Articles | Volume 17, issue 8
Research article
09 Aug 2017
Research article |  | 09 Aug 2017

Enhancing resilience to coastal flooding from severe storms in the USA: international lessons

Darren M. Lumbroso, Natalie R. Suckall, Robert J. Nicholls, and Kathleen D. White

Abstract. Recent events in the USA have highlighted a lack of resilience in the coastal population to coastal flooding, especially amongst disadvantaged and isolated communities. Some low-income countries, such as Cuba and Bangladesh, have made significant progress towards transformed societies that are more resilient to the impacts of cyclones and coastal flooding. To understand how this has come about, a systematic review of the peer-reviewed and grey literature related to resilience of communities to coastal flooding was undertaken in both countries. In both Cuba and Bangladesh the trust between national and local authorities, community leaders and civil society is high. As a consequence evacuation warnings are generally followed and communities are well prepared. As a result over the past 25 years in Bangladesh the number of deaths directly related to cyclones and coastal flooding has decreased, despite an increase of almost 50 % in the number of people exposed to these hazards. In Cuba, over the course of eight hurricanes between 2003 and 2011, the normalized number of deaths related to cyclones and coastal floods was an order of magnitude less than in the USA. In low-income countries, warning systems and effective shelter/evacuation systems, combined with high levels of disaster risk-reduction education and social cohesion, coupled with trust between government authorities and vulnerable communities can help to increase resilience to coastal hazards and tropical cyclones. In the USA, transferable lessons include improving communication and the awareness of the risk posed by coastal surges, mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into the education system and building trusted community networks to help isolated and disadvantaged communities, and improve community resilience.

Short summary
Recent coastal floods in the USA have highlighted a lack of resilience in poor communities. By researching successes from Bangladesh and Cuba, this paper details how lessons from these countries can reduce the vulnerability of less well-off or isolated American citizens to future coastal storm surges. The relevance of the lessons learnt from Cuba and Bangladesh to the USA was assessed. Transferable lessons include the importance of volunteerism and education in developing a “culture of safety”.
Final-revised paper