Social risk index to hurricanes in coastal regions of Rhode Island

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A commonly accepted framework of mass disaster evacuation postulates dependency on resilience and on exposure of the risk posed to groups by a threat. Resilience relates to the material and conceptual resources available within reach or through the larger community. Exposure varies with such factors as location relative to the threat agent's pathway, magnitude, and scope over time. Also commonly accepted is the chronic lack of resources and the dependence on public means that afflict disenfranchised segments of a population. Clearly, to mitigate the disparities in evacuation risk across social boundaries, it becomes imperative that the community at large make available tangible and intangible resources to its disenfranchised segments. A risk analysis helps agencies assess who faces the risks, where the risks are faced, which resources are lacking to cause facing of the risks, and what risks are being faced; the analysis thus eases derivation of a future scheme for the allocation of resources. This study ranks and compares the risks posed by hurricanes to the coastal towns of Rhode Island. To this end, it proposes a conceptual framework for assessing risk under hurricane threat. It then assesses a hurricane risk index that uses the social predictors of resilience prevailing within the hurricane evacuation zones in each coastal town. It gleaned the empirical data necessary for this assessment from disaster-related literature, emergency management agencies, and readily available GIS databases. This paper, in essence, exposes the social inequities that result in disparities in resilience among towns within the hurricane evacuation zones of coastal Rhode Island.

Publication Title

Transportation Research Record