Making Gulf Communities More Resilient: Scaling-up Customized Vulnerability Assessment for Extreme Events in Gulf Cities

Project Partners:

 Overview: Communities along the Gulf Coast are facing stronger and more frequent storms that are expected to worsen in the future. These disastrous storms cause damage to human life, property, and the overall well-being of communities along the coast. Oftentimes, just as communities are recovering from one storm, another strikes – making it difficult to prepare for these events. Local practitioners are doing their best to build resilience, and additional support, resources, and expertise can help practitioners better plan for and adapt to these events. Our project partnered with Gulf Coast communities to expand the region’s adaptation capacities through using cost-effective methods to facilitate collaboration with scientists and organizations that can provide technical assistance. This 3-year project used different technology-assisted communication methods (e.g., webinar) to work with 54 communities throughout Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to assess their vulnerability to storm events and help integrate adaptation practices into existing planning processes. Communities were randomly pre-assigned to an engagement method and provided with tools and guidance to enable them to complete tailored vulnerability assessments for different stormwater infrastructure and identify actions communities can take to reduce risk. Further, this project identified best practices to guide similar efforts in other communities in the Gulf and elsewhere.

Learn more about the effects of climate change across the Gulf Coast Region.

What: The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program awarded a 3-year project to GLISA at the University of Michigan where they had successfully co-developed and implemented vulnerability assessments with Great Lakes communities. In partnership with Headwaters Economics, Stanford University, Adaptation International and the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP, at the University of Oklahoma), the team worked with 54 small- and mid-sized coastal communities in the US Gulf region to strengthen their capacity to adapt to the negative impacts of extreme weather events. The goal of the study was to understand the opportunities for and barriers to using technology to enable practitioners and researchers to work together and the lower time, energy, and financial costs traditionally associated with cross-sector and distanced collaboration. More specifically, the 3-year project aimed to:

  1. Support communities to assess their vulnerability to extreme weather events, especially in relation to stormwater management, using a template co-developed by community practitioners and researchers;
  2. Test different ways in which technology (e.g., webinars, web-based tutorials) can assist community practitioners, researchers, and scientists in co-creating knowledge that will help the communities to become more resilient; and,
  3. Explore how these types of technology-based engagement can be disseminated and used by communities throughout the United States.

How: The project team recruited and engaged with 54 communities within 100 miles of the Gulf coast. Each community assembled a team of staff to complete a vulnerability assessment using an innovative online tool. With support and training from the project team, each community completed the assessment over the course of several months through one of three randomly assigned methods for engagement: face-to-face, webinar-assisted, or written/self-guided.

Anticipated Outcomes: All participating communities received: 

  • A guided step-by-step process that walks you through examining vulnerabilities to your stormwater system;
  • Weather, climate, and socioeconomic profiles tailored for your community; and,
  • Access to your comprehensive vulnerability assessment, training package, and continued support on provided resources.

Each completed vulnerability assessment will provide localized information on climate impacts and socioeconomic vulnerabilities (from the Neighborhoods at Risk tool), which can be incorporated into existing community-wide and sectoral planning processes. Communities that have used the tool previously report several beneficial outcomes from this information, such as updating land use plans, zoning ordinances, communicating about climate risks, and developing public health initiatives. Additional applications of the tool and the weather, climate and socioeconomic information include populating STAR Community Rating framework, improving emergency operations and hazard mitigation plans, identifying locations for green infrastructure projects, improving public outreach, and initiating cross-departmental conversations. A complete list of outcomes and testimonials from past community participants is available here. This extensive engagement process will also identify best practices for building collaborative relationships and can be replicated throughout the US, further advancing local resilience to impacts of extreme weather events.

This project was featured by the University of Michigan’s Engineering Research News, available here.

This project was funded by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program. Research reported on this website is supported by the Gulf Research Program of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine under the Grant Agreement Number 200010878. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Gulf Research Program or the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.