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As part of the capacity-building activities of the United Nations University – ITC Center on Spatial Analysis for Disaster Risk Management (UNU-ITC DRM) the Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente, the Netherlands, has developed a training package on the application of GIS for multi-hazard risk assessment. The package, called RiskCity comprises a complete suite of exercise descriptions, together with GIS data and presentation materials on the various steps required to collect and analyze relevant spatial data for hazard, vulnerability and risk assessment in an urban environment. The package has been developed in collaboration with several partner organizations on different continents, and is used as the basis for a series of courses. Currently it is available as a distance education course.

The materials can be obtained from

For more information: 

Dr. C.J. van Westen, Faculty ITC, University of Twente, The Netherlands. E-mail:

This course deals with the procedures to collect, analyze and evaluate spatial information for risk assessment from natural and human-induced hazards (such as geological hazard, hydro-meteorological hazards, environmental hazards and technological hazards). The course will guide you through the entire process of risk assessment, on the basis of a case study of a city exposed to multiple hazards, in a developing country (RiskCity).  Also a number of case studies are used from Europe (Italy, France), China, and Georgia. 

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; 
  • generate an elements at risk data base using GIS;
  • formulate the requirements of hazard data and methods;
  • apply various methods for vulnerability assessment;
  • generate risk maps using qualitative and quantitative methods;
  • have insight in how a risk assessment could be carried out in your own situation; 

Course structure:

The course is composed of a number of sessions. Below is a summary of the sessions and detailed content.

Session 1: Introduction to risk assessment

  • Theory: Introduction to disaster risk management and risk assessment. 
  • Exercise:  Generation of a hazard profile using disaster databases; Introduction to ILWIS, and introduction to the RiskCity dataset. Learn the various hazard problems by evaluating high resolution images 

Session 2: Obtaining spatial data for risk assessment

  • Theory: Presentation of data requirements for the various types of hazards. Sources of spatial data.
  • Exercises: Defining spatial data requirements for risk assessment; Internet search for information on risk assessment; acquiring free and low cost data; generating three dimensional image data using Google Earth; stereo image interpretation

Session 3: Hazard Assessment

  • Theory: Hazard types; Main concepts of hazard assessment; Frequency magnitude – relationships
  • Exercises: Frequency assessment; Selection of hazard assessment example (flooding, landslides, earthquakes, technological hazards, volcanic hazards etc)

 Session 4: Elements at risk assessment

  • Theory: Types of elements at risk; classification of buildings, infrastructure, lifelines, critical facilities; population information; collection of elements at risk information.
  • Exercise: Generating an elements at risk database from scratch; Generating an elements at risk database using available data (building footprint map, census data and LiDAR) 

Session 5: Vulnerability assessment

  • Theory: Types of vulnerability; social vulnerability; physical vulnerability; methods for vulnerability assessment; participatory GIS; Spatial Multi Criteria Evaluation
  • Exercises: Defining vulnerability curves; Spatial Multi-criteria evaluation for vulnerability assessment

Session 6: Risk assessment

  • Theory:  Loss estimation models; HAZUS; qualitative risk assessment; QRA; basics of flood risk, seismic risk, landslide and technological risk assessment;
  • Exercises: Creating risk curves; Selection of risk assessment method: flooding, earthquakes, landslides, technological.

Session 7: Risk management

  • Theory: Risk evaluation; risk governance; risk communication; cost benefit analysis; Using risk information for emergency planning; spatial planning, and Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Exercises: Multi-hazard risk assessment for buildings; assessing economic losses; Cost benefit analysis

Session 8: Final project and examination

  • Discussion: 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
  • Examination.

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