Author

Logan Lee

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Susan L. Cutter

Abstract

The vulnerability and resilience of communities to hazards is a concept that has gained traction in the research community in recent decades. Climate change, combined with increasing damages from natural hazards, has energized researchers and practitioners alike to identify the risks to people and places from future losses. Military communities support large military bases and are composed of service members, their families, and civilian populations alike. Due to the presence of military installations and military populations, the characteristics of the population and influences in military communities are unique. However, there is a gap in current research to assess whether the unique characteristics of military populations and places extend to the underlying social vulnerability and resiliency in the community and what the contributing factors are. Additionally, hazard losses in military communities and their relative hazardousness has yet to be identified, even though significant disasters have negatively impacted military bases and communities in recent years.

Hazard losses, social vulnerability, and community resilience are the three components in the hazardousness of military communities that are explored in this research. Hazard losses are quantified using the Spatial Hazard Events and Losses Database for the United States (SHELDUS), while social vulnerability and resilience use the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI®) and the Baseline Resilience Indicators for Communities (BRIC) as their measures. SoVI and BRIC enable relative comparisons between places and are the best available indices designed to measure the multidimensional constructs of social vulnerability and resilience, respectively. Descriptive statistics, inferential statistics, and spatial statistics were performed to assess differences in the variables.

Military communities have significantly lower levels of hazard losses and social vulnerability than other communities in the United States, while significant differences in community resilience were not detected. When exploring the factors of social vulnerability, lower age dependency and higher service sector employment are the main contributors to those differences regardless of location. Air Force communities are the most socially vulnerable to hazards among military communities, while Navy communities, which are located along the coasts and have higher amounts of wealth, are the least socially vulnerable. For resilience, lower amount of community capital in military communities is the dominant factor and is consistent across geographies. Navy communities demonstrate the lowest resiliency levels, driven by significantly lower levels of community capital. In contrast, Army communities have the highest levels and are mostly located in high community capital clusters. Hazard losses in military communities are highest near the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the Dakotas. Select military communities in south Texas, New Mexico, and southern Alabama have above average levels of social vulnerability and hazard losses, and below average levels of resilience.

The results demonstrate that military communities' hazardousness is different from those of other communities in the United States and even within military communities based on the type of military base in those communities. Trends were not always consistent as unique findings occurred in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia and the Washington D.C metropolitan area. Some findings, such as those related to the importance of community capital to resilience, support the conclusions of research done at the community level and those at the individual and family level in military homes. The findings enable community leaders, state officials, and leaders in the Department of Defense to target critical areas that can reduce the hazardousness and improve military communities' resilience in the United States.

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