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Protecting communities, saving lives

NSF Award:

Idaho Research Infrastructure Improvement: Water Resources in a Changing Climate  (University of Idaho)

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Scientists at the University of Idaho have developed a method to better assess community vulnerability to natural hazards. The Spatially Explicit Resilience and Vulnerability (SERV) model advances existing vulnerability science by identifying causes of vulnerability for local communities.

The intersection of natural hazards and human populations can result in significant loss of human life and property.  A better understanding of the distribution of a community's vulnerability improves comprehensive and hazard mitigation planning, thus potentially saving lives and protecting property. It also allows communities to better allocate limited resources to the most strategic areas for hazard mitigation.

Human populations and societal assets are dispersed unequally across landscapes. Such distribution causes communities to experience different levels of vulnerability to natural disasters. Vulnerability is the potential for loss and is a function of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. The new SERV model accounts for vulnerability at the subcounty level and calculates vulnerability as a function of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity.

The model was initially conducted using Sarasota County, Fla., as a case study, but is now being applied to the state of Idaho  Datasets completed thus far are currently used by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security for public health preparedness planning and hazard mitigation, as well as climate change adaptation planning.

Images (1 of )

  • map shows assessment scores based on a community's vulnerability to natural hazards
  • map shows vulnerability to natural hazards for local communities
Traditional hazard assessments at the county level.
Tim G. Frazier and Courtney Thompson, University of Idaho
The SERV model provides natural hazard risks for local communities.
Tim G. Frazier and Courtney Thompson, University of Idaho

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