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Icon for: Laura Merner

LAURA MERNER

University of Maryland at Baltimore County

Abstract

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An Integrative Approach to Vulnerability Analysis: Assessing Risk Perception to Flood Hazards in Southern West Virginia

Despite significant research in the field, trends show that total damages from flooding events have been increasing in the U.S1,2. Vulnerability analysis was developed to assess and reduce potential harm generated by such disasters. Existing vulnerability research, however, has neglected to adequately take into account the role of risk perception on decision-making related to disaster mitigation, reducing the overall usefulness of its application. To reduce negative impacts from flood hazards there is a need to integrate risk perception analysis into vulnerability assessments. This study assesses risk perception through surveys and interviews to assess how individuals living in flood-impacted communities conceptualize flood risk.

This study looks to address three main questions: 1) How do individuals perceive flood risk levels? 2) What do individuals perceive as drivers of flood risk in their communities? And 3) What experiences have been most influential in shaping individuals flood risk perceptions? To answer these questions 38 surveys were conducted with individuals living in flood prone landscapes. Mean risk judgment numbers were calculated for 6 potential impacts of flood hazards. Five in depth interviews were conducted with residents within the study areas. Media analysis and analysis of weather data was conducted to understand the 2001 storm, which was consistently discussed in interviews as an indicator of increased flooding in the region. Further work will utilize this research to inform the development of an integrative vulnerability assessment method.