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Social vulnerability: An emergency managers’ planning tool

Garrett Dolan, PhD, Dmitry Messen, PhD


The frequency of natural disasters in the United States is increasing.1 Since 1953, there has been an average of 35 Federal Emergency Management Agency declared disasters per year.2 However, more concerning is that the number of declarations has more than doubled over the last 5 years for an average of 73 per year. Although it is true that natural disasters affect everyone regardless of their respective health and/or wealth, it is also true that not everyone will experience the event in the same way. Those who can adapt to changing situations are more likely to overcome adversity. This article explains social vulnerability as an emerging concept in natural hazard management and demonstrates its utility as a tool for planning and preparing for emergencies within the Houston-Galveston hurricane storm surge evacuation zones. Practitioners will gain insight into the characteristics that make individuals vulnerable while providing a basis for determining how to plan for their needs.


social vulnerability, evacuation, natural disaster, hazard, hurricane storm surge, emergency management, planning tool

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