Explore Hazards

  • Gather a team of people who want to protect local assets.
  • Check past weather events and future climate trends.
  • List the things you value that could be damaged.

After this exploration, you’ll discover if weather and climate represent a hazard to things you value.

Steps to Resilience
This content supports the highlighted step.

Establish a team

  • Engage stakeholders and decide how you'll work together.

There’s a saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, bring others.”  In almost every case, projects that build climate resilience require going far (click any linked term in these Steps to Resilience pages to view definitions and examples).

To ensure you have the broad support necessary to implement a resilience-building project, start by recruiting a comprehensive group of stakeholders. All the individuals and organizations that could be affected by the problem you hope to address—or its solution—are potential stakeholders for your project. To move a project forward most efficiently, focus on involving the groups and individuals who are willing to accept responsibility and assign resources to address the issues at hand.

Each "Take a step" instruction below encourages you to document your progress through this framework. You may want to download our prepared spreadsheet that you can use to capture your input.
Take a step:  Make a list of the groups that could have a stake in your efforts.

Think about who has the ability to make decisions for groups you listed. Attempt to engage at least one person who is willing to represent each group’s interests in your effort. When inviting individuals to participate, keep your primary focus on the common values and shared interests of all potential stakeholders.

Take a step:  List names and contact information for candidate representatives.

 

Identify climate and non-climate stressors

  • Consider conditions that can exacerbate hazards.

Imagine for a minute that a town you know experiences an extremely heavy rainfall event. If the stormwater drainage system accepts all the water and drains it away, no problem. Now imagine another heavy rain event: this one is similar to the first, but it occurs on a day when the ground is already saturated. As less water soaks into the ground, the total volume of runoff is higher, and water overcomes the capacity of the stormwater system, resulting in a flood. You can also imagine what might happen if the stormwater system was under construction during the rain event…

Conditions that exacerbate hazards and promote damage are called stressors, and they come from both climate and non-climate realms. Climate stressors include events such as consecutive days of rain and heat waves. One way to identify potential climate stressors is to think back to previous weather- and climate-related events or disasters in your region. Think of all the factors that played a role in causing damage.

Take a step:  List any climate-related stressors that could exacerbate hazards, and indicate if their frequency is increasing, remaining the same, or decreasing in your region. 

Non-climate stressors include things such as changes in land cover (i.e., development that decreases permeability), construction projects that disrupt natural drainage patterns or traffic flows, and degradation of infrastructure elements. Depending on where you live, these stressors may be increasing or decreasing over time. Drawing on knowledge of your region, think broadly about non-climate stressors you have faced or may face in the future. Imagine some worst-case scenarios during which bad weather or a climate-related event could occur.

Take a step:  List the non-climate stressors that could turn threats into hazards. Indicate if the stressor is likely to increase, remain steady, or decrease in your region. 

 

Investigate your regional climate

  • Consult authoritative information on your climate trends and hazards.

Understanding the hazards posed by weather events and climate conditions is an essential step in protecting yourself and the things you care about from them. You’ll want to answer questions like: What’s normal for your community? What’s changed over the past 10 years? What’s projected to change in the future?

Topic narratives on this site provide brief overviews of climate issues for various locations and industries.

For a slightly deeper dive, see the Fourth National Climate Assessment. Click REPORT CHAPTERS to find topics and regions of interest.

Explore how conditions at your location are projected to change in the future. Launch an introductory version of the Climate Explorer (with help for interpreting graphs and maps), or the standard Climate Explorer tool.

Graph showing an envelope of climate projections for maximum temperature rising over time

The Climate Explorer tool shows projections for maximum temperature and other climate variables from 2010 through 2100 for every county in the contiguous United States. Here, the display shows projected maximum temperature in New York County from 2020 through 2060, for a scenario in which emissions of heat-trapping gases continue increasing. 

 

Some other tools that can help you investigate your regional climate include:

View a full list of all Step One tools.

 

Identify key assets and hazards

  • List the things you want to protect and the climate hazards that could impact them.

With a common understanding of current climate trends and potential future conditions, give serious consideration to how the things you value could be affected by climate and weather. Ask stakeholders to identify the people, places, and services—collectively referred to as assets—they feel are most important to protect. Giving all stakeholders the opportunity to describe what they value, and why, can be very useful in building a team with a shared vision.

Take a step: Make a comprehensive list of your group’s assets of concern.

For every key asset on your spreadsheet, consider the range of climate- or weather-related events or situations that could pose a threat to it. These are climate hazards.

Take a step: List weather- and climate-related hazards that could affect each asset you listed.

 

Explore your exposure

  • Determine if any of your assets are exposed to climate hazards.

Flow chart illustrating the concept of exposure

Exposure: The presence of people, assets, and ecosystems in places where they could be adversely affected by hazards.

Assets that could be impacted by weather or climate have some level of “exposure.” Exposure is simply the presence of assets in places where they could be adversely affected.

For each asset-hazard pair in your table, describe the potential damage or consequences you could see if the hazard occurs. Consequences from historical events are also useful as benchmarks. These are the situations you want to avoid; the descriptions can be useful in later steps for gauging the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of any interventions you implement.

Take a step: Describe the potential and/or historical consequences that could result if the hazards you listed occur.

 

Define the scope of your project

  • Decide what your group is agreeing to work on.

As stakeholders learn more about climate and consider specific assets that may be threatened, individual visions of your broad goals may diverge. To keep the scope of your effort manageable, continue returning the focus to the group’s shared interests.

With the goal of reaching consensus on the project’s scope, invite all stakeholders to describe their view of the larger group’s problem or opportunity. Based on the input, work to delineate the scope of the problem that your active stakeholders are willing to tackle. Iterate as necessary to define the problem you hope to solve, including acknowledging other problems or issues you agree not to address. In most cases, the more clearly you define the problem, the easier it will be to find a solution to match it.

Take a step: Record stakeholders’ comments and develop a clear statement of the problem this group intends to address.

 

Decision point

  • Do weather and climate represent a hazard to assets you value? 

If the results of your explorations suggest that assets or resources your group values are threatened by climate and weather, CONTINUE TO STEP 2. If the answer is no, make plans to consider the question again at some point in the future, and develop your answer within the context of any circumstances that have changed.

Instructions on these pages encourage you to gather specific types of information. You may find it convenient to download this prepared spreadsheet and use it to record input as you move through the steps. 

Access the Steps to Resilience Glossary for definitions and examples of words related to resilience.

References for Steps to Resilience

Last modified
19 March 2019 - 3:05pm