HVA Methodologies

The United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been the primary federal agency responsible for setting standards and guidelines for measuring the risks associated with potential hazards.

The Risk Analysis Branch of FEMA works toward identifying the scope of all natural hazards affecting a region and assessing the risks associated with those hazards.  Program areas within the Risk Analysis Branch include:

Other FEMA Links


Hospital-Based Hazard Vulnerability Risk Analysis

The hospital HVA serves as a needs assessment for the hospital’s Emergency Management program. This process often involves community partners and community emergency response agencies.  Hospitals are required to conduct and annually review their Hazard Vulnerability Analysis (HVA).

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) significantly revised the standard for emergency management (EC.1.4) in the 2001 edition of the Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Hospitals. This was done to bring hospital emergency planning into the same arena as emergency management in the community as a whole. Wording was revised so that all emergency response agencies “speak the same language” and work within compatible command structures.

Hospitals must now function as an integrated entity within the scope of the broader community. The HVA provides a systematic approach to recognizing hazards that might affect demand for the hospitals services or its ability to provide those services. The risks associated with each hazard are analyzed to prioritize planning, mitigation, response and recovery activities.


Public Health-based Hazard Vulnerability Risk Analyses

Public health HVA risk analysis is relatively new. As part of the public health preparedness planning initiatives post 9/11, public health departments and agencies began teaming up with their community’s first responders including fire, police and emergency management agencies as part of a broader approach to state and local response to emergencies and disasters. The requirement for conducting a jurisdictional risk assessment along with an HVA is now part of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) planning capabilities funded by the PHEP Cooperative Agreement funded by CDC. The PHEP cooperative agreement is a critical source of funding for state, local, tribal and territorial public health departments.



Hazard Vulnerability Analysis (HVA): HVA can be defined as the identification of hazards and the direct and indirect effects these hazards may have on a vulnerable system, which contribute to the risk of disaster. 

  Hazard Vulnerability Analysis


Risk: Risk is defined as the expectation of loss. Disaster planning rests upon risk assessment, which includes a determination of the propensity of things to be damaged (vulnerability) and an assessment of the community resources that will diminish impact. Thus, vulnerability to hazards and community resources work against each other.
Risk = Hazard * (Vulnerability – Resources)


Risk Assessment – The FEMA Risk Branch defines risk assessment as:

“A risk assessment identifies hazards and their associated risks, including threats to public health and safety, the environment, property damage, and economic loss. The assessments combine the probabilities with the consequences in a way that quantifies risk. Quantifying the risk is a powerful way to communicate the threat, determine the key factors that cause it to be high, and ultimately perform trade-off analyses to determine the most effective way to reduce, avoid, or otherwise control it.


Social Vulnerability – The social vulnerability construct defined by Cutter states that: “Vulnerability is the potential for loss of life or property due to hazards. The hazards-of-place model combines the biophysical vulnerability (physical characteristics of hazards and environment) and social vulnerability to determine an overall place vulnerability. Social vulnerability is represented as the social, economic, demographic, and housing characteristics that influence a community’s ability to respond to, cope with, recover from, and adapt environmental hazards.”