RESIN Resources


RESIN State of the Art Report (4) 

Vulnerability Assessment: Definitions, Indicators and Existing Assessment Methods 


A. Connelly, J. Carter, J. Handley, E. Rome, R. Worst, N. Voβ




Executive Summary


This report is based on a desk-based review of literature and selected European Union (EU)-funded projects that contain a vulnerability assessment component.

The report begins by outlining key vulnerability definitions from the disaster risk management (DRM), critical infrastructure protection (CIP) and climate change adaptation (CCA) communities. This report recommends that RESIN adopts the definition of vulnerability as outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5); this is a risk-based framework that separates exposure from vulnerability.

The report also looks at what makes cities and critical infrastructure vulnerable. The review suggests that RESIN focuses on three aspects of vulnerable elements within an overall schema of climate change vulnerability:

  • Critical Infrastructure (CI) Vulnerability – the vulnerability of particular physical infrastructure assets
  • Critical Infrastructure (CI) Systems Vulnerability – the vulnerability of infrastructure based on the links with other elements
  • Societal Vulnerability – the wider vulnerability amongst populations, groups and the built environment.

The report also outlines issues relating to the handling of exposure and adaptive capacity as concepts related to vulnerability. A glossary is also included in this report in order to guide the definitions to be adopted for the RESIN project.

The report reviews a range of vulnerability assessment methods and notes that indicator based vulnerability assessment (IBVA) methods, with a focus on adaptation tipping points, may be useful for the RESIN project. Selected existing city vulnerability assessments are outlined (see Annex 2), which demonstrate that there are, as yet, no standardized methods for undertaking a vulnerability assessment in practice; however, some notable European projects have attempted to provide a framework for the various steps that would need to be taken.

The report concludes by showing the gaps in knowledge and the conceptual and practical considerations raised by the review. These mainly centre on the type of data used and cautions on the need for pragmatism in order for vulnerability assessment methodologies to be replicable. In addition, it will be important to consider how a focus on the consequences of critical infrastructure failure may be combined with understandings of urban vulnerability. To this end, it is stated that following a standardized process of vulnerability assessment may be key. The data that supports the analysis can be context dependent and may, therefore, not be possible to standardize.