Comparing Risks in the Homeland Security Mission Space

Principal Investigator: Henry Willis


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for protecting communities from the consequences of countless types of accidents, disasters and malicious attacks motivated by terrorism and crime.  Managing risks from these hazards involves making choices among alternatives to protect facilities, strengthen infrastructure resilience, and enhance communities’ emergency preparedness.  However, doing this requires comparing risks that are different in kind and consequence, and these differences influence risk management priorities.    Reliably capturing these priorities for addressing different accidents, disasters, and terrorism events is a challenging example of comparative risk assessment.  The recent National Academy of Sciences review of DHS risk analysis identifies developing methods of comparative risk assessment as an analytic priority for homeland security planning and analysis.  This study builds on methods of comparative risk assessment in the field of environmental policy to demonstrate and evaluate approaches to help DHS set strategic risk management priorities.   This research: (a) demonstrated and evaluated an approach for understanding public and policymaker risk management priorities, (b) used that approach, along with broader surveys, to describe the priorities of these different stakeholder groups, (c) communicated the results of the studies to policymakers developing DHS strategic policies and plans, and (d) described the process of conducting comparative risk assessments to homeland security practitioners who could leverage these methods for their own planning.