Major Storms and Community Resilience > Unit 1: Foundational Concepts

Unit 1: Foundational Concepts

Created and compiled by:

Lisa Doner (Plymouth State University), Lorraine Motola (Metropolitan College of New York), and Patricia Stapleton (Worcester Polytechnic Institute).

These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards as detailed below. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more.

Overview

This unit introduces the complex system and interactions that influence hazard management in communities. After quantitatively deriving concepts of probability and risk for a given hazard, students read and evaluate hazard management plans for a community. They use concept maps to diagram the system of interrelated components of a particular hazard.

Science and Engineering Practices

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking: Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations. HS-P5.2:

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking: Apply ratios, rates, percentages, and unit conversions in the context of complicated measurement problems involving quantities with derived or compound units (such as mg/mL, kg/m3, acre-feet, etc.). HS-P5.5:

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations. HS-P6.5:

Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Apply concepts of statistics and probability (including determining function fits to data, slope, intercept, and correlation coefficient for linear fits) to scientific and engineering questions and problems, using digital tools when feasible. HS-P4.2:

Cross Cutting Concepts

Systems and System Models: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems. MS-C4.1:

Scale, Proportion and Quantity: The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs. HS-C3.1:

Cause and effect: Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system. HS-C2.2:

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Natural Hazards: Mapping the history of natural hazards in a region, combined with an understanding of related geologic forces can help forecast the locations and likelihoods of future events. MS-ESS3.B1:

Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems: Criteria and constraints also include satisfying any requirements set by society, such as taking issues of risk mitigation into account, and they should be quantified to the extent possible and stated in such a way that one can tell if a given design meets them. HS-ETS1.A1:

Performance Expectations

Earth and Human Activity: Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects. MS-ESS3-2:

This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
  • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
  • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.


This page first made public: Jul 26, 2017

Summary

Unit 1 introduces foundational concepts in geoscience, emergency management, and political science that are critical for developing a systems thinking approach and for achieving the learning objectives in the storm module. More specifically, within Unit 1, students acquire a vocabulary related to storm systems and risk, engage in practical exercises on event probability and frequency, and complete written activities and oral presentations that reinforce these concepts, using their own community and two case studies as examples. The activities include: a pre-and post-Unit survey on natural hazard risk, an optional concept map exercise to identify associations of risk in major storms, an exercise on probability and frequency of natural hazards in general and major storms in particular, an exercise using hazard vulnerability analysis (HVA) and the HVA's findings, and a synthesis assignment that requires analysis of an assigned hazard mitigation plan (HMP) and development of a proposal to improve mitigation plans.

Learning Goals

After completing Unit 1, students will be able to:

  • Name at least four natural hazards.
  • Distinguish natural hazards from other types of hazards.
  • Understand the relationship between hazard magnitude and hazard frequency
  • Identify frequent and infrequent hazards for the case of New Hampshire.
  • Rank hazards in relation to preparedness priority.

Context for Use

This Unit is designed to be implemented over two consecutive 90-minute class sessions, with homework after each session.

Unit 1 requires basic mathematics, deductive reasoning, and critical thinking appropriate for science and non-science majors at the university or advanced high-school level. It can be used in a lecture, lab, or online setting.

Students without any prior training in risk assessment and management should have an introductory lesson in those concepts before attempting this module. Unit 1 reinforces these concepts (risk, risk assessment, risk management, hazard, hazard mitigation, stakeholders), and introduces additional concepts necessary to understanding risks related to storms and feedback associated with climate change. These include understanding and working knowledge of event probability and event frequency, recurrence intervals, characteristics of major storms and associated natural hazards (i.e. storm surges, flooding, wind chill, blizzards), storm-related threats to critical infrastructure (i.e. electrical supply, transportation routes, drinking water), hazard vulnerability analysis (HVA) and hazard mitigation plan (HMP), policy memoranda, and implementation. The basic introductory principles can be covered in pre-module reading assignments, such as those available at Ready.gov - Risk Assessment.

Internet access is essential for the hazard vulnerability analysis, an online tool. Students also need a PDF-reader.

Description and Teaching Materials

Jump to: Preparation for Unit 1 | Unit 1, Day 1 | Homework Between Classes | Unit 1, Day 2 | End of Unit 1 Homework

Overview of Unit 1

The module is about risks from major storms and how to increase community resilience to those risks. It covers the concept of natural hazards in general and storm hazards in particular, increasing depth and coverage of the topic across three units. It sets the stage for students to think about storms risks in the context of systems interactions. In Unit 1, through a series of exercises, students learn to identify natural hazard risks, to rank hazards in terms of event frequency, magnitude, and costs, and to use hazard management tools to evaluate preparedness for risk. Instructors may wish to supplement the basic information below with short videos of weather forecasts that include the vocabulary and concepts. An example of such is the Accuweather website.

The expectation is that the material for Unit 1 will be covered over two class sessions, assuming that class meets twice a week for approximately 90 minutes (~ 3 course hours total). Background work establishing a basic understanding of weather terminology and a general introduction to risk assessment and management should be completed before Unit 1 begins.

At the start of the first class session of Unit 1, students should review the "Vocabulary of Storms and Storm Systems" and then individually complete the pre-Unit assessment survey for NH hazards. Next, students should work individually (~5 minutes) to create a concept map about storm risk for a major storm they've experienced. Then, students should complete Probability and Risk (an in-class activity). The survey, map, and in-class activity should take one class session (~90 min). Instructors should then assign the HVA Activity for homework between class sessions.

For the second session, students should come prepared to discuss their findings in the HVA Activity. Instructors should probably spend ~ 15 minutes at the beginning of the second session letting teams report their basic findings. The majority of class time (~ 1 hour) should be spent on completing the HMP research as a jigsaw activity and an in-class discussion of students' mitigation proposal ideas. Students should complete their individual proposals for homework, to be submitted at the start of Class 3. In the final 15 minutes of the second class session, students should individually complete the post-Unit assessment survey.

Preparation for Unit 1

To understand the literature and national warnings about storms and storm-related risks, it is necessary to learn some of the weather-hazard terminology. Here are some key definitions and descriptive concepts for this module: Vocabulary of storms and storm systems (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 35kB Jul15 17)

Part I–––Unit 1, Class 1: Concept Mapping, Probability, and Risk

General Purpose: To introduce the terminology, concepts, mathematics, and mechanisms of natural hazard risk assessment and mitigation in a real-world setting.

Specific Aims: To create a foundational common language and approach that students can use to examine, research, discuss, and compare aspects of risk related to climate- and weather-related hazards. It prompts and prepares students to consider how natural events and human actions are part of a system that encompasses both risk and resilience. In this exercise, students read about natural hazards in New Hampshire (educators in other states may substitute a local example if desired—see Teaching Notes and Tips) and use these data to determine the timeline of occurrence, frequency, magnitude, probability, and risk.

Lesson Outline:

At the start of the first class session of Unit 1, students should individually complete the

Pre-Unit 1 Survey


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. Instructors are strongly encouraged to have students spend ~5 minutes reflecting on the relationships between storms, storm impacts, and societal risk by creating this major storms concept map (Microsoft Word 23kB Nov4 16), which incorporates those terms and applying them to a significant storm they have experienced. The
Concept Mapping & Systems Thinking Presentation


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and corresponding
instructor guidelines


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provide guidance in teaching and doing concept maps. They can then complete the activity: Probability and Risk (Microsoft Word 228kB Jul15 17) (recommended as an in-class activity). The concept map, survey, and in-class activity should take one class session (~90min.). Instructors should leave time at the end of the session to review the activity and answer any questions.

Lesson Materials:

Preparation for Unit 1:

Unit 1 In-class Activity: Probability and Risk

In-class preparation for activity:

  • Students should download (or be handed copies of) pages 21-26 in Chapter II of the State of New Hampshire Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan 2013. (Don't print out the entire document—it runs 220 pages!) If time in class is limited, these pages can be given as homework in advance of class. Discuss with the students the difference between natural hazard and hazards such as dam failure, terrorism, fire, and hazardous materials. What makes something "natural" in this situation?
  • Instructors who prefer a more local example may wish to substitute a different state's HMP. The authors recommend, however, that instructors select an HMP from within their region, rather than their own local or state HMP, because students will work extensively with their local HMP in Units 2 and 3. This activity is intended to introduce students to a range of natural hazards (New Hampshire's HMP includes 12 hazards). If using an HMP other than New Hampshire's, instructors are encouraged to select an HMP that has at least 8 natural hazards (more if the class size is large). Some recommended examples include:
    • Michigan (17 hazards)
    • North Carolina (9 hazards)
    • Oregon (9 hazards)
    • Texas (9 hazards)

Activity structure

  • Break up the class into small groups of 2-3 students. Assign each group a different natural hazard to investigate: flooding, coastal flooding, drought, wildfire, earthquake, landslide, radon, tornado/downburst, hurricane, lightning, severe winter weather, or snow avalanche. Each group should use the table on pages 22–24 as a primary resource.
  • Using the data for their assigned hazard type, students should determine the number of instances when the state applied for federal assistance to deal with it, the number of years encompassed by the data set, and, from these first two answers, the frequency and magnitude of the hazard (and recurrence interval), the total assistance costs, and the average assistance costs per year. Students should be encouraged to "do the math."

Debrief & discussion

  • While students are working, set up a plot frame with frequency on the y-axis and hazard names on the x-axis. Students can fill in their data on the plot as they finish the work. Briefly discuss the implication of the data in terms of event magnitude. Students should understand that events that cause no damage or incur no costs are not represented and that only high-impact, high magnitude events are included in the HMP.
  • If time allows, have the students compare their findings with the summary assessment of hazards by county on page 95. The document contains rich information for hazards within each county, page 27-94. Additional research could involve those specific cases.

Unit 1 Homework: Readings and Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA) Activity (assigned between Classes 1 & 2)

General Purpose: To conduct an HVA of New Orleans with a team (groups assigned by the course instructor) using the Kaiser Permanente Tool, then prepare a related briefing document in the form of a summary.

Specific Aims: To be able to evaluate a Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) through a critical thinking lens by identifying gaps and making appropriate disaster risk reduction recommendations for New Orleans. The latter will be developed in the second activity (HMP Analysis).

Homework Material(s):

  • HVA Activity download available here HVA Activity (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 24kB Nov4 16); HVA Activity PDF Version (Acrobat (PDF) 83kB Nov4 16)
    Please note: The module authors strongly recommend using New Orleans as the case study; however, instructors may wish to select a different case, which would require changing the readings and providing students with the new community's HMP.
  • Hazard Vulnerability Analysis Tool
    Please note: In the HVA tool, you cannot enter a value of 0 for N/A to indicate that a hazard does not exist; tell students that they should enter <a>00.</a>

Homework Readings:

A list of several readings are given as possible homework readings for between the two sessions. Depending on the course-level and amount of time between classes, instructors may want to indicate that some readings are required, but others should be used as suggested readings to help complete the homework activities.

Part II – Unit 1, Class 2: Vulnerability, Emergency Management, & Mitigation

General Purpose: To develop students' critical thinking and assessment skills of risk/hazard documentation, learn to analyze mitigation plans in a comparative context, and utilize and synthesize data in order to critique hazard mitigation plans.

Specific Aims: To develop students' critical thinking and assessment skills of HVAs and HMPs, learn to analyze HMPs in a comparative context, and utilize and synthesize data in order to critique existing HMPs. To give instructors an opportunity to assess student understanding and ability to perform these tasks successfully through their completed homework, their critiques of existing plans, and their proposals for addressing risk mitigation shortfalls and offering recommendations to improve the HMPs. To introduce systems thinking.

Lesson Outline:

For the second session, students should come prepared to discuss their findings in the HVA Activity; instructors should probably spend ~15 minutes at the beginning of the second session letting teams report their basic findings. The majority of class time (~1 hour) should be spent on completing the HMP research as a jigsaw activity and an in-class discussion of students' mitigation proposal ideas. Students should complete their individual proposals for homework, to be submitted at the start of Class 3. Instructors should introduce the concept of "systems thinking" into the discussion, specifically how it relates to natural hazards and processes of risk assessment, management, and communication (see Teaching Tips and Notes below). In the final 15 minutes of the second class session, students should complete the post-Unit assessment survey.

Lesson Material(s):

  • Completed HVA Activity
  • HMP Activity Handouts
  • Post-unit assessment survey
    Post-Unit 1 Survey


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    Post-Unit 1 Survey PDF Version


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    Please note: Instructors should have students individually complete the post-unit survey using the same assigned community as the pre-unit survey, in order to assess knowledge acquisition from the unit's materials.

Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) Activity: Started in Class 2 and completed for homework due in Class 3 (Unit 2, Part I).

General Purpose: To conduct a critical analysis of their assigned hazard mitigation plan (HMP), and then develop a mitigation proposal that addresses issues raised in their analysis.

Specific Aims: To identify gaps in the HMP that require corrective action, which might be achieved through proposed disaster risk reduction ideas. The analysis results will serve as a framework for an in-class discussion.

Homework Material(s):

In-class preparation for activity:

  • Instructors should have handouts of the HMP Analysis instruction sheets for each student.
  • If possible, students should have access to laptops and the Internet to consult the FEMA Mitigation Ideas and SDR Implementation documents that they read for homework.

Activity structure:

  • Students will have completed the HVA Activity for homework before class, which will have made them familiar with NOLA's HMP. Once a general review of the homework is complete, the instructor should employ a "jigsaw" format for students to begin the HMP Analysis in class. The instructor should split the class into several "research" groups based on types of hazards (and number of students in the class). Recommended choices include: flood, heatwave, tropical cyclones, winter storms, and coastal erosion. These selections are based on the natural hazards including in either NOLA's HMP/update and the SDR Implementation Plans that students were assigned for homework. Students should work in their research groups, looking at these documents together to become "experts" on their assigned natural hazard. As a group, they should answer Part I of the HMP Activity handout. Instructors should give these groups ~15–20 minutes to review and assess their specific, assigned hazard in the HMP.
  • After working in their research groups, instructors should form new groups—including one "expert" on each natural hazard in every group. For example, in a class of 40, there will be 8 groups of 5 students each. Those 5 students could represent flood, heatwave, tropical cyclones, winter storms, and coastal erosion. Students should then spend 30 minutes in these groups, sharing their expertise and discussing how the HMP could be improved. The instructor should leave ~10 minutes for class discussion and questions.
  • Students will then prepare their own individual memos for homework, incorporating the shared research from their second group. Each hazard category assigned to the class must be discussed, even if it does not appear in NOLA's HMP. Students should submit their work at the start of Class 3.
  • Please note: The suggested examples include natural hazards that do not appear in NOLA's HMP. The purpose of including hazards that do not receive significant or any attention in the HMP is to get students to consider whether that is a gap that needs to be addressed, or whether it is a purposeful omission due to low vulnerability, frequency, and/or probability. Instructors may wish to bring in the topic of climate change as a potential factor for future inclusion of certain hazards in anticipating and responding to community vulnerabilities. Or they may choose to highlight that other associated risks or hazards appear, thus indicating the assigned hazard is addressed, even if not explicitly. This may also help instructors who have large classes, and consequently may need to assign a greater number of hazards per group.

Debrief & discussion

  • While students are working in groups, instructors should circulate in the classroom (during both phases of group work, but especially during the "research expert" phase), reminding students that they will need to support their suggestions with evidence and recommending that they return to the FEMA Mitigation Ideas and SDR Implementation Plan documents.
  • In the time left at the end of class, instructors should answer any questions related to content and format of the memo's analysis and mitigation recommendations.
  • Students should be reminded that all hazards assigned must be addressed in the memos, even if those hazards are afforded little space in the HMP. Memos should indicate that each hazard was assessed and evaluated, although there will be differences in attention in student memos as well (for example, tropical cyclones may get more attention than heatwaves).

Teaching Notes and Tips

Homework Readings (Teacher Tips)

A list of several readings are given as possible homework readings for between the two sessions. Depending on the course-level and amount of time between classes, instructors may want to indicate that some readings are required, but others should be used as suggested readings to help complete the homework activities.

Unit 1 - Class 2 (Teacher Tips)

Instructors should introduce the concept of systems thinking into the class discussion during the second session. For background information and ideas on how to discuss systems thinking, instructors are encouraged to review other InTeGrate and SERC resources:

Assessment

Pre-/post-unit assessment and rubric:

Instructions:

  1. List as many natural hazards as you can think of on a sheet of paper
  2. Mark each hazard as frequent (3), common (2), rare (1), or absent (0) for New Hampshire.
  3. Rank the hazards in priority for state funding: high priority (3), moderate priority (2), low priority (1), or do not fund (0).
  4. Explain why the highest priority hazard merited the top rank.

Rubric - Unit 1 goals are met when:

  • Students correctly distinguish natural hazards from other types of hazards.
  • Students can name at least 4 natural hazards.
  • Students correctly identify frequent hazards (for New Hampshire) as flooding, lightning, and winter storms; and correctly identify infrequent hazards as tropical storms, drought, and wildfire.
  • In their funding prioritization, students distinguish low frequency, high cost events from high frequency, low cost events.

References and Resources

Several resources are mentioned throughout Unit 1's description; they are repeated here for ease of access.

Background Resources

  • The Ready website provides emergency preparedness guidance from the US Department of Homeland Security. Its pages on planning and risk assessment can provide students with a broad overview of concepts that are needed to complete Unit 1 of the storm module. We recommend that instructors review the basic concepts outlined in "Context for Use" before beginning Unit 1.
Required Resources Supplementary Resources