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Associating Disaster Deaths with Risk Profiles



Stanley W. Gilbert, Jennifer F. Helgeson, David H. Webb, Juan F. Fung, Anand M. Kandaswamy


In this paper we set out to identify which “risk profiles” contribute most to deaths in disasters. A risk profile represents an identifiable group of people who would be at risk of death in a disaster through some mechanism. Four risk profiles were considered in this report, Population (representing the overall population of a location), Frailty (representing people who are in some sense physically frail), Mobile Homes residents, and Risk Takers (proxied by the population of heavy drinkers). Overall the single greatest contributor to deaths was the “Mobile Home” risk profile, although that varied by event type. The prominence of the mobile-home risk profile suggests that in many cases it proxies for a larger group, possibly related to income or educational level. The risk profile associated with disaster fatalities depends on the type of event. For Katrina-type hurricanes and extreme-temperature events, frailty was the most important risk profile. For wind and flood events the “Mobile Home” population was overwhelmingly the most significant risk profile. For avalanche events the “Risk-Taker” profile was the most significant one. For all other event types (including non-Katrina hurricanes) fatalities were attributed to a mix of the Mobile Home and Frailty risk profiles. Disaster-related deaths do not strike people at random from the population as a whole. Looking at the county-level results, there are identifiable spatial patterns to the risk profiles. High frailty clusters tend to be found around high population regions, while high mobile home clusters are in more rural areas. Much of the US, spatially, is in a moderate cluster, while most major population centers are part of clusters of similar values for risk profile.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 2115
Report Number


Disaster Resilience, Disaster Deaths, Floods, Hurricanes, Katrina, Tornados, Wildland Fires


Gilbert, S. , Helgeson, J. , Webb, D. , Fung, J. and Kandaswamy, A. (2020), Associating Disaster Deaths with Risk Profiles, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed April 16, 2024)
Created September 27, 2020, Updated September 28, 2020