What TRIAD does:

  • Structures and focuses the assessment process
  • Accommodates both “hard” data and expert judgment
  • Goes beyond the “5 X 5” likelihood by consequence risk matrix
  • Facilitates likelihood judgments using both operations per time (day/week/month/year) and probability estimates
  • Separates consequence judgments by type of consequence to avoid false equivalences across types
  • Uses modifiable consequence dimensions (life/health, financial costs, operational disruption, social amplification are standard)
  • Guides assessment risks of secondary effects due to public reactions to events
  • Captures and displays uncertainty in likelihood estimates
  • Allows organization-specific customization

Overall Design

Risk is a function of likelihood and severity of consequences. Assessing risk is a matter of identifying the possible untoward events that could happen, estimating their likelihood, and judging the severity of the possible consequences of each event. Then these must be combined and displayed in a meaningful way.  TRIAD leads you through this process and produces several different displays. A central tenet of this approach is to ensure that each component of the process is clearly accessible and that uncertainty as well as “best estimates” are displayed. This allows discussions of risk to be focused on real issues such as determining how likely an event is to occur or what the consequences of the event would be, rather than devolving into a debate over what the ultimate risk estimate “should” be.


Managers, safety officers, engineers, and other individuals charged with making risk assessments often feel that the systems they are asked to use to make those assessments give them too little support. They report that the processes used are too vague, discussions of risks devolve into arguments over risk levels instead of the likelihood and consequence of possible outcomes, and the final results often seem arbitrary. 

Sophisticated risk assessment techniques can be used, but the effort and expense required to conduct full-fledged probabilistic risk assessments can rarely be justified under tight budgets for all of the risks that an organization must confront. So risk assessments are often made informally, looking at a “5 X 5” risk matrix.

TRIAD was designed to be a “middle way,” a different approach to risk assessment, that could guide individuals to follow a well-structured transparent assessment process which could be used to make both relatively quick rough assessments and more refined assessment when time permits. Sometimes a quick rough but accurate idea of attendant risks is what is needed to determine whether or not to invest more time, effort, and resources to develop more precise estimates.


The TRIAD program is designed to be used by informed individuals with minimal training. Throughout the program, brief descriptions of the components, helpful hints, and context sensitive help can be easily accessed. The program is divided into a set of worksheets. Each worksheet is devoted to a specific component of the assessment process. Although the program is arranged to encourage you to work through the risk assessment sequentially by tasks, in most cases, the order in which you enter information is not constrained. You can work through the process in whatever manner you find most efficient. If you find it necessary to return to a worksheet to change an entry, you can do so and all of the associated entries will be changed automatically. 

Adapting TRIAD

Although the general approach to risk assessment embodied in TRIAD will be useful in many domains, for maximum utility the tool should be adapted to your specific domain and operational environment. In particular, the default likelihood values, consequence dimensions, and additional decision criteria included in the tool may need to be adapted to fit the particular circumstances encountered in your domain and operational environment.  In addition, to obtain the full benefits of TRIAD and to use the approach efficiently and effectively some training in conducting risk assessments in general and using the TRIAD process in particular is needed.

More Information

For more information regarding TRIAD, to arrange a demonstration, or to discuss consulting with a Decision Research scientist about risk assessment and TRIAD, contact Andrew Quist at andrew@decisionresearch.org.