Hazard Identification

It is important to note that within the CRMP Hazard Identification, Risk Analysis, and Decisions-Making Guidance there is some intentional repetition of overlaying information.

This is due to the fact that each element of the CRMP Guidance must be capable of use as a ‘stand-alone’ document, as well as within the suite of CRMP Guidance.

Who is the guidance for?

This guidance on Hazard Identification in the Community Risk Management Planning (CRMP) process is for those tasked with leading, managing, and developing the CRMP for UK Fire and Rescue Services. According to the CRMP Fire Standard, fire and rescue services must:

Identify and describe the existing and emerging local, regional and national hazards it faces, the hazardous events that could arise and the risk groups (People, Place, Environment and Economy) that could be harmed.

In 2020, the NFCC’s Community Risk Programme (CRP), through its Definition of Risk (DOR) project, delivered a national definition of risk, a Glossary of risk-related terms, and a conceptual risk framework for the UK Fire and Rescue Service to help bring national and local consistency to community risk management planning.

The DOR report comments that “Even the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) has struggled to gain acceptance for a definition of risk intended to be suitable for all contexts”.  Therefore, it is important to note that definitions within this guidance are intended for community risk management only and should not be adopted for risk management activities in other areas of FRS business.

The whole CRMP process is underpinned by three key themes that should support, influence, and inform each component throughout the entire process:

These themes should be utilised to ensure each component within the process has been developed using a broad range of community and organisational intelligence, and links are made throughout this guidance.

Individuals within a Service who work to develop a CRMP may differ between fire services and may differ from one cycle of CRM planning work to the next.  With these acknowledgements in mind, a series of Competency Frameworks have been developed to clearly articulate the requisite competencies (behaviours, skills, knowledge, experience, and techniques) required to develop a CRMP.  

Within the competency frameworks, the requisites are outlined for strategic level staff, as well as risk analysis and implementation level staff.


Hazard identification aims to find and describe hazardous events that might prevent, or help, a Service achieve its community risk management objectives and provide insight into how it will deploy its resources.  This involves the identification of the following:

  • Hazards – potential sources of harm
  • Hazardous events – potential events that can cause harm
  • Risk groups – people or assets that could be harmed

The key elements under this component include the following:

  • Identification and assessment of all identifiable potential hazards that the CRMP process needs to address, together with their potential for harm. .
  • Detailed cataloguing of all potential hazards or hazardous events.
  • An assessment of the potential level of severity of impact from these hazards and their resulting hazardous events.
  • Identification of the places or risk groups that are most at risk of harm from these hazards.


What are the potential sources of harm that could impact risk groups?

The DoR project tells us that a hazard is defined as “a potential source of harm”.  This is distinct from “risk”, which includes the likelihood of the harm occurring and its severity.  This is a well-known distinction in the safety field, although the term “hazard” is uncommon in other risk fields.  The distinction has the advantage that hazards can be described in purely practical terms, without raising the theoretical question of how likely they are to occur.

Hazard identification can involve historical data, theoretical analysis, informed and expert opinions, and informed forward-looking judgements. It should also identify emerging or foreseeable hazards and involve, and therefore reflect, stakeholders and their needs.

Internally, a wide range of relevant colleagues should be involved.

Externally, it may be both prudent and informative to involve sources such as the Community and National Risk Registers, Subject-Matter Experts, and Academia.  See the Data and Business Intelligence.

Involving a wide range of stakeholders gives a greater chance of being able to define the service’s risks effectively so that more carefully judged decision-making results from the identification of the hazardous event.

It should always be considered that the viewpoint of the FRS is limited to what it knows.  Taking the results of preliminary Hazard Identification for review by those within the community and asking, ‘What have we missed?’ may offer critical and useful insight.  It also helps to build community confidence in the decisions that are made.  See Stakeholder and Public Engagement Guidance.

Seeking a variety of views, including the views of external stakeholders as well as colleagues and those in neighbouring FRSs and other First Responder services, will help avoid ‘group think’ or ‘tunnel vision’.  It may also provide a further understanding of risk and overcome any misconceptions.

Closely related to stakeholder and public engagement is the need to undertake a proper Equality Impact Assessment to ensure inclusivity for all communities, service users, and employees who share the characteristics protected by the Equality Act 2010.

As one of the key themes featured within the CRMP Strategic Framework, the Equality and People Impact Assessment/s should be considered at each stage of developing a CRMP to ensure that each component of the process is being supported by the broadest range of evidence and intelligence available.

It may be helpful to categorise hazard identification by groups (perhaps by theme, activity, source, and so on) to help with the task of identifying hazardous events.

One of the outputs of the DoR Project is a Hazard Identification Model developed by Cleveland Fire and Rescue. This gathers potential sources of harm into five main groups – see –Table 1,below.

Here, emerging and foreseeable hazards that may impact Community Risk are also included.

Hazard Identification may draw on the themes shown in Table 1, or use the themes described under CRMP Scope.

They may also refer to the expanded Table 2 below that has incorporated more recent input.

Identify Hazards (Community) Examples
Structures Domestic Residential Building

Other Buildings

Utility Sites

Underground Tunnels

Licenses waste sites

Transport Road




Industrial HazMats Sites

Hazardous Transport

Environmental Wildfire


Malicious Attacks/Terrorism Marauding Terrorist attack
Emerging / foreseeable Climate Change
New Technology

Table 1: Cleveland FRS model developed for the Definition of Risk Project

In the hazard identification part of the process, there is no strict need to be concerned about the likelihood of occurrence of the hazardous event(s). However, this information does need to be considered as part of the Risk Analysis (forthcoming) part of the process.  With that in mind, it is advisable when planning the data and evidence collection approach (Data and Business Intelligence Guidance) and stakeholder engagement strategy (Stakeholder and Public Engagement Guidance) that these maximise opportunities by seeking out data relevant to both hazard identification and risk analysis in tandem.

The hazard identification process, carried out thoroughly, will reveal the ‘what, where, when, why, and how’ of hazardous events that could happen and the range of possible effects on objectives (i.e. the ‘consequences’).  It is essential to have frequent scheduled conversations about each risk to maintain a continual update of hazard identification, as new hazards emerge from continual changes in communities and wider society. For each FRS the level of granularity will be individually assessed

Tips for effective hazard identification:

  1. Ensure that the scope is fully established
  2. Gather, consolidate, and analyse relevant historical information and data.
  3. Undertake horizon scanning of emerging risks.
  4. Involve people with a wide range of experience in the CRMP process.
  5. Ensure that hazards are clearly described and that each hazard is distinct from other identified hazards with no overlaps.
  6. Sense check with a wide range of stakeholders.
  7. Establish the level of depth required for both Hazard Identification and Risk Analysis at the outset, and note rationale to establish the scope.
  8. Consolidate evidence gathering and stakeholder engagement methods to meet the needs of both stages.
  9. Record and date the output fully with a version control preface that can record all future changes and their dates and preserve the record for future reference and evaluation.
  10. Records should attach or give a link to the statement of scope from which the hazards were identified.

Hazardous Events

What are the potential events that could lead to a hazard causing harm to a risk group?

The DoR Report documents specific potential events that can cause harm. They differ from hazards as follows:

  • Hazardous events are specific occurrences and can be counted and quantified. For example, if the hazard is “a high-rise building”, the corresponding hazardous event might be “fire in a high-rise building”.
  • Hazardous events should be mutually exclusive so that they can be quantified separately. For example, two hazards might be “a high-rise building” and “dwelling fire,” but the corresponding hazardous events must eliminate any potential overlap. For example, the events may be recorded as “high-rise building fire” and “low-rise dwelling fire” – such that a single event could not be counted under both categories.  Without this effort to make the categories distinct from one another, hazardous events may be counted under either where both apply, which risks inaccurate recording or double counting.
  • Hazardous events are representative of the range of such events that might occur, so it is practical to assess the estimated level of risk. For example, a hazard such as “dwelling fire” might be split into “minor”, “severe but contained”, and “uncontained”.  It will be important to provide a clear definition as to what constitutes each of these categories.

Hazardous events may have more than one type of consequence.  Therefore, they may affect more than one of the Service’s objectives.

The DoR Project Hazard Identification Model developed by Cleveland Fire and Rescue tmaps potential sources of harm to potentially hazardous events.  This has been expanded for this Hazard Identification Guidance, according to feedback from consultation.

Identify Hazards (Community) Examples Hazardous Event
Structures Domestic Residential Building Fire
Other Buildings Fire
Utility Sites Fire
Underground Tunnels Fire
Licenses waste sites Fire
Transport Road Road Traffic Accident
Vehicle Fires
Rail Collisions
Track intrusion
Air Air Traffic Accident
Marine Water Rescue
Vessel Fires
Industrial HazMats Sites Fire involving HazMats
Release Leak/Spillage
Hazardous Transport Road Traffic -Accidents
Vehicle Fires
Product spillage
Environmental Fire vulnerable areas Wildfire


Water Rescue
Coast Cliff collapse
Terrorism Marauding Terrorist Attack (MTA) Chaotic evacuations
Damage to infrastructure
Collapse of structures
Chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) Wide-ranging evacuation
Hazardous spillage
Contamination of food and water sources
War Explosions
Collapse of structures
Potable water shortages
Wide-ranging evacuations
Emerging / foreseeable Climate Change Flooding
Soil structure changes, causing collapse of structures
New Technology Building fire
Vehicle Fires
Ageing demographic Increasing frailty causing fire
Increasing frailty causing difficulties in emergency evacuation
Social inequality and unrest Social media attacking all uniformed services
Economic decline (cost of living) Failed attempts to circumvent energy connections
Inappropriate and dangerous improvisations for heating
Social media promoting dangerous solutions
CO2 accumulation in confined premises
Increasing number of people at risk
People and Behaviours Fire setters (youthful) Fire
Arson (intentional) Fire
Marauding Terrorist Attack (MTA) Structural collapse
Trampling in crowds
Chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) Widespread spillage
Toxic pollution
Mass evacuation
Animal stampedes
Overcrowding Rapid spread of infection
Contamination of water sources
Increasing deprivation Health and safeguarding issues
Riots Fire
Structural damage
War Explosions
Collapse of structures
Potable water shortages
Wide-ranging evacuations

Although identifying community risk should be comprehensive (and therefore consider all significant causes and consequences), it does not have to describe every outcome of every stage of every possible sequence of cause and effect.  Its purpose is to identify sufficient hazardous events to characterise the risk so that there is a reliable basis for Risk Analysis.

Risk Groups

Who or what within the community is at risk of coming to harm?

Risk groups are relevant throughout the assessment, defined as the people or assets that could be harmed by hazards. They should be defined by the scope and objectives of the study, as they are the people and assets that the FRS aims to protect.  The Risk Analysis (forthcoming) should consider the likelihood and consequence of hazardous events on each group and combine them to form risk metrics appropriate for each.  There may be separate risk criteria for each group.

Six Risk Groups

Risk groups are sets of people or assets that are exposed to the risk and might be harmed. The NFCC has defined six groups relevant to community risks:

These are defined as follows:

Individual Risk Group comprises an individual or small group of individuals within a single dwelling or location who have the potential for death or injury from the identified hazard. Societal Risk Group is a term originally established in the Fire Service Emergency Cover Toolkit and IRMP guidance and refers to the potential for multiple injuries or fatalities emerging from the identified hazards.  It originally applied to building fires, but can be applied to other hazardous events.

Emergency Responder Risk Group refers to the Emergency Responder risk of death or injury due to the hazardous items or processes present in a location, the complexity of layout, or when they are unable to use their normal safe systems of work and require an adapted response.


Environmental Risk Group covers the potential for a hazardous event to negatively impact the environment in the immediate or wider vicinity.


Heritage Risk Group comprises premises or sites of heritage value that have the potential for partial or total loss of items or structures.  Our historic environment enriches our quality of life and contributes to local character and a sense of place, this is of special importance nationally, or may even be important internationally.

Community Risk Group is the potential for a hazardous event to create severe consequences for a local community or wider economy.  This may be linked to public risk perception, sense of well-being, mental health, financial position, loss of critical public services, social interaction, political and media impact etc. e.g., loss of a school or hospital, loss of a major local employer or interruption of unique or critical business to the UK economy/society.

Appendix 1 - Hazard Identification Competencies

The Competency Framework for CRMP articulates the requisite competencies (behaviours, skills, knowledge, experience, and techniques) required to undertake CRM planning.

Within the competency frameworks, the requirements for strategic level staff members are outlined, as well as those for people undertaking risk analysis and implementation.

Strategic level (FRA members, PFCC, CFO, Chief Fire Officer team)

  1. Robust understanding of the interpretation and assessment of local, regional, and national hazards assessments.
  2. Focused ability to balance and prioritise the likelihood and consequences of hazardous events.

Risk analysis and implementation level

  1. Proven ability to implement effective and methodical collection and interpretation of incident data from incident recording system and national data on a wide range of potential influencing factors.
  2. Proven ability to effectively analyse and interpret hazards, hazardous events and risk groups clearly linked to likelihood and consequences.
  3. An ability to systematically acquire and maintain a comprehensive picture of all factors affecting both the built environment and the population of the FRS area, which are likely to have an impact on their safety.
  4. A sound understanding of the socio-demographic, geographic and economic factors throughout the FRS’s area which may make communities more vulnerable to harm and risk

As highlighted within the competency frameworks, most FRSs will have strategic leads for different areas of business, for example: Equality and Diversity, ICT, data and business intelligence, and partnership working, etc.  Where there is no existing provision for this strategic leader role in the FRS’s community risk management planning process, or access to a senior leader from elsewhere, an FRS should consider how best to ensure there is appropriate direction and accountability, and document this decision and its rationale.