Esri conference 2002 Paper #00307

Risk-Era: The Swedish Rescue Service's Tool for 
Community Risk Management 

By Janet Edwards, GIS specialist and project manager
June 11, 2002

Karlstad, Sweden

   

Abstract

Risk-Era is a MapObjects based tool used to complete a community risk inventory. 
Development is ongoing and the current phase involves writing a technical 
specification for version 2.0. The new version will allow the user to analyse risks by 
identifying a risk source and then describing a common scenario and the worst-case 
scenario. The project began in 1999 upon the request of a few community fire 
departments. Several representatives from primarily fire departments but also 
planners, technical experts and environmental specialists were asked by the Agency 
to participate in an advisory group. The first year the group discussed in depth what 
type of data would be used in the program and how the program would look. 
Throughout 2000 risk managers and computer programmers from Lund's Program 
Architects (LPA) worked together to develop the first version of Risk-Era. In 2001 and 
2002 several new functions were added by programmers from SysTeamGIS.

Users can open their own community maps in .dxf or .shp format. Scanned and 
geographically referenced bitmap or jpeg maps can be used with the system. The 
program allows map layers to be selected and saved in a project file with a format 
unique to Risk-Era. Symbols have been designed which correspond to all the objects 
classes as well as all the accident types. Users can mark the locations of risk sites 
directly on the digital map or they can enter or import X- and Y- co-ordinates for their 
locations. GIS functions were carefully selected so that the system would be easy to 
use and not require any special training in GIS. Digital photographs, video clips, or 
other documents can be linked to registered objects. Because the data is stored in 
MS SQL-Server 7.0, import and export of data is efficient. 

Risk-Era's purpose 

The aim of Risk-Era* is to provide a low cost, user-friendly geographic computer 
system for community risk management. Risk-Era is designed for location and 
analysis of accident risks. The first version of Risk-Era allows users to complete a 
comprehensive risk inventory. Risk-Era was programmed using Delphi 5.0 
Enterprise and Esris MapObject 2.0. The program operates with the database 
manager MS SQL-Server 7.0. (*"Riskera" is the application name used in Sweden.)

This GIS application is part of a larger system that is called RIB or the Swedish 
Rescue Services Information Bank. Currently RIB is in Swedish, however an English 
version will soon be complete. Risk-Era's version 1.2 was developed during 
fall 2000 and spring 2002. An English translation of the program will be ready at the 
end of June 2002. 

The Swedish Rescue Services Digital Information Bank
The Swedish Rescue Services Digital Information Bank

How a community uses Risk-Era

Each community has the responsibility for identifying their risks. They are registered 
in the program with a specific geographic location. Each risk object is then classified. 
(See the attached list.) A risk source can be registered for each risk object and its 
location shown on the map. A risk object's attribute data includes address, inspection 
routines, potential accident types, measures for accident prevention, measures that 
limit damage, rescue routes, technical installations and more. 

Community experts register objects that require special protection in case an 
accident occurs in the vicinity. These include housing areas, health care centres, 
public arenas, schools, natural and cultural sites, and community infrastructure. The 
reason for protection is also registered in the database. If available, relevant data 
from other data systems can be imported into Risk-Era's database.

Accident information is an important factor in determining the risk picture for any 
community. This information contributes to the assessment of accident probability 
and consequences. All fire and rescue departments register incidents in a computer 
system. The data on accidents is then sent to the Swedish Statistics Bureau.
The same data can be imported into Risk-Era. All accidents with a geographic 
location can be seen on the map. 

Community users decide what types of maps will be used in the system. They can 
select thematic map layers and combine them as they wish. In this picture map 
layers that represent lakes, roads, property boundaries, buildings and trails can be 
seen. 

Map themes for Vilhelmina city. Geodata from the community of Vilhelmina.
Map themes for Vilhelmina city. Geodata from the community of Vilhelmina.

Registering risk objects 

Users can get a closer view of the city by zooming in to city streets and even 
buildings. When a risk object has been registered in the database, the user assigns 
the exact coordinates for the object. Risk objects are grouped in classes and each 
class has its own symbol. The system places a symbol on the map after the object is 
classified. Objects requiring special protection also have unique symbols. Risk-Era 
manages data about sites where risk sources are found.

Symbols representing risk object classes.
Symbols representing risk object classes.

Symbols representing threatened objects
Symbols representing threatened objects

Selected risk sites (yellow symbols) and sites requiring special protection (blue symbols) are shown on a community map. Geodata from the Swedish Land Survey Office.
Selected risk sites (yellow symbols) and sites requiring special protection (blue symbols) are 
shown on a community map. Geodata from the Swedish Land Survey Office.

The user can mark the location of any risk source connected to a risk object. (See the 
attached list.) These are shown as red triangles on the map. 

Red triangles show the location of risk sources at a risk site. This example is fictious.
Red triangles show the location of risk sources at a risk site. This example is 
fictitious.

In addition, GIS allows risk managers to study accident statistics. In version 1.2 
specific symbols are used. Even environmental accidents such as a landslide or 
slope failure will be designated on community maps. The alarm number, the date, the 
number injured or killed and damage to property or environment are some of the 
attribute data which is associated with the accident site. 

Selected accident sites with the corresponding alarm number.
Selected accident sites with the corresponding alarm number.

Risk maps 

Several communities have risk maps for flooding and slope failure. They can be 
easily opened in Risk-Era. In this example the various risk zones for slope failure 
have been mapped. In Risk-Era a risk manager can quickly see if there are any 

A risk map showing slope stability. Geodata developed by the Swedish Institute for Geological Research.
A risk map showing slope stability. Geodata developed by the Swedish Institute for 
Geological Research.

dwellings or other objects of concern that are situated in these risk zones.

The Swedish Rescue Services Agency has financed a project that resulted in a map 
showing environmental sensitivity in the community of Umeň. Such a map can be 
opened in Risk-Era as a thematic map layer. The legend shows two things. The first 
is how long it takes before water or soils are damaged from a chemical spill. The 
second legend defines levels of desired environmental protection. They are the 
following: "very high level of protection desired", "high level of protection desired", 
and "worth protecting". 

Environmental sensitivity map developed by the National Defence Research Institute, FOA-Risk, in Umeň.
Environmental sensitivity map developed by the National Defence Research Institute, 
FOA-Risk, in Umeň.

Modelling and Application Development 

The Swedish Rescue Services Agency intends to continue the development of Risk-
Era. During the fall of 2001 The Agency, in co-operation with the Swiss Federal 
Office of Protection and consultants from Ernst Basler and Partners, begin modelling 
the risk analysis module. In the first round only a few selected risk types will be 
modelled. It is important that Sweden's risk specialists from fire and rescue personnel 
are active in the development of Risk-Era. Therefore, an expert group comprised of 
Swedish risk analysts was established in March 2002. These specialists work with 
complicated risk analysis questions many of which involve safety at industrial sites. 
At the same time they are able to recommend a general risk analysis method that is 
uncomplicated and, therefore, can be used by all fire departments. 

A GIS specialist from a computer company called Triona was also contracted to work 
with the project leader during the brainstorming meetings. This GIS specialist directs 
the writing of the technical specification for version 2.0. Upon completion of the 
document, the Swedish Rescue Services Agency will request bids from any 
interested computer application development company in the country. The bids will 
be compared based on the technical solutions suggested, the quality anticipated, the 
costs, and the suggested time plan. Once a computer company is selected, a 
developing group will assure that all requirements for the program are met. Version 
2.0 will go through the same rigorous testing process that is implemented for all 
computer programs designed and financed by the Swedish Rescue Services Agency.

Functions for Analysing Risks

In version 2.0 the user will be able to analyse some of the risks within the 
database.The following methodology will be implemented. Select a risk object with 
one or more identified risk sources. Select an accident type for one of the risk 
sources. Define a typical scenario based on this risk source. Define the worst-case 
scenario. 

There will be help functions that recommend a specific impact distance for the risk 
scenarios. This distance will be shown on the digital map as a circle around the risk 
object. A GIS function will be used to calculate the number of objects of concern 
/threatened objects which are found within the impact zone. These objects of concern 
will be listed by name and type. 

Once a value for probability and another for consequence have been assessed, a 
value for the total risk can be assigned. Finally, the risk level will be shown in a risk 
matrix. Probability will be assessed using a scale from 1-5. The same interval is used 
to assess consequences to life, the environment, and property. Search functions will 
be supplied so that objects of interest can be analysed and their risk values 
compared

The risk matrix shows the number of risks for each of the risk levels in the diagram.
The risk matrix shows the number of risks for each of the risk levels in the diagram.

After completing such an assessment it becomes easier for the community 
specialists to prioritise accident prevention work. In Risk-Era communities can 
register mitigating measures that are being taken or that should be taken to prevent 
an accident suggested by the scenario. Such measures might include creating buffer 
zones around areas to be protected. Communities can make decisions about limiting 
development in risk filled areas. It could mean the relocation of transporting routes 
for vehicles carrying dangerous goods. For industrial sites it could require a technical 
improvement. Modification till slopes may be necessary if slope failure is eminent. If 
flooding is a risk, then special training can be implemented for rescue crews. 
Planners can also take this risk zone into consideration when making decisions about 
property development.

Methodology Used in Designing Risk-Era. 

In order to design Risk-Era, the Swedish Rescue Services Agencies implemented an 
assortment of methods and tools. The computer application is based on the Swedish 
Risk Management Handbook written over 10 years ago. It has since been translated 
into English and published by the United Nations Environmental Program as a 
technical report. 

In addition several research reports about risk analysis have been reviewed. Other 
computer programs have been examined such as CAMEO from the U.S.A., PHAST 
from Great Britain and a few Swedish systems. GIS features used in other GIS 
programs have been studied, primarily ArcView. In addition several groups have 
been developed both inside the agency and outside. One of the most active groups 
was an external group comprised of potential users. This was a mixed group of fire 
specialists, city planners, technicians, and cartographers.

The group assisted in defining the goals for the use of GIS in version 1. These goals 
have all been achieved by using Esris MapObjects GIS components. 
Use several data types. Update or reorganise maps layers. Calculate distances and 
areas. Assign the location of objects (X and Y co-ordinates). Digitise points, lines, 
and areas on the screen. Import accident statistics with their locations.

Advantages of a GIS system for Risk Management 

There are several advantages of using a GIS system for risk management. Many 
data types can be collected and accessed. Maps can be updated or reorganized. 
Objects can be located by using a query. Environmental data can be more easily 
understood.

Difficulties Encountered 

Here are some of the problems that we have encountered. The Swedish Rescue 
Services Agency's clients are not accustomed to working with a database manager. 
Installation is considered difficult. Import and export of data from other SQL 
compatible bases occurs within MS SQL Server 7.0. Working in risk groups and with 
technical questions requires time.

Janet Edwards is a GIS specialist and project manager- She is currently works for the Swedish Rescue Service Agency's Information Bank. She has a bachelor's degree in geography from the University of California at Los Angeles and a master's from California State University at Northridge. Janet began her work with GIS in 1985 starting with a course at the Earth Resources Observation Station in South Dakota. She has also taken courses at the Swedish Institute for Geographic Information Technology (SIGIT) and taught GIS at Karlstad University. Janet has worked for the Swedish Rescue Services Agency since 1995.

 

APPENDIX
Risk types and their sources of risk

Risk object  Underclass  Source of Risk
1. Natural Hazard  1.1 Floodplain high water rainfall
snowmelt
atmospheric pressure
1.2. Unstable slopes climate
vegetation
chemical processes
mechanical effect
vibrations
construction
1.3.Avalanche zone  time of year
snow depth
recreational activities
1.4.Unstable weather/ storm unstable weather /storm
1.5 Radon zone ground radon 
building materials
2.1 Potentially dangerous commercial activities 2.1.1 Industry storage of dangerous chemicals
nuclear power production
transformers
highly flammable material /rapid fire 
cycle
rapid fire cycle
hot water for production
2.1.2 Storage storage of dangerous chemicals
highly flammable material /rapid fire 
cycle
storage in pressurized containers
2.1.3 Department store, hardware and paint shop storage of dangerous chemicals
highly flammable material /rapid fire 
cycle
2.1.4 Landfill, Contaminated soils dangerous chemicals
highly flammable material /rapid fire 
cycle
2.1.5 Petroleum and service stations storage of dangerous chemicals
highly flammable material /rapid fire 
cycle
2.1.6 Underground storage storage of dangerous chemicals
highly flammable material /rapid fire 
cycle
2.1.7 Farming and forestry storage of dangerous chemicals
storage in a silo
highly flammable material /rapid fire 
cycle
2.1.8 Firing range storage of dangerous chemicals
highly flammable material /rapid fire 
cycle
ammunition
2.1.9 Flammable building storage of dangerous chemicals
highly flammable material /rapid fire 
cycle
2.2. Harbour, airport, terminal 2.1.1 Harbour storage of dangerous chemicals
transportation corridor 
(no dangerous goods)
open water or swimming areas
2.2.2 Airport storage of dangerous chemicals
transportation corridor (no dangerous 
goods)
2.2.3 Terminal storage of dangerous chemicals
transportation corridor (no dangerous 
goods)
2.2.4.Railway yard storage of dangerous chemicals
transportation corridor (no dangerous 
goods)
2.3. Transportation  2.3.1. Road  transportation corridor (no dangerous 
goods)
dangerous road crossing
transportation corridor for dangerous 
goods
parking for vehicles transporting 
dangerous goods
2.3.2.Railway transportation corridor 
(no dangerous goods)
dangerous crossing
transportation of dangerous goods
parking for vehicles transporting 
dangerous goods
2.3.3.Marine transport transportation corridor 
(no dangerous goods)
dangerous road crossing
transport of dangerous goods
parking for vehicles transporting 
dangerous goods
2.3.4.Pipeline pipeline with dangerous chemicals
pipeline under high pressure
   

Objects requiring special protection and their values

Objects requiring protection Values to be protected
1. Dwelling fe
property
environment
1.1 Dwelling
1.2 Group residence
(senior citizens and handicapped)
2. Medical and other care centre life
property
environment
2.1 Hospital
2.2 Other health centre
2.3 Child day care centre
3. Public place  life
property
environment
3.1 Meeting hall
3.2 Department store
3.3 Travel centre 
3.4 Hotel, conference, office
3.5 School
3.6 Outside: sports arena, market
4. Infrastructure life
property
environment
4.1 Water and sewer
4.2 Energy 
4.3 Communication (radio, telephone, TV) 
4.4 Military base, police, fire and rescue
5. Natural environment life, property,
environment
6. Cultural or historic site  life, property
environment