For the InstructorThese student materials complement the Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.
Dimension 2: Sensitivity
In 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the Pacific coast of the Japanese island of TÅhoku caused a massive tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of buildings. It also caused a nuclear disaster in the form of meltdowns at three reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. However, other nuclear reactors within the path of this event's tsunami waves were essentially unaffected.
Credit: via Wikimedia Commons
Sensitivity to coastal hazards is more difficult to assess than exposure, particularly before a disaster occurs. Hurricanes and associated storm surge exposure are generally only possible in particular coastal areas globally, and are much more common in some areas than in others. Likewise, tsunami are generally caused by undersea or volcanic seismic events, which limits the number of places they can physically occur. Because we have much historical experience and physical science knowledge about these hazards, we can often predict with reasonable accuracy which places might be exposed.
Sensitivity, however, is not always as clear. As depicted in the vulnerability scoping diagram presented earlier in this module, one needs to consider both the components of sensitivity to a hazard and measures of that sensitivity. Two components of sensitivity often considered to be important to understanding vulnerability to coastal hazards are infrastructure and demographics. Of these, infrastructure is the more straightforward of the two to assess. Typically, information is readily available on infrastructure's date of construction, materials used, ability to withstand various hazards, and so on, particularly in developed countries. Understanding the condition and quality of infrastructure enables assessment of its sensitivity to hazards, and consequently the sensitivity of populations that rely on the infrastructure.
Demographic factors such as race, gender, and socioeconomic status can also play an important role in assessing sensitivity to coastal hazards. However, these factors are highly context-specific, and can also interact with one another.