Risk assessment: how the risk of emergencies in the UK is assessed

How the level of risk posed to the UK is assessed nationally and locally, covering the National Risk Assessment and National Risk Register.

Assessment at central government level

The government aims to ensure all organisations have clear and effective risk assessment processes in place. We work at all levels to assess and mitigate the risk from emergencies facing the country as a whole.

The risks the UK faces are continually changing. The government monitors the most significant emergencies that the UK and its citizens could face over the next 5 years through the National Risk Assessment (NRA). This is a confidential assessment, conducted every year, that draws on expertise from a wide range of departments and agencies of government. The National Risk Register (NRR) is the public version of the assessment.

The NRA and NRR are intended to capture the range of emergencies that might have a major impact on all, or significant parts of, the UK. These are events which could result in significant harm to human welfare: casualties, damage to property, essential services and disruption to everyday life. The risks cover 3 broad categories: natural events, major accidents and malicious attacks.

To assist with national and local planning, the government provides a confidential list of the common consequences coming out of the NRA that cover the maximum scale, duration and impact, that could reasonably be expected to occur as a result of emergencies. These consequences are referred to in the National Resilience Planning Assumptions (NRPAs).

The National Risk Register

A National Risk Register (NRR) was first published by the government in 2008, fulfilling a commitment made in the National Security Strategy. This was the first step in providing advice on how people and businesses can better prepare for civil emergencies.

The January 2012 update to this document - ‘The National Risk Register of civil emergencies - January 2012 edition’ was published to update the public on the government’s assessment of the likelihood and potential impact of a range of different civil emergency risks (including naturally and accidently occurring hazards and malicious threats) that may directly affect the UK. It also provides information on how the UK and emergency services prepare for these emergencies.

A wider review of how people and businesses can better prepare for civil emergencies, involving consultation with risk communication experts is underway. The January 2012 version therefore does not include guidance on how to prepare for emergencies. Whilst this review is underway, chapter 3 and 4 of the 2010 edition of the NRR should be used as guidance on how people and businesses can better prepare for emergencies.

Local risk assessment and Community Risk Registers

The risks we face depend on where we live and work. For example, risks such as coastal flooding will be limited to specific parts of the country, while the likelihood and impact of major industrial accidents will depend upon the type of industry in an area. Alongside the national level risk assessments, local tiers are required to produce a specific risk assessment that reflects, as far as possible, the unique characteristics of each area.

The government provides guidance to local resilience forums (LRFs) on how to interpret the risks in the NRA and NRR to help with their local assessment of risk. This ensures that risk assessment at all levels of government is integrated, so it can underpin coherent emergency planning throughout the country.

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 also requires emergency responders in England and Wales to co-operate in maintaining a public Community Risk Register. These are approved and published by LRFs, which include representatives from local emergency responders as well as public, private and voluntary organisations. Each local council publishes its Community Risk Register on its website.

Find your local council’s website.

For more information on local risk assessment and LRFs, see the guidance on community resilience.

Devolved administrations

It is equally important that organisations within the devolved administrations conduct effective risk assessment. The guide on devolved administrations provides more detail on the extent to which the Civil Contingencies Act duties apply to them and on their individual emergency planning arrangements.

Businesses and organisations

All business and organisation emergency planning should be built on identifying and assessing any risks that could potentially obstruct performance. Chapter 3 of the National Risk Register gives advice to businesses and organisations on how to prepare for the impacts of emergencies.

Further information

There is further information about risk assessment and resilience planning in the following publications:

Published 20 February 2013