An integrated social vulnerability assessment of riverine flood hazards in Shelby County, Tennessee


Purpose: Vulnerability studies are commonly used to inform planning, as cities and regions seek to build resilience to environmental hazards. In Shelby County, Tennessee, socioeconomic census tract data were mapped to identify the socially vulnerable population and places to underpin strategies in the Mid-South Regional Resilience Master Plan (RRMP). While this is an important step in identifying vulnerability in the county, this paper aims to enhance the local analysis through an integrated approach that considers both social factors and environmental hazards in assessing vulnerability. Design/methodology/approach: This paper conducts a social vulnerability assessment by integrating a social vulnerability index with risk exposure analysis at the census tract level to identify the population and places vulnerable to riverine flooding in Shelby County. Findings: The analysis reveals that social vulnerability assessments that do not relate socioeconomic factors to specific environmental hazards such as riverine flooding underestimate the population and places that are vulnerable. For Shelby County, this has the tendency to undermine the prioritization and effectiveness of strategies to build resilience to riverine flooding and can worsen preexisting marginalization. Practical implications: This paper recommends integrated vulnerability assessments for each of the environmental hazards identified in the Mid-South RRMP to augment existing resilience efforts in the county. Originality/value: This paper enhances the understanding of social vulnerability assessments by consolidating the need for integrated assessment frameworks as basis for resiliency planning.

Publication Title

International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment