Hazards Societal Consequences and Risk Communication

Science Center Objects

The Hazards Societal Consequences and Risk Communication project is led by Anne Wein at the Western Geographic Science Center (WGSC).

The umbrella project is Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR), which estimates consequences of natural hazard disaster scenarios as a strategy to engage decision-makers in increasing a community’s ability to cope with the effects of a disaster. Scenarios for earthquakes (ShakeOut, HayWired), a winter storm (ARkStorm), and a tsunami have been developed with partners and stakeholders to apply scientific information to community decision making and emergency management. The scenarios are constructed from a foundation of earth science describing the hazard events that are translated into physical and environmental damages, and social and economic consequences. WGSC's role has been geographical analyses, the coordination of societal consequences, and contracting of project evaluations. Experience with SAFRR scenarios has inspired and enabled other research in related areas of risk analysis and risk communication. One example is research about the communication of aftershock information during the Canterbury New Zealand earthquake sequence.

WGSC’s researchers - in cooperation with other USGS science centers and external subject experts - engage in the following analyses:  

Geographical Analyses — The center has conducted GIS analyses across the science, engineering, environmental, and societal consequence aspects of the scenarios. Spatial analyses are used to map multiple hazards and estimate the exposure or damages to populations, land uses, infrastructures, and buildings to these hazards.

Economic Consequence Analyses — Economic consequence analysis pertains to business interruption (productivity) losses due to physical damages, lifeline service outages, and ripple effects along supply chains. In catastrophic events when recovery languishes for many years  business interruption losses can exceed physical repair and replacement costs (e.g., Hurricane Katrina). The economic consequence analysis includes an investigation of economic resilience at the levels of firms, sectors, and the regional economy. In collaboration with the University of Southern Californian and Boston University and the Association of Bay Area Governments, economic forecasting and policy analysis tools (e.g., Input-output, REMI, and computable general equilibrium models) are applied to estimate potential business interruption losses and economic resilience.

Recovery Analyses and Community Studies — Just as police and fire fighters need exercises to prepare for emergency response, so must the "second wave" of responders — city managers, planners, building officials, engineers, and other staff who will have local recovery responsibilities. Thus, the recovery phase of a disaster also deserves attention in scenario-based emergency management exercises. In collaboration with Laurie Johnson Consulting, Inc. the ShakeOut scenario was extended by populating a recovery model in consultation with communities, and the HayWired scenario includes an integrated analysis of communites at risk.

Qualitative Analyses — Surveys and qualitative analyses are used to evaluate the effectiveness of the SAFRR scenario development process, project outputs, and communication of results. WGSC has managed evaluation contracts for the Tsunami and HayWired scenario with the Natural Hazards Center Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder. In collaboration with GNS Science, WGSC studied the communication of aftershock information during the Canterbury earthquake sequence.