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Even obvious hazards can be overlooked if they happened before the recent history of the locality or if there is cultural denial of their existence. This drives an organized process:
First, what is the response history?  Do records document events, locations, and impacts?
Second, monitor news reports - ask if other disasters could occur in your area. 
Third, conduct a windshield hazard survey. Identify potential hazard sites using regulatory reports, safety inspections, existing plans, telephone books, maps, facility licensing data, etc. Drive through the locality looking for possible hazards.  Then contact owners to determine their perceptions of the level and character of the hazards.

Fourth, study local disaster history. Sources of data include newspaper files, local histories, the historical society, and monuments (data on the flood history may be recorded by a marker on a building that marks the water level of the big one).

Fifth, contact researchers.  A town built along a river bank with bluffs to its rear is obviously in a flood plain.  However, weather patterns, insect infestations, potential for wildfire development, fault lines, the potential for subsidence, etc., can be addressed by specialists.

Sixth, establish a process for environmental sensing to continually update the assessment.   Change in transportation, industrial and urban development, population densities, etc. is constant.