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A Multihazard Assessment of Age-Related Weather Vulnerabilities

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  • 1 NOAA/National Weather Service, Eureka, California
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Abstract

Weather fatalities for all age groups were examined for the period 1996–2018 using NOAA Storm Data. Vulnerabilities due to limited mobility that inhibited evacuation from a hazardous environment were observed for the very young and the very old. Those situations included heat- and cold-related hazards, tropical cyclones, and wildfires. Vulnerabilities associated with unrestricted mobility occurred in teenage through middle-aged groups, who were more exposed to fatal outcomes in the surfzone, mountain, winter-driving, and lightning environments. There is evidence that vulnerable members of society who received help from family, neighbors, and their community were more likely to avoid potentially fatal weather events, whereas those who were socially isolated were more likely to succumb. National Weather Service programs, such as Weather-Ready Nation, and other initiatives like the Community Emergency Response Team could potentially aid in reducing weather fatalities by encouraging communities to take a more proactive approach in ensuring physically vulnerable populations like the elderly receive assistance during hazardous weather events. Furthermore, weather-messaging strategies should be flexible enough to target populations who are vulnerable to specific hazards.

Current affiliation: NOAA/National Weather Service, Lubbock, Texas.

Corresponding author: Jonathan M. Garner, jonathan.garner@noaa.gov

Abstract

Weather fatalities for all age groups were examined for the period 1996–2018 using NOAA Storm Data. Vulnerabilities due to limited mobility that inhibited evacuation from a hazardous environment were observed for the very young and the very old. Those situations included heat- and cold-related hazards, tropical cyclones, and wildfires. Vulnerabilities associated with unrestricted mobility occurred in teenage through middle-aged groups, who were more exposed to fatal outcomes in the surfzone, mountain, winter-driving, and lightning environments. There is evidence that vulnerable members of society who received help from family, neighbors, and their community were more likely to avoid potentially fatal weather events, whereas those who were socially isolated were more likely to succumb. National Weather Service programs, such as Weather-Ready Nation, and other initiatives like the Community Emergency Response Team could potentially aid in reducing weather fatalities by encouraging communities to take a more proactive approach in ensuring physically vulnerable populations like the elderly receive assistance during hazardous weather events. Furthermore, weather-messaging strategies should be flexible enough to target populations who are vulnerable to specific hazards.

Current affiliation: NOAA/National Weather Service, Lubbock, Texas.

Corresponding author: Jonathan M. Garner, jonathan.garner@noaa.gov
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