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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Response Time to Flood Events using a Social Vulnerability Index (ReTSVI)


Alvaro Quezada-Hofflinger

Marcelo Somos-Valenzuela

Arturo Vallejos-Romero

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Secondary Title:
Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences Discussions


Current methods used to estimate people's evacuation times during a natural disaster assume that human responses across different social groups are similar. However, individuals respond differently based on their socioeconomic and demographic characteristics and previous knowledge. This article develops the Response Time by Social Vulnerability Index (ReTSVI), which is a methodology to estimate how human response time to evacuation warnings during a natural hazard is affected by considering characteristics related to both physical and social vulnerability. ReTSVI is a three-step methodology: first we calculate a population's evacuation curves considering social vulnerability level, certain demographic information and a model that describes an inundation hazard. Then, we use a mobilization model to generate evacuation maps per level of vulnerability and we also estimate the social vulnerability index for the area of study. In the third step, we combine the results from the second step to generate a map that indicates the percentage of people that could evacuate a hazard zone according to their social vulnerability level. Finally, we provide an example of the application of ReTSVI in a potential case of a severe flood event in Huaraz, Peru. The results show that during the first 5minutes of the evacuation, the population that lives in neighborhoods with high social vulnerability evacuate 15% and 22% fewer people than the neighborhoods with medium and low social vulnerability. These differences gradually decrease over time after the evacuation warning and social vulnerability becomes less relevant after 30minutes. Using a methodology such as ReTSVI allows first responders to identify areas where the same level of physical vulnerability affects distinct groups differently, providing them with a tool to quantify the differences in time to evacuate and where the resources before and during an evacuation should be preferentially allocated.