Chapter 13

Assessment of Capabilityand Vulnerability


Ben Wisner


The word ‘vulnerability’ is used in the English hazards and disaster management literature in a large number of ways. This is not necessarily a matter of ambiguity or semantic drift, but disciplinary focus. Essentially, these different uses have invisible, implied adjectives preceding them, hence:

  • structural engineering vulnerability;
  • lifeline infrastructural vulnerability;
  • communications system vulnerability;
  • macro-economic vulnerability;
  • regional economic vulnerability;
  • commercial vulnerability (including insurance exposure);
  • social vulnerability.

What they all have in common is the core notion of ‘potential for disruption or harm’. Maps and other assessments ...

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