, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 645-680
Date: 06 Oct 2010

Physical vulnerability assessment for alpine hazards: state of the art and future needs

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Mountain hazards such as landslides, floods and avalanches pose a serious threat to human lives and development and can cause considerable damage to lifelines, critical infrastructure, agricultural lands, housing, public and private infrastructure and assets. The assessment of the vulnerability of the built environment to these hazards is a topic that is growing in importance due to climate change impacts. A proper understanding of vulnerability will lead to more effective risk assessment, emergency management and to the development of mitigation and preparedness activities all of which are designed to reduce the loss of life and economic costs. In this study, we are reviewing existing methods for vulnerability assessment related to mountain hazards. By analysing the existing approaches, we identify difficulties in their implementation (data availability, time consumption) and differences between them regarding their scale, the consideration of the hazardous phenomenon and its properties, the consideration of important vulnerability indicators and the use of technology such as GIS and remote sensing. Finally, based on these observations, we identify the future needs in the field of vulnerability assessment that include the user-friendliness of the method, the selection of all the relevant indicators, the transferability of the method, the inclusion of information concerning the hazard itself, the use of technology (GIS) and the provision of products such as vulnerability maps and the consideration of the temporal pattern of vulnerability.