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N atural Resources Canada (NRCan) has initiated a research program to answer these questions and empower com- munities across the country to build risk assessment capacity. In partnership with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and supported by Defence Research and Development Canada ( DRDC), NRCan's Earth Sciences Sector has devel- oped a risk assessment framework known as Pathways that aims to link natural hazard risk assessment with community planning. Pathways is a standards-based system of processes, methods and tools that is aligned with, and contributes to, national policies and evolving best practices for disaster mitigation in Canada. It aims to assist local and regional authorities in prioritizing risk management objectives, analyzing changing conditions that may affect vulnerability over time, characterizing thresholds of risk tolerance, and navigating decision pathways that promote national policy goals for disaster management and sustainability. "Communities face many challenges in risk-based planning and it is the focus of our research to strengthen mitigation and pre- paredness strategies across the country," notes Nicky Hastings, Activity Coordinator at NRCan. "Planners and emergency man- agers need a common framework for risk assessment and mitigation planning – one that is standards-based and aligned with national policy goals." Implemented as a spatial decision sup- port system, Pathways is comprised of sev- eral integrated, standards-based tools that facilitate risk assessment, scenario modeling and decision analysis. BREAKING THE DAMAGE CYCLE At the heart of the framework is a power- ful risk assessment software program known as Hazus. Developed by FEMA, Hazus can model, analyze and predict potential losses from floods, hurricane winds and earthquakes. It runs calculations on the ESRI geographic information sys- tem (GIS) platform, and is an extension to ESRI's ArcGIS Desktop technology. Using this technology, Hazus can be used to visu- alize spatial relationships between popula- tions and permanently fixed geographic assets or resources for a specific hazard scenario. This serves as a critical function in the pre-disaster planning process. It is used for mitigation and recovery, as well as pre- paredness and response. It can also scale to BUILDING SAFER COMMUNITIES THROUGH INTEGRATED O ver the past 20 years, Canada has suffered more than 80 significant natural disasters, affecting hundreds of thousands of people and resulting in millions of dollars in economic losses. The 1997 Red River Flood alone caused $500 million in damages across the province of Manitoba. Just how safe are we from impending natural disasters, and how equipped are government organi- zations to recover from an unexpected event? What are the tolerable thresholds of risk for a community, and how are they negotiated? by Pierre Bilodeau 14 I FrontLine Security I Volume 6, Issue 4

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