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London borough takes the lead in vulnerability mapping

  • Analysts, researchers and others have commented on the usefulness of vulnerability maps to identify and care for vulnerable people in an emergency and have suggested that this is the most advanced stage of emergency planning.

    Cabinet Office – Identifying People Who Are Vulnerable In A Crisis (February 2008)

Vulnerability maps are being created by a west London borough to help protect the residents in the case of an emergency.

The challenge

Hounslow felt there was a need to establish a range of vulnerability maps to better enable planning and preparation in the event of an emergency. Geographic information (GI) from Ordnance Survey was the ideal solution.

The solution

Initially, the team at Hounslow placed vulnerability into a number of categories, such as social vulnerability, which included single parent households, and health vulnerability such as the elderly or infirm.

Once these categories had been established they could be ‘plotted’ against a number of previously identified potential local or national potential hazards, such as pandemics, fire hazards, pipelines or flooding. A series of maps were then produced using GI supplied under the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), data from the Council itself and information from third parties such as the Office for National Statistics.

The benefits

By displaying the community risk register in a visual format, it has enabled the Council to have a greater understanding of the risk faced across the borough, specifically including hazard zones from sites located outside its boundaries. The maps have also been invaluable in promoting community resilience, both to members of the public and to local businesses, as it has allowed the community to visualise the risks that may affect them.

The vulnerability maps directly correlated with the distribution of pandemic flu cases in the borough during the swine flu pandemic in 2009. The areas with the highest concentration of vulnerable people corresponded with the highest concentration of swine flu cases, and thus provided a good basis on which the Council could act.

The products used

Download this case study PDF – 544kB


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In emergencies, Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council uses geographic information to locating vulnerable people in minutes. It used to take four hours.

In Hull, teenage pregnancies have reduced by 35 percent over the course of the life of the 12-year strategy. Ordnance Survey digital maps were used to plan its contraception and community-based services as well as increasing the targeting and impact of services.

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