Collage of people waiting for a bus in a snowstorm, rural road washed out, and a wheelchair



Disasters can impact underserved populations disproportionately and can lead to increased social vulnerability (FEMA, 2023). 


Experiences within and outside of North Dakota have highlighted social vulnerability during and after disasters, for example:


  1. Individuals with disabilities or those reliant on public transportation are more likely to be left behind or abandoned during an evacuation or conflict. 

  2. Disasters often make transportation challenging or impossible; making it difficult to provide resources within rural populations, and for rural populations to move about freely.

  3. Shelter and recovery center are often not accessible to those with access or functional needs. 



These layers of vulnerability complicate disaster response and recovery even further. 






Vulnerabilities may affect an individual's or family's ability to prepare, response, and recovery from a disaster event. Each community has unique characteristics and areas of risk, some examples include: 


  • High Poverty 
  • Limited access to transportation 
  • Age (young or old) 
  • Limited English Language Skills 
  • Disability Status 
  • Race 
  • Ethnicity 


Understanding where vulnerability may be concentrated in intersection with areas of risk allows for emergency management professionals to plan with an equitable lens. Exploring concentrated areas of social vulnerability through census tract data creates awareness and actionable change (FEMA, 2023).

Overlay of Community Resilience Challenges Index Indicators Atop Flood Plain Map



There are several tools that can be utilized that differ in focus to include socioeconomic, public health and environmental quality, and access to critical infrastructure such as hospitals or reliable broadband. Geographic information systems (GIS) provide a foundation of information for planners to be supplemented by local knowledge and outreach findings. The resources below provide a start to understanding equity and risk. 


Equity Mapping Tools

Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJEST): Explore the map - Climate & Economic Justice Screening Tool ( 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Social Vulnerability Index (SVI): SVI Interactive Map ( 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Environmental Justice Index (EJI) Explorer: EJI Explorer ( 

Resilience Analysis and Planning Tool (RAPT): Resilience Analysis and Planning Tool (RAPT) |



While these are a few resources, there is a myriad of equity tools that exist to support communities to reach equitable outcomes. While census data is regularly updated, other data-based tools may come from a variety of organizations and sources. We encourage you to cross-reference multiple sources to avoid making damaging generalities in emergency plans.  It is best to use one’s educated judgement when reaching conclusions.