Nearly a Quarter of Iowans Extremely Vulnerable to Disasters
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
From historic floods to the 2020 derecho, Iowans are familiar with natural disasters. With the spring storm season underway, local governments are reminded of a tool to determine if their residents will have a harder time recovering from these events.
The U.S. Census Bureau said its new Community Resilience Estimates tool compiles certain characteristics of a neighborhood, such as socio-economic factors and transportation options.
Bethany DeSalvo, statistician and demographer at the Bureau, said they then use the data to predict how vulnerable a household is in the face of a flood or tornado.
"What we mean by vulnerable is not having the ability to cope with the external stressors of the disaster," DeSalvo explained.
It could include overcoming language barriers in seeking disaster assistance. DeSalvo pointed out the tool can help local planners come up with more resources in a vulnerable area, including evacuation spaces.
According to the bureau, roughly 20% of residents across Iowa have three or more risk factors. Another 40% have one or two.
DeSalvo noted a key goal behind the initiative is to establish more equity in disaster recovery, but she added it can also help reduce government costs in rebuilding after a storm.
"With the effects of climate change, you may see more and more expensive disasters," DeSalvo emphasized. "Planning ahead of time and mitigating the things that can be mitigated is a really good goal."
In addition to local governments, DeSalvo stressed it can be a vital tool for FEMA, as it can help the agency determine the number and type of personnel to deploy, along with disaster assistance programs activated for specific areas.
With the 2020 census continuing historical trends in terms of undercounts for racial groups, officials say the approach might address some subsequent service gaps in not counting everybody.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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