Risk Analysis and Risk Management

The risk of intentional attacks from terrorism is fundamentally different from other types of hazards, like accidents or acts of nature, as intelligent and adaptable adversaries will change offensive strategies and adapt their tactics to bypass or circumvent defenses. Approaches to risk assessment and management that may work well in other contexts (e.g., protecting against accidents or acts of nature) can fail to correctly anticipate and quantify the risks from intelligent, adaptive adversaries. Therefore, a more effective approach is needed; methods for guiding resource allocations to defend against terrorism must explicitly take into account the intelligent and adaptive nature of the threat. Additionally, this theme works in close connection with the Decision Analysis theme because risk management efforts frequently require tradeoffs which are generally addressed with multiattribute utility functions. Our research team uses extensions of probabilistic risk analysis of engineered systems, game theory, scenario analysis, and expert elicitation of risks and uncertainties to address this problem in all three contexts – terrorism, natural disasters, and man-made accidents.

Risk Management plays a central role in strategic planning two counterterrorism and other types of disasters. DHS and other government agencies have a long tradition of risk management but require new analytic methods to address contemporary homeland security issues across multiple threat domains. The application of analytic methods to improve decision-making is the domain of Operations Research. CREATE combines Risk Management and Operations Research to develop new methods to address three key analytical challenges. First, DHS must consider the benefits of its programs against both current risks and anticipated shifts in risks as new threats emerge of different types and in different places. Second, DHS programs must be evaluated within the context of how they contribute to a risk management system designed to achieve multiple goals. Third, an important aspect of risk management is the systematic incorporation of means of deterrence and dissuasion to influence adversary decisions, so terrorists act in ways that are easier to detect and find it more difficult to succeed.


Robin Dillon-Merrill

Robin Dillon-Merrill is a Professor in the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and Area Coordinator for the Operations and Information Management Group…

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Vicki Bier

Vicki Bier is a risk analyst and decision analyst specializing in probabilistic risk analysis for homeland security and critical infrastructure protection. Her current research interests include…

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Williams Burns

William Burns completed his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in Decision Science and subsequently held positions as a professor at the University of Iowa and UC Davis…

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Scott Farrow

Scott Farrow is a Professor in the Department of Economics at UMBC, a branch of the University of Maryland and a Research Fellow at CREATE. Previously Dr. Farrow…

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Richard John

Richard John serves as the Associate Director for Research at CREATE, professor in the Department of Psychology at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at USC… 

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Adam Rose

Adam Rose is a Research Professor in the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy and a Research Fellow at CREATE. Previously, he held faculty…

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Heather Rosoff

Heather Rosoff's research focuses on using risk and decision analytic techniques to study the uncertainties surrounding terrorism. More specifically, her risk perception…

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Paul Slovic

Paul Slovic studies judgment and decision processes with an emphasis on decision making under conditions of risk. His work examines fundamental issues such as the influence of… 

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Detlof von Winterfeldt

Detlof von Winterfeldt is a Professor at the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering of the Viterbi School of Engineering and a Professor of Public Policy and Management…

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Sample Papers

Bier, V.M., Y. Zhou, and H. Du. 2020. “Game-theoretic modeling of pre-disaster relocation,” The Engineering Economist 65(2): 89-113. doi: 10.1080/0013791X.2019.1677837

Cui, J., H. Rosoff, and R. S. John. 2020. “Responses to cyber near-misses: A scale to measure individual differences,” In S. Chatterjee, R. Brigantic, and A. Waterworth (Eds.), Applied Risk Analysis for Guiding Homeland Security Policy And Decisions. New York: Wiley. ISBN: 9781119287469 

Rose, A., P. Ganderton, J. Eyer, D. Wei, R. Bostic, and D. von Winterfeldt. 2020. “The Design of a Deductible/Credit System for Post-Disaster Public Assistance,” Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, electronic early view. doi: 10.1080/09640568.2019.1706461 

Thrift, S. and D. von Winterfeldt. 2020. “Risk Informed Benefit-Cost Analysis for Homeland Security RandD: Methodology and an Application to Evaluating the Advanced Personal Protection System for Wildland Firefighters,” Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, forthcoming.

von Winterfeldt, D., S. Farrow, R. John, J. Eyer, A Rose, and H. Rosoff. 2020. “Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Homeland Security Research: A Risk-Informed Methodology with Applications for the U.S. Coast Guard,” Risk Analysis 40(3): 450-475. doi: 10.1111/risa.13403

Bier, V.M. and A. Gutfraind. 2019. “Risk analysis beyond vulnerability and resilience- characterizing the defensibility of critical systems,” European Journal of Operational Research 276(2): 626-636. doi: 10.1016/j.ejor.2019.01.011

Dormady, N., A. Roa-Henriquez, and A. Rose. 2019. “Economic Resilience of the Firm: A Production Theory Approach,” International Journal of Production Economics 208: 446-460. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpe.2018.07.017

Eyer, J. and A. Rose. 2019. “Mitigation and Resilience Tradeoffs for Electricity Outages,” Economics of Disasters and Climate Change 3(1): 61-77. doi: 10.1007/s41885-018-0034-5 

Goble, R., V. M. Bier, and O. Renn. 2018. “Two Types of Vigilance are Essential to Effective Hazard Management: Maintaining Both Together is Difficult,” Risk Analysis 38(8): 1795-1801. doi: 10.1111/risa.13003

Wang, Y., V. M. Bier, and B. Sun. 2019. “Measuring and Achieving Equity in Multiperiod Emergency Material Allocation,” Risk Analysis 39(11): 2408-2426. doi: 10.1111/risa.13342

Baucum, M., R. S. John, M. Mayorga, P. Slovic, W. Burns, K. Portney, and J. Mumpower. 2018. “The Dynamics of Risk Perception for Soft Target Terrorism,” in Proceedings of the Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Management (PSAM-14) Bi-Annual Conference. Los Angeles, Sept. 16-21.

Dillon, R. L., W. J. Burns, and R. S. John. 2018. “Insights for Critical Alarm-Based Warning Systems
from a Risk Analysis of Commercial Aviation Passenger Screening,” Decision Analysis 15(3):
133-194. doi: 10.1287/deca.2018.0369 [Runner-up for the 2018 Decision Analysis Special Recognition Award]

Farrow, S. and A. Rose. 2018. “Welfare Analysis: Bridging the Partial and General Equilibrium Divide for Policy Analysis,” Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis 9(1): 67-83. doi: 10.1017/bca.2017.29
[Recipient of the Outstanding Article of 2018 Award in this journal]

Dillon, R.L., C. H. Tinsley, and W. J. Burns. 2014. “Evolving Risk Perceptions About Near-Miss Terrorist Events,” Decision Analysis 11(1): 27-42. doi: 10.1287/deca.2013.0286

Dillon, R.L., C. H. Tinsley, and W. J. Burns. 2014. “Near-Misses and Future Disaster Preparedness,” Risk Analysis 34(10): 1907-1922. doi: 10.1111/risa.12209

Rosoff, H., R. Siko, R. S. John, and W. Burns. 2013. “Should I Stay or Should I Go? An Experimental Study of Health and Financial Risk Communication Following a Severe Biological Attack,” Environment, Systems, and Decisions 33(1): 121-137. doi: 10.1007/s10669-012-9431-4

Dillon, R. L., G. Lester, R. S. John, and C.H. Tinsley. 2012. “Differentiating Conflicts in Beliefs vs. Value Trade-offs in the Domestic Intelligence Policy Debate,” Risk Analysis 32(4): 713–728. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01747.x

McArdle, S., H. Rosoff, and R. S. John. 2012. “The Dynamics of Evolving Beliefs, Concerns, Emotions, and Behavioral Avoidance Following 9/11,” Risk Analysis 32(4): 744-761. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01814.x

Rosoff, H., R. S. John, W. Burns, and R. Siko. 2012. “Structuring Uncertainty and Conflicting Objectives for Life or Death Decisions Following an Urban Biological Catastrophe,” Journal of Integrated Disaster Risk Management 2(1): 1-21. doi: 10.5595/idrim.2012.0035 

Rosoff, H., R. S. John, and F. Prager. 2012. “Flu, Risks, and Videotape: Escalation of Fear and Avoidance Behavior,” Risk Analysis 32(4): 729-743. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01769.x

Scurich, N., J. Monahan, and R. S. John. 2012. “Innumeracy and Unpacking: Bridging the Nomothetic/Idiographic Divide in Violence Risk Assessment,” Law and Human Behavior 36(6): 548-554. doi: 10.1037/h0093994

Scurich, N. and R. S John. 2012. “A Bayesian Approach to the Group Versus Individual Prediction Controversy in Actuarial Risk Assessment,” Law and Human Behavior 36(3): 237-246. doi: 10.1037/h0093973 

Scurich, N. and R. S. John. 2012. “Prescriptive Approaches to Communicating the Risk of Violence in Actuarial Risk Assessment,” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 18(1): 50-78. doi: 10.1037/a0024592