Communities and Risk

Right now, the conversation about communities at risk from flooding and related weather hazards is one of the most important to be had. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have brought billions of dollars of damage, loss of life, and tremendous disruption and suffering in the past two months, and the path to recovery for these communities is still not clear.

Of natural hazards in the United States, flooding is particularly challenging. Floods are, generally speaking, the most common, costly and deadly hazard facing the United States. Projections about the impacts from climate change suggest that locations throughout the United States will find themselves facing more extreme weather situations. In the Northeast, we can expect more intense rain events and subsequent flooding, as well as more intense snowfall events, even as winters warm overall and there is less persistent snow cover. Nationally, regions may face an increased risk of flooding, more frequent droughts, and more intense hurricanes.

How can communities best prepare for and respond to natural hazards, both now and in the future? Nurture Nature Center was developed as an organization in response to the repeated flooding in the Delaware River Basin in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and has spent the last ten years working to understand the strategies and approaches that can help communities, and the individuals who live in them, to be ready to face risk from natural hazards. Through social science research studies about flood forecasts, to outreach and education campaigns on the use of flood forecast products, to community forums that help residents to understand and inform civic leaders of their priorities for flood response, NNC has been working toward building knowledge and community resiliency.

This blog, Community Works, will discuss issues of community, environment, risk and resiliency. It will highlight some of the findings of our research and projects, and invite consideration about how communities can best respond to keep residents safe, prepared and living in concert with their natural environment. This blog will connect readers with some of the work our national partners, including federal agencies and professional associations, are doing to build community resilience to hazards. Of particular focus will be the ways that risk communication – i.e., how we talk about and share information on these topics – can be improved to help communities and individuals to properly understand and take protective actions.

I welcome your ideas and observations and suggestions for new topics: Email me at