Vulnerability of U.S. Cities to Environmental Hazards

Kevin A. Borden 1 , Mathew C. Schmidtlein 2 , Christopher T. Emrich 3 , Walter W. Piegorsch 4 ,  and Susan L. Cutter 5
  • 1 University of South Carolina
  • 2 University of South Carolina
  • 3 Independent Scholar
  • 4 University of Arizona
  • 5 University of South Carolina

As cities continue to increase in size, population diversity, and complexity their vulnerability to future disasters will increase as well. This paper explores the variability in vulnerability to natural hazards among the 132 urban areas using three indices of vulnerability: social, built environment, and hazard impact. The paper then examines the relative levels of vulnerability compared to federal UASI funding. The paper demonstrates that vulnerability manifests itself as a place-based regional phenomenon, with the most vulnerable cities located in the eastern half of the U.S. The relative importance of the underlying correlates changes from city to city across the United States with social vulnerability assuming greater importance in the South and Southwest, and built environment vulnerability showing regional primacy as the driving indicator among Northeastern and Midwestern cities. Based on this empirical analysis, New Orleans was the most vulnerable urban area in the U.S. yet received only one percent of the preparedness resources awarded by the federal government.

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The Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (JHSEM) publishes original, innovative and timely articles describing and assessing research and practice in the fields of homeland security and emergency management. JHSEM promotes a comprehensive and dynamic perspective, providing readers with up-to-date information regarding the evolving nature of the homeland security and emergency management fields.

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