Disasters are not inevitable: social vulnerability, hazard losses, and adaptive learning in communities of the Atlantic and Gulf coastal watersheds
Lambrick, Jennifer E
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Hazard losses in the United States have increased over the past several decades. With over one-third U.S. residents living in coastal counties, the potential impacts from hazards related to coasts are a particular concern. The focus on social vulnerability is meant to address potential gaps disaster management; research and policy intends to limit exposure or decrease biophysical vulnerability. However, social vulnerability will need to be addressed for communities to more resilient. This study analyzes Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal watershed counties quantitatively to see if social vulnerability changes after multiple hazard events over ten years. It also provides a review of adaptive learning as a potential method for improved disaster management. 407 counties where at least one event occurred between 2000 and 2010 were analyzed for hazard losses and social vulnerability. Using the Spatial Hazard Events and Losses Database for the United States (SHELDUS), eight variables were assessed to understand hazard impacts. For social vulnerability, 12 indicators for 2000 and 2010 were used using data from the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) and U.S. Census Bureau. The SV variables were standardized and combined to see the change in 2010 from 2000. The change in social vulnerability results were then tested for correlation against hazard loss data. The results indicate that counties who experience a higher frequency of hazard events do not see a change in social vulnerability. However, property damage per capita and social vulnerability change show a statistically significant relationship. While it currently seems as though communities do not learn from experience, adaptive learning offers ways to learn from previous experience to better prepare for the future.
- Urban planning