The capability concept – On how to define and describe capability in relation to risk, vulnerability and resilience

Hanna Lindbom, Henrik Tehler, Kerstin Eriksson, Terje Aven

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Capabilities-based planning and capability assessment are high on the agendas of several countries and organisations as part of their risk management and emergency preparedness. Despite this, few definitions of capability exist, and they are not easily related to concepts such as risk, vulnerability and resilience. The aim of the present study was thus to broaden the scientific basis of the risk field to also include the concept of capability. The proposed definition is based on a recently developed risk framework, and we define capability as the uncertainty about and the severity of the consequences of an activity given the occurrence of the initiating event and the performed task. We provide examples of how the response capability for a fictive scenario can be described using this definition, and illustrate how our definition can be used to analyse capability assessments prepared according to the Swedish crisis management system. We have analysed the content of 25 capability assessments produced in 2011 by stakeholders on local, regional and national level. It was concluded that none addressed uncertainty to any appreciable extent, and only a third described capability in terms of consequences and task, making it difficult to relate these capability assessments to risk assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-54
JournalReliability Engineering & System Safety
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Free keywords

  • Capability assessment
  • Capacity assessment
  • Risk and vulnerability assessment
  • Resilience
  • Emergency management
  • Definition


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