Community Risk Management: it’s not just for risk.

How does Croton-on-Hudson (and neighboring communities) determine if a gain is worth the loss in choosing a course of action? That is, how do our elected officials determine that one need is important enough to spend money on and take action, rather than some other need?

I’m guessing there is no formula, but is there a system to the process? If so, I’d like to see it. In the meantime, I will propose one – it’s called Community Risk Management.

You may have heard terms like risk management, risk reduction, risk analysis, or something similar. They’re often found in professions like insurance, finance, disaster planning, healthcare, and others. Briefly, it’s a method of comparing potential risk, or loss, to gains, when considering different options in resolving an issue.

For example, buying an electric school bus versus diesel powered (an issue debated in Croton): which way offers the greatest gain? Or spending money to place a school guard at an intersection rather than money on redesigning the intersection. Or are both necessary? Every approach is likely to offer some gain and some sort of loss, financial or otherwise. The path that offers the greatest gain for the least loss is usually the best choice.

A risk management process can move discussions away from the “loudest voice in the room” and instead focus attention on what are called risk factors, the specific parts of an issue. Example, if the concern is pedestrian safety at a particular intersection, the factors may be the numbers and speeds of vehicles, and the length of the pedestrian crossing. Corrective actions might include shortening the crosswalk, installing a stop sign or traffic light, or utilizing a traffic calming device such as a speed hump. Each action will have issues of its own, like financial cost and logistical planning. The assessment is choosing the most beneficial course.

Listing and comparing these factors can offer everyone a clearer picture of the relative value of each, and the net gains of any choice. And, potentially, it allows for more complete agreement (consensus) as to what the best solution is.

This practice helps to take the personality out of decisions by putting the facts out in front so everyone – officials and citizens – can understand not just the decision that was made, but the steps that were taken to get there. Any government official should welcome this process as much as winning an election because decisions can be better explained and made more transparent (accountability).

A community risk management group should consist of representatives of all local government departments because issues under consideration can impact departments in unexpected ways, and individuals may have meaningful insights not usually expressed.

Community risk management works best when the process – the policies and procedures – are created by the individual local government. However, any design should include these five basic parts:

  1. Create a clear description of the issue, the narrative.
    2. Make a list of the component parts of this issue, the risk factors.
    3. Identify those parts that represent the greatest potential for risk or loss.
    4. Identify ways to mitigate loss.
    5. Select options offering the greatest gain for the least loss, document and communicate the process.

If you think this is a good idea, pass it on. A fuller explanation can be found at: