Natural Disasters - Moving Toward Improved Resilience

Full Session with Abstracts

340312-3 - Coastal Community Social Vulnerability in a Changing Climate

Saturday, April 21
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Location: 201A

Economic vulnerability indices traditionally consider three main components: shock, exposure, and
resilience. The same logic can be applied to the development of any other vulnerability index, such as a
hazard vulnerability index. Shock is defined as the occurrence of an unpredictable or unpreventable
hazard, such as a hurricane. Exposure is defined as the size, location, and building composition of the
community relative to the shock. Finally, resilience is the ability of the community to recover after the
Most traditional vulnerability indices linking natural hazards and communities have focused on shock and
exposure. However, these studies fail to cite the importance of resilience in the face of a natural hazard
or disaster. While structurally it is important to focus on building locations and code updates for the initial
impact of the hazard, accounting for the resilience of a community, or its ability to recover both in the
short‐term and long‐term, is essential when quantifying a community’s vulnerability to a hazard.
Resilience is very dependent on the social makeup, or characteristics, of its occupants.
There are studies that account for the resilience of communities through quantitative data such as
household composition, occupations and careers, economic and poverty levels, education levels, and
minority race and ethnicity. However, these studies often lack at least one other component of the threecomponent
index. Creating a vulnerability index that includes all aspects discussed above (shock,
exposure, and resilience) is becoming increasingly essential because coastal communities are observing
an influx of population. It is expected that the coastal population will increase by 8% by 2020. This coastal
population migration prediction comes at a time when the potential impacts of climate change on hazard
patterns are becoming more and more observed.
This paper aims to develop the Coastal Community Social Vulnerability Index (CCSVI) for the U.S. that
accounts for all three components: shock, exposure, and resilience. In addition, the index will account for
the dynamic impacts of climate change on hurricane activity and the dynamic changes that the social
composition of a community that may occur over time. An accurate vulnerability index/map could aid the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in allocating funds to prepare highly vulnerable areas.
This would allow the government and other agencies to be more proactive with monetary allocations in
order to minimize losses.

Sigridur Bjarnadottir

Assistant Professor
University of Hartford


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340312-3 - Coastal Community Social Vulnerability in a Changing Climate

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