When beginning a community risk and vulnerability assessment, it is important to identify a number of factors listed below.
Know What You're Dealing With
To be more resilient, a community must identify the factors that contribute to its risks and
vulnerabilities. What is the probability of a hazardous event occurring? What are the potential impacts to people, property, and natural resources? What members of a community may be more vulnerable because of their income, age, or where they live? Knowing this information can help communities prioritize strategies aimed at reducing the impacts of coastal inundation and climate change. Listed below are five approaches a community should explore during this process.
Engage Multidisciplinary Stakeholders in the Process. Engaging a diverse group of people in coastal inundation risk assessment planning at an early stage is critical and will provide valuable knowledge, experience, and resources in the decision-making process. A wide range of stakeholders and decision makers should be included, from local floodplain managers and local government officials to state coastal resource managers and area business and community leaders. The "Introduction to Stakeholder Participation" publication discusses some of the most important considerations and provides common techniques used to increase stakeholder engagement.
Identify Inundation Hazards. Identify what coastal inundation hazards may occur within your community and where they are located. Existing data, information, and resources can help in this identification. The geographic extent of the area of interest will help determine what data and resources are appropriate, and what questions can be answered.
Identify Community Strengths and Weaknesses. List what people, natural resources, businesses, and roads and other infrastructure are located in high-risk areas. Assessing what community assets are located in coastal inundation hazard areas helps prioritize where additional assessments should be conducted and provides a framework for identifying goals, methods, and activities for a community's risk and evaluation plan. The Mapping Socio-Economic Variables Using 2000 Census Data (PDF) document provides instructions on how to create socio-economic spatial data useful in a risk assessment. The Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk training also explores data to use in an assessment.
Identify Risk Behaviors. Many factors influence how people act in the face of risk. People interpret these threats according to their experiences, emotions, and values, along with the information they receive. Identifying behavioral barriers and benefits is the first step in helping decision makers understand people's risk behaviors, the best ways to communicate with them, and the methods to change these behaviors.
Identify and Visualize County Data. Seeing data visually displayed is often the best way to understand a situation. The Coastal County Snapshots - Flood Exposure tool website is a good way to start. A pull-down menu lets users pick the coastal county of interest and see county-specific data. The data characterize a county's demographics, infrastructure, and environment within the floodplain. Download a full coastal county report to get more information on what steps a community might take to plan for hazards.
The easy-to-use format and presentation make Coastal County Snapshots - Flood Exposure a great learning and communication tool for local officials and their constituents. Snapshots are currently available for most coastal counties in the contiguous United States and Hawaii.
Coastal County Snapshots use data from a variety of sources. A visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) website shows the available flood data for coastal counties. FEMA creates the official floodplain maps that should be used in all floodplain management decisions.
Identify Adaptation Strategies. Once inundation risks and vulnerabilities have been identified, a plan is necessary to help guide a community's assessment goals, methods, and activities. The Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk training provides instructions on how to design an adaptable, inclusive assessment and community-planning process that considers coastal inundation risks and vulnerabilities and helps identify strategies for adaptation.