Linking natural hazard risk assessment and community planning: Squamish, British Colombia

Focus The District of Squamish, BC, Canada is a fast growing area subject to multiple natural hazards. In 2007 Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and the District of Squamish set up a joint initiative to develop vulnerability and risk assessment methods useful for long term regional planning.

Overall, the project developed an assessment framework now known as Pathways-DM (Decision Making). It includes methods of problem framing, priority setting, visualization, and exploration of viable policy alternatives through a process of participatory planning, integrated assessment modelling and formal decision analysis.

The project established a working group of District staff, social agencies, educational agencies, emergency response groups, realtors and community members to: identify and prioritize community assets at risk; identify assets that might contribute to resilience; and to discuss risk reduction strategies. Workshops were held where participants had access to objective hazard information and also brought their own local knowledge and experience of the challenges of risk management for Squamish.

The project incorporated a wide variety of data, including geotechnical reports related to flooding and landslide potential, as well as federal government data on earthquakes. It also used GIS based software tool ‘Community Viz’ – designed to help people visualise and analyse the future of communities.

  • Provide a replicable framework for natural hazard and regional land use planning
Key points about method
  • High degree of technical support
  • Joint initiative between a research/natural science agency and a local government organisation
  • Strong use of visualisation tools and modelling
  • In the risk analysis process decision-makers and stakeholders frame the problem and the domain experts inform the problem–– developing models and tools to describe and evaluate interactions between natural and human systems
Things to consider
  • Approach relied on long term commitment and resource allocation from the district local government agency and an established partnership with a research agency
When to use this approach?
  • Regional scale for long term planning addressing multiple hazards
  • Useful design of a specialist/stakeholder working group
More information?

Community viz offers a collection of case stories from Canada, US & Australia

Interdisciplinary approaches to regional risk reduction decision-making :

Scenario-Based Risk Analysis within an Analytic-Deliberative Framework for Regional Risk Reduction: Wein et al