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Social vulnerability to natural hazards: How development patterns and hazard types influence vulnerability in Weber County, Utah

Authors: Tiffany Woods*, Utah State University
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: natural hazards, social vulnerability, place inequalities, exposure, disaster management
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Exposure to natural hazards is anticipated to increase with climate change (Kim et al., 2016; Weis et al., 2016). Inherently vulnerable populations will be affected disproportionately (Burton & Cutter, 2008; Gaither et al., 2011; Collins, 2009), and inequalities of place have the potential to intensify social vulnerability. Place inequalities are a product of the built environment and development patterns (Cutter, Boruff, & Shirley, 2003). Recognizing that social vulnerability is influenced by place inequalities, this paper aims to answer the following questions: 1) Does social vulnerability vary between pluvial flooding and wildfire hazard areas in Weber County, Utah? and 2) Have development patterns increased exposure to these hazards? Drawing from the hazards-of-place framework (Cutter et al., 2003), a social vulnerability index (SoVI) accounting for socioeconomic status, race, English proficiency and mobility was developed at the census tract level. Using an ArcGIS overlay process, the SoVI and hazard data were joined to create composite indices for each hazard type. Landscape metrics were then used to identify differences in vulnerability between hazard type and assess contemporary and historical land cover data to determine if development patterns have influenced exposure. Preliminary findings demonstrate that social vulnerability does vary between hazard type and that development patterns have increased exposure. These findings could be applied to tailor disaster management efforts at the community level, targeting the most vulnerable populations. In addition, it could help establish best practices for developing in or near hazard areas and recommend landscape pattern changes that could mitigate hazard exposure.

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