognised university in a discipline related to the course, preferably combined with working experience in a relevant field.

English language

As all courses are given in English, proficiency in the English language is a prerequisite. Participants in Distance programme are exempted from an English language test. However, ITC expects their proficiency in the English language to meet the minimum requirements mentioned below.

English language tests: minimum requirements

TOEFL Paper-based Test (PBT) 550
TOEFL Internet-based Test 79-80
British Council / IELTS 6.0
Cambridge CPE/CAE


Computer skills

Applicants for the Distance education programme must have elementary computer experience, regular access to internet and e-mail. For some courses additional computer skills are required (see description of specific course).

GIS and remote sensing

Most distance courses, except for the introductory course, require knowledge of, and skills in, working with GIS and/or digital image processing of remotely sensed data.

Candidates are asked to provide proof of identity during the registration process.

Hardware and software requirements

Since the computer is used for both the practical exercises and the communication via the internet you are expected to have a computer capable of running ILWIS (standard PC or laptop is OK) and an internet connection. The course is made for the Open Source GIS software ILWIS (Integrated Land and Water Information System). The Open Source software is free and can be downloaded from the internet platform of the course, after being admitted to the course, together with the data sets and training materials. You will also work with Blackboard (educational software) and with Microsoft Office (Word and Excel).

What more there is to know?

This distance course is based on a module of one of ITC's degree courses. Successful completion will lead to exemption for that module in the degree course.

The course is developed by a group of people. Coordination is by Dr. C.J. (Cees) van Westen, Director United Nations University-ITC Centre for Spatial Analysis and Disaster Risk Management (UNU-ITC DRM).

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