The cdc/atsdr public Health Vulnerability Mapping System: Using a Geographic Information System for Depicting Human Vulnerability to Environmental Emergencies Acknowledgements

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The CDC/ATSDR Public Health Vulnerability Mapping System:

Using a Geographic Information System

for Depicting Human Vulnerability to Environmental Emergencies


This paper was prepared as part of a joint project of the NCEH Office of Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response (OTPER) and the ATSDR Geospatial Research Analysis & Services Program (GRASP) to assist state and local health jurisdictions in their preparedness work.


Mark Keim, MD – Principal investigator

Rufus Reddick

Miguel Cruz, MPH

ATSDR GRASP working on the project:

Virginia Lee, MD, MPH, MA

Janet Heitgerd, PhD

Brian Kaplan, MS, MA

Ed Gregory, PhD

Melissa Smith, MA

Arie Manangan, MA

Paul Calame

Rand Young, MA

Steve Bullard, MA, JD

Barry Flanagan, PhD

Kevin Liske, MA

Bob Neurath, MA

Eric Burger

Table of Contents

I.Introduction to the White Paper 3

A.Purpose 3

II.Context and Background 4

A.Risk Reduction 4

B.Risk Analysis 4

C.Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA) 4

D.Development of CDC Public Health Vulnerability Application 5

III.Population Data 6

A.A Most-Vulnerable Populations Literature Review 6

B.Introduction 6

IV.Conclusion 12

A.Other Population Dynamics for Consideration 12

B.Data Sources 14

V.Hazards 15

A.Natural 15

B.Technological (Anthropogenic) 26

C.Acts of Terrorism 38

D.Hazardous Material and Hazardous Waste Transportation 40

VI.Preparedness 41

A.Data Sources 41

B.Tools for Preparedness and Emergency Response 43

VII.Vulnerability Analysis – GIS Methods for Data Overlay, Analysis and Display 46

A.Data Overlay 47

B.Data Analysis 47

VIII.References 53

IX.Tables and Figures 57

Table 1. Natural hazards and spatial layers 58

Table 2. Technological hazards and spatial layers 58

Table 3. Demographic Census Sources 59

Table 4: Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale 61

Table 5. Summary of National Response Center Reported Incidents 62

Table 6. EPCRA Chemicals and Reporting Thresholds 63

Table 7. EPCRA Reporting Schedules 63

Table 9. Homeland Security Infrastructure Program (HSIP) GOLD Dataset (NGA 2005) 65

Table 10. Homeland Security Infrastructure Program (HSIP) GOLD Dataset (NGA 2005) Files related to chemical sources. 80

Table 11. Web links for Section D. Hazardous Material and Hazardous Waste Transportation 80

Figure 1. Disasters Caused by Severe Thunderstorms 83

Figure 2. Disasters Caused by Tornadoes 84

Figure 3. Counties Susceptible to Significant Earthquakes 85

Figure 4. Disasters Caused by Flooding 86

Figure 5. The number of hurricanes expected to occur during a 100-year period based on historical data 87

Figure 6. Disaster Caused by Hurricanes or Tropical Storms 88

Figure 7. Disaster Caused by Winter Weather 89


Figure 8. Disaster Caused by Wildfires 90

Figure 9. Disasters Caused by Heat 91

Figure 10. Disaster Caused by Volcanic Activity 92

Figure 11. Counties Susceptible to Debris Flow 93

Figure 12. Actual Shipping Lanes or Representative Paths in Open Water – San Francisco Bay Area 94

I.Introduction to the White Paper


An important part of a public health professional’s job is to identify population groups vulnerable to environmental hazards. Such identifications assist in anticipating the effect an emergency or a disaster could have on persons within those groups. Yet while public health professionals might easily identify vulnerable population groups within, for example, parts of counties or in cities, they do not always have the authority or the resources to conduct similar vulnerability assessments across several such jurisdictions and sectors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Geospatial Research, Analysis, and Services Program (GRASP) uses Geographic Information System (GIS) software to provide support to the Director’s Emergency Operations Center (DEOC) including the production of maps showing populations who, during a disaster, could be at risk of higher morbidity or mortality. For example, the program staff can create maps that identify census geographies (tracts, block groups, blocks) that have a more vulnerable population. Vulnerable populations can be defined as groups with a larger percentage of elders, children, or those in a lower socio-economic status.

In 2007, the NCEH/ATSDR Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response requested GRASP to produce a white paper that catalogs readily available population and hazard identification data sources that can be used within a GIS to identify populations vulnerable to hazards. GIS tools and methods for population vulnerability analysis are also discussed.

How to Use This White Paper

This white paper is intended to serve as a reference for state and local health agencies. Because vulnerability mapping is a complex, multi-sectoral activity with ever changing data, this paper is not intended to document the entire range of activities of NCEH/ATSDR in addressing human vulnerability to environmental emergencies, nor does it provide an exhaustive listing of potential databases and resources. This white paper provides information on potential sources of data for populations and hazards that public health agencies may find useful and accessible when conducting vulnerability analyses.

Caveats and Limitations

The datasets included herein are all national in scope and may not provide sufficient detail for local jurisdictions. Additionally, the variables presented here serve as a broad overview and should be considered only a guide for potential indicators of vulnerability.

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