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Community Based Vulnerability Assessment: A Guide to Engaging Communities in Understanding Social and Physical Vulnerability to Disasters

In response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Isabel, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) launched the Emergency Preparedness Demonstration Project (EPD) to understand the barriers that prevent disadvantaged communities from being aware of and prepared for disasters. The goal of the demonstration project was to uncover promising strategies for involving disadvantaged groups in the process of raising their awareness of and preparedness for disasters. In 2005, FEMA entered into a cooperative agreement with MDC, Inc. to manage this project, in partnership with the University of North Carolina’s Center for Sustainable Community Design (CSCD) within the Institute for the Environment (IE). The project was carried out in six states affected by Hurricane Isabel plus the District of Columbia: Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. One site was selected from each state.

Published in March 2009, this guidebook grew out of the demonstration project and incorporates the lessons learned from the six demonstration sites. It is designed to help communities identify vulnerable populations, anticipate how they will be affected by likely hazards and develop strategies for reducing their vulnerability. The guidebook provides a step-by-step process for preparing an assessment of a community’s physical and social vulnerability to disasters, both natural and technological, and includes detailed instructions for conducting an assessment, a list of information that is needed to complete the assessment, and worksheets for compiling and organizing data collected.