Population Evacuation: Assessing Spatial Variability in Geo-Physical Risk and Social Vulnerability to Natural Hazards

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Evacuation, Emergency services, Geographic information systems, Disasters, Hurricanes

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Developing an effective evacuation strategy for hurricane zones presents challenges to emergency planners because of spatial differences in geophysical risk and social vulnerability. This study examines spatial variability in evacuation assistance needs as related to the hurricane hazard. Two quantitative indicators are developed: a geophysical risk index, based on National Hurricane Center and National Flood Insurance Program data, and a social vulnerability index, based on census information. These indices are combined to determine spatial patterns of evacuation assistance needs in Hillsborough County, Florida. Four evacuation dimensions are analyzed: population traits and building structures, differential access to resources, special evacuation needs, and a combination of variables. Results indicate that geophysical risk and social vulnerability can produce different spatial patterns that complicate emergency management. Different measures of social vulnerability also confound evacuation strategies and can result in ineffective practices. It is argued that careful consideration be given to the characteristics of local populations

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Natural Hazards Review, v. 6, no.1, p. 23-33