Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute (HVRI)



Chlorine Spill (Graniteville, SC)
Repetitive SC Flood Losses
Decision-making and Long-Lead Climate Forecasts
LIDAR Floodplain Mapping
Historical Climate
Historic Inequities
Tornado Warnings
Richland County Vulnerability Assessment
Responding to September 11

Chlorine Spill in Graniteville, SC (January 6, 2005) Go to top

The January 6, 2005 train derailment and subsequent release of chlorine in Graniteville, South Carolina provides an opportunity to assess preparedness for and responses to hazardous materials spills. The incident resulted in nine fatalities and the forced evacuation of residents within a one-mile radius of the derailment, many of whom were out of their homes for a week or more. The lessons learned from the experiences of both emergency managers and the affected residents will help improve preparedness efforts in the future. This research will also assist in our understanding of how people respond to extreme events and those factors that influence evacuation decision-making.

Click here to read the report.


Assessing Repetitive Flood Losses in South Carolina Go to top

This project characterized the 199 communities in the state participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to assess those factors that facilitated or impeded the reduction of repetitive flood losses in the state. (S. Cutter, PI, SC Department of Natural Resources/FEMA)

Click here to download the full report.


Decision-making and Long-Lead Climate Forecasts Go to top

The focus of this collaborative project with Penn State was to understanding how water managers anticipate and adjust to climatic variability and how long-lead climate forecasts can help reduce their planning uncertainty and vulnerability. (B. Yarnal and K. Dow PIs, G. Carbone, S. Cutter, R. Bord, and R. O’Connor, co-investigators, Penn State University/NOAA)

Dow, K., R.E. O’Connor, B. Yarnal, G. J. Carbone, and C. L. Jocoy, 2006. "Why worry? Community water system managers’ perceptions of climate vulnerability," Global Environmental Change.

Yarnal, B., A.L. Heasley, R. E. O’Connor, K. Dow, and C. L. Jocoy, 2006. "The Potential Use of Climate Forecasts by Community Water System Managers," Land Use and Water Resources Research Vol. 6. Available online at http://www.luwrr.com/contents.html.

O’Connor, R. E., B. Yarnal, K. Dow, C. L. Jacoy, and G. J. Carbone, 2005. “Feeling At-Risk Matters: Water Managers and the Decision to Use Forecasts.” Risk Analysis 25(5): 1265-1275.

Carbone, G. J. and K. Dow, 2005. “Water Resource Management and Drought Forecasts in South Carolina”. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 41 (1): 145-155.


Evaluation of Airborne LIDAR-derived Floodplain Mapping Go to top

The use of airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data for the construction of topographic models and subsequent use in floodplain mapping is a recently developed approach. In a series of projects related to topographic model construction, the effects of LIDAR collection characteristics (e.g. spatial scale and vegetation phenology) on topographic accuracy and floodplain derivation were examined. (M.E. Hodgson, PI, NASA Affiliated Research Center, North Carolina Geodetic Survey)

M. E. Hodgson, J. R. Jensen, L. Schmidt, S. Schill, and B. Davis. 2003. "An Evaluation of LIDAR- and IFSAR-derived Digital Elevation Models in Leaf-on Conditions with USGS Level 1 and Level 2 DEMS", Remote Sensing of Environment 84 (2): 295-308.


Historical Climatic Reconstructions of the Southeastern United States Go to top

This project reconstructs past climate and climatic hazards for the southeastern United States from documentary evidence extending back to the mid-eighteenth century. The reconstructions provide a longer temporal perspective of interannual and decadal climatic variability, landfalling hurricane frequencies, historical floods, snowstorms, and heat waves. The reconstructions are also applied to understanding historical climatic linkages with society, such as during Yellow Fever epidemics and severe drought. (C. Mock, PI, National Science Foundation)

C. J. Mock. 2002. "Documentary Records of Past Climate and Tropical Cyclones from the Southeastern United States", PAGES News, 10: 20-21.

C. J. Mock. 2002. Report on "Workshop on Atlantic Basin Paleohurricane Reconstructions from High Resolution Records", The Quaternary Times 32:7.


Historic Inequities in Disaster Losses: Identifying Disaster-Prone Places Go to top

This project examined the geographic variability in historical hazard events and associated losses to see if the impact of these hazards is disproportionately found in low income and/or minority counties. To determine the spatial and temporal variability, two separate databases were constructed: a georeferenced database of natural hazard events and losses from 1950-to the present; county-level socioeconomic profiles generated for the same time period using Census data. (S. Cutter and D. Mileti, PIs, National Science Foundation)

Boruff, B. J., J. A. Easoz, S. D. Jones, H. R. Landry, J. D. Mitchem, and S. L. Cutter. 2003. "Tornado hazards in the United States." Climate Research 24: 103-117.

Cutter, S.L., B.J. Boruff, and W.L. Shirley. 2003. “Social Vulnerability to Environmental Hazards.” Social Science Quarterly 84(1): 242-261.


Improving Tornado Warning Effectiveness and the Fujita Scale Assessment Process Go to top

This project investigated the problems with the Fujita Scale assessment process. Using photographs of damage from an F3 tornado that struck Indianapolis on 9/20/02, a detailed analysis of the tornado’s damage path throughout Marion Co., IN was constructed. It is difficult to determine the F-Scale rating using some types of damage (e.g. damage to signs, factories, and malls). Surveys were used to assess how people responded to tornado warnings. The results from the project can be used to improve public safety during tornadoes and to make the warning process more effective. (Jamie D. Mitchem, PI, Natural Hazard Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado at Boulder, Quick Response Grant # 161)

An Analysis of the September 20, 2002, Indianapolis Tornado: Public Response to a Tornado Warning and Damage Assessment Difficulties: Click herefor the full report.


National Digital Clearinghouse for Hazard Event and Loss Data Go to top

This project developed a prototype data archive and web-based retrieval system for hazard event and losses for the United States using historic data for seventeen specific hazards (e.g. earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous material spills). (S. Cutter, PI, University of South Carolina Office of the Vice President for Research)

Go to SHELDUS(Spatial Hazard Events and Losses Database for the U.S.)


Richland County Vulnerability Assessment Go to top

This project examined the spatial variation of historical hazard events and current socio-economic indicators in order to gain a better understanding of the current biophysical, social and overall place vulnerability in the county. Such an in depth study provides the information needed by emergency managers, planners and the general public in order to better prepare for hazard events in the future. (S. Cutter, PI, SC Emergency Management Division)

Social Vulnerability Map
Hazard Vulnerability Map
Place Vulnerability Map


Use of Spatial Data and Geographic Technologies in Response to the September 11 Terrorist Attack Go to top

The project provided an evaluation of the use of geographic technologies in response (immediate rescue and relief phase) to the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. (S. Cutter, D.S.K. Thomas, and M. E. Hodgson, PIs, Quick Response Grant, University of Colorado/National Science Foundation).

Preliminary Report
Quick Response Report

Thomas, D. S. K., S. L. Cutter, M. E. Hodgson, M. Gutekunst, and S. Jones. 2003. "Use of Spatial Data and Geographic Technologies in Response to the September 11 Terrorist Attack on the World Trade Center," In Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, Public Entity Risk Institute, and Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems, Beyond September 11th: An Account of Post-disaster Research. Special Publication 39. Boulder, CO: Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado, pp. 147-162.