Vulnerability of U.S. cities to environmental hazards

Kevin A. Borden, Mathew C. Schmidtlein, Christopher T. Emrich, Walter W. Piegorsch, Susan L. Cutter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


As cities continue to increase in size, population diversity, and complexity their vulnerability to future disasters will increase as well. This paper explores the variability in vulnerability to natural hazards among the 132 urban areas using three indices of vulnerability: social, built environment, and hazard impact. The paper then examines the relative levels of vulnerability compared to federal UASI funding. The paper demonstrates that vulnerability manifests itself as a place-based regional phenomenon, with the most vulnerable cities located in the eastern half of the U.S. The relative importance of the underlying correlates changes from city to city across the United States with social vulnerability assuming greater importance in the South and Southwest, and built environment vulnerability showing regional primacy as the driving indicator among Northeastern and Midwestern cities. Based on this empirical analysis, New Orleans was the most vulnerable urban area in the U.S. yet received only one percent of the preparedness resources awarded by the federal government.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5
JournalJournal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 25 2007


  • Natural hazards
  • UASI
  • Vulnerability metrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research


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