Analysis of County Hazard Vulnerability Assessments for Flood Risk in Illinois
thesisposted on 28.10.2014, 00:00 by Ryan Cole
Flooding has been around for a long time, and in the United State it is the natural hazard that occurs most frequently and has caused the most property damage and death. Flooding is a hazard that communities continue to prepare for and adapt to. As part of this preparedness, communities must learn to assess the risks of this hazard. This study looked at how this is done by the public health sector in Illinois. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control created the document, Public Health Preparedness Capabilities: National Standards for State and Local Planning, to assist health departments in becoming more emergency-ready. The first capability, community preparedness, states that initially the risks to the health of the jurisdiction are to be assessed to determine priorities. In this study, hazard vulnerability assessments (HVAs) were gathered from the Illinois Department of Public Health for 94 of Illinois’ 102 counties. With little known about the value of the HVAs in Illinois, this study assessed the current perceptions of flood risk throughout Illinois based on the assessments and compared it to a geospatial flood-risk assessment. The geospatial assessment was part of a recent state flood-vulnerability assessment completed as part of the 2013 state mitigation planning process using Hazus-MH, a geographical information systems hazard software created by FEMA. From the gathered assessments, only 47 counties could be used for the comparison. This comparison revealed that of the 47 counties, 19 counties had comparable risk quartiles between the two methods. In addition, when using the Hazus-MH method as the more objective and standard method, it was found that 28% of the HVA-analysis counties assessed an overestimate of the flood risks and 32% of the counties in the HVA analysis assessed an underestimate of the flood risk. Beyond these findings specific to the flood-risk assessment there was also a lack of standardization within Illinois health departments and the way that the HVAs are implemented. This research has the potential to impact public health preparedness planning in Illinois by helping identify opportunities for improving the HVA process.