A Deliberative Method for Ranking Risks (I): Overview and Test Bed Development


H. Keith Florig Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.


Risk ranking offers a potentially powerful means for gathering public input to help set risk-management priorities. In most rankings conducted to date, the categories and attributes used to describe the risks have varied widely, the materials and procedures have not been designed to facilitate comparisons among risks on all important attributes, and the validity and reproducibility of the resulting rankings have not been assessed. To address these needs, a risk-ranking method was developed in which risk experts define and categorize the risks to be ranked, identify the relevant risk attributes, and characterize the risks in a set of standardized risk summary sheets, which are then used by lay or other groups in structured ranking exercises. To evaluate this method, a test bed involving 22 health and safety risks in a fictitious middle school was created. This article provides an overview of the risk-ranking method and describes the challenges faced in designing the middle school test bed. A companion article in this issue reports on the validity of the ranking procedures and the level of agreement among risk managers regarding ranking of risks and attributes.