Hurricane Irma, the Category 4 hurricane moving at high speeds towards Florida, won’t affect all communities in the same way.
The impact of flooding may be felt much more intensely in areas with large numbers of elderly or disabled people, who may have mobility impairments or special medical issues. Areas with higher rates of poverty often experience significant challenges with access to basic necessities under normal circumstances, which may be exacerbated in times of emergency.
For example, the northwestern side of Miami-Dade County, from Hialeah to Miami Gardens, as well as the south side of Tampa, are high on the vulnerability scale. Immokalee, which is inland in southern Florida, is also has high vulnerability.
Communities with large numbers of recent immigrants or persons for whom English is not their first language may be less well integrated into existing resilience structures, or in some cases experience social isolation and discrimination. Many other factors, such as housing and transportation, also exist. When looked at collectively, they indicate a community’s “social vulnerability” to disasters.
As Direct Relief and partner clinics in Florida prepare to respond to the imminent landfall of Hurricane Irma, predicted to strike at Category 4 force and produce a dangerous combination of high winds, heavy rains and coastal storm surge when it makes landfall Sunday, we are paying particular attention to places which may be socially vulnerable for one reason or another. Using this mapping application, Direct Relief can identify areas of social vulnerability proximate to the storm path and to community clinics, as well as variations in the reasons for their vulnerabilities.
The data which drives Direct Relief’s social vulnerability application is based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index model, updated as of the end of 2014. The model uses census data at the census block level to understand relationships between different ways that disaster-affected communities may experience significant challenges in response and recovery in order to tailor resources, communications and planning to their needs.