Types of Vulnerabilities in Disaster Management


A set of prevailing conditions which adversely affect the community’s ability to prevent, mitigate, prepare for or respond to a hazard. Absence of coping strategies is also a part of vulnerability and has to be considered in vulnerability assessment e.g. living in hazard prone locations like near to a sea or river, above the fault lines, at the base of a mountain etc.

Physical Vulnerability

The physical vulnerability of an area also depends on its geographic proximity to the source and origin of the disasters e.g. if an area lies near the coast lines, fault lines, unstable hills etc. it makes the area more vulnerable to disasters as compared to an area that is far away from the origin of the disaster. Physical vulnerability includes the difficulty in access to water resources, means of communications, hospitals, police stations, fire brigades, roads, bridges and exits of a building or/an area, in case of disasters. Furthermore, the lack of proper planning and implementation in construction of residential and commercial buildings results in buildings that are weaker and vulnerable in earthquakes, floods, landslides and other hazards.

Physical vulnerability refers to the susceptibility of infrastructure, buildings, and natural resources to damage or destruction during a disaster. It encompasses the physical characteristics and conditions that make an area or structure more prone to harm. Examples of physical vulnerability include:

  • Proximity to hazard-prone areas: Areas located near fault lines, floodplains, or coastal regions are more physically vulnerable to earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes.
  • Age and quality of infrastructure: Older buildings or poorly constructed infrastructure may have weaker structural integrity, making them more vulnerable to collapse during earthquakes or severe weather events.
  • Fragile ecosystems: Areas with delicate ecosystems, such as coral reefs or wetlands, are vulnerable to damage from storms, pollution, or sea-level rise.

Economic Vulnerability

Economic vulnerability of a community can be assessed by determining how varied its sources of income are, the ease of access and control over means of production (e.g. farmland, livestock, irrigation, capital etc.), adequacy of economic fall back mechanisms and the availability of natural resources in the area.

Economic vulnerability relates to the susceptibility of individuals, communities, or countries to financial losses and negative impacts on livelihoods caused by disasters. It reflects the economic fragility and lack of resilience to cope with and recover from disasters. Examples of economic vulnerability include:

  • Poverty and low income: Individuals or communities living in poverty have limited resources and means to withstand or recover from the economic impacts of disasters.
  • Dependence on specific sectors: Areas heavily reliant on a single industry, such as agriculture or tourism, are vulnerable to disruptions and economic losses if that sector is affected by a disaster.
  • Lack of insurance coverage: Insufficient insurance coverage or inadequate access to financial services can leave individuals or businesses financially vulnerable to the impacts of disasters.

Social Vulnerability

A socially vulnerable community has weak family structures, lack of leadership for decision making and conflict resolution, unequal participation in decision making, weak or no community organizations, and the one in which people are discriminated on racial, ethnic, linguistic or religious basis. Other social factors such as culture, tradition, religion,local norms and values, economic standard, and political accountability also play a vital role determining the social vulnerability of a community

Social vulnerability refers to the susceptibility of certain groups or communities to suffer disproportionate harm and adverse consequences during disasters. It is influenced by social factors that affect the ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. Examples of social vulnerability include:

  • Marginalized communities: Vulnerable populations, such as ethnic minorities, indigenous groups, or migrants, may face social disadvantages that hinder their access to resources, information, and support during disasters.
  • Limited access to healthcare: Communities with limited access to healthcare facilities or services are more socially vulnerable, as they may face challenges in receiving medical assistance during emergencies.
  • Language or cultural barriers: Individuals or communities with limited English proficiency or different cultural norms may face challenges in understanding and responding to disaster warnings and instructions.

Attitudinal Vulnerability

A community which has negative attitude towards change and lacks initiative in life resultantly become more and more dependent on external support. They cannot act independently. Their sources of livelihood do not have variety, lacks entrepreneurship and do not possess the concept of collectivism. This brings about disunity and individualism in the society. Thus, they become victims of conflicts, hopelessness and pessimism which reduces their capacity of coping with a disaster.

Attitudinal vulnerability refers to the susceptibility of individuals or communities to negative attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors that hinder their ability to prepare for and respond effectively to disasters. It encompasses factors related to knowledge, perception, and attitudes towards risks and disaster preparedness. Examples of attitudinal vulnerability include:

  • Complacency or denial: Individuals or communities that underestimate the risks or believe that disasters will not affect them may be less prepared and more vulnerable to harm.
  • Lack of awareness or education: Limited knowledge or understanding of disaster risks, preparedness measures, or evacuation procedures can increase vulnerability to the impacts of disasters.
  • Risk perception and behavior: Individuals who engage in risky behaviors, such as ignoring evacuation orders or disregarding safety guidelines, may face greater vulnerability during disasters.