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A GIS-based approach to identify the spatial variability of social vulnerability to seismic hazard in Italy

Frigerio, Ivan, Ventura, Stefania, Strigaro, Daniele, Mattavelli, Matteo, De Amicis, Mattia, Mugnano, Silvia, Boffi, Mario
Applied geography 2016 v.74 pp. 12-22
disasters, earthquakes, geographic information systems, geography, geophysics, humans, issues and policy, planning, risk, risk reduction, society, socioeconomic status, Italy
This paper argues for a multidisciplinary framework to assess the relationship between environmental processes and social sciences that can be adapted to any geographic location. This includes both physical (earthquake hazard) and human (social vulnerability) dimensions in the context of disaster risk reduction. Disasters varies drastically depending on the local context. Indeed, the probability of a natural disaster having more devastating effects in one place than in another depends on the local vulnerability components of the affected society (cultural, social and economic). Therefore, there is an important correlation between the potential risk and the social resistance and resilience of a specific place, thus the disaster response varies according to the social fabric. In this context, the evaluation of social vulnerability is a crucial point in order to understand the ability of a society (studied at individual, household or community level) to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of natural disaster events. Within this framework, the paper discusses how it is possible to integrate social vulnerability into the seismic risk analysis in Italy. Specifically, socioeconomic indicators were used to assess and mapping social vulnerability index. Afterwards, a Geographic Information System (GIS) approach was applied to identify the spatial variability of social vulnerability to seismic hazard. Through the use of a risk matrix, the classes of a social vulnerability index map were combined with those of a seismic hazard map proposed by INGV (National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology). Finally, a qualitative social vulnerability exposure map to an earthquake hazard was produced, highlighting areas with high seismic and social vulnerability levels. Results suggest the importance of the integration of social vulnerability studies into seismic risk mitigation policies, emergency management and territorial planning to reduce the impact of disasters.