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Virtual Framework for Vulnerability Assessment

This section of FHWA's Climate Change Adaptation website provides resources, tools, and guidance to help local and regional transportation agencies implement the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework, a guide to assessing the vulnerability of transportation assets to climate change and extreme weather events.

The section's structure follows that of the framework as shown in the graphic below. Click on any area of the graphic to go to its corresponding module in the Virtual Framework site, or use the page list in the navigation bar at left to navigate through the modules. Each module includes an overview, a summary of key steps, an introductory video, and links to case studies, tools, and other resources. Several of the modules include tools developed by FHWA to help transportation agencies implement their assessments.

Diagram showing three steps: 1. Define Scope, 2. Assess Vulnerability, and 3. Integrate into Decision Making.  Each step has individual processes.  1. Define scope has three boxes in the step.  Identify Key .Climate Variables, Articulate Objectives, and Select & Characterize. Relevant Assets. Identify Key .Climate Variables has two bulleted items: Climate Impacts of concern and Sensitive assets & .thresholds for impacts.  Articulate Objectives has four bulleted items: Actions motivated by .assessment, Target audience, Products needed, and Level of detail required. Select & Characterize. Relevant Assets has four bulleted items: Asset type, Existing vs. planned, Data availability, and Further delineate.  2. Assess Vulnerability has six rounded bubbles connected by a line indicating a connected, circular process.  The bubbles are titled: Collect & Integrate .Data on Assets, Develop Climate .Inputs, Develop Information on Asset Sensitivity .to Climate, Incorporate Likelihood .& Risk (Optional), Identify & Rate Vulnerabilities, and Assess Asset .Criticality (Optional). 3.. Integrate into Decision Making has seven bulleted items: Incorporate into Asset Management, Integrate into Emergency & Risk Management, Contribute to Long Range Transportation Plan, Assist in Project Prioritization, Identify Opportunities for Improving Data Collection, Operations or Designs, Build Public Support for Adaptation Investment, and Educate & Engage Staff & Decision Makers.  Step 3 also has two arrows pointing from the bulleted items back to Step 2.  The arrows are labeled Develop New Objectives and Monitor and Revisit.

Identify Key Climate Variables.  Determining which climate stressors should be included in a vulnerability assessment is an important early step in the assessment process. Not all changes in the future climate will be significant to local or regional transportation networks, and limiting the study to the key stressors of interest may allow for more in-depth projections of these variables. Articulate Objectives.  One of the first steps in developing a vulnerability assessment, articulating the assessment's objectives will determine the level of detail, the types of data and tools, and the range of expertise and skills needed to conduct the assessment. Characterize and Select Assets.  Identifying the relevant transportation assets for a vulnerability assessment and determining which of their characteristics to examine can help narrow the scope of the assessment, bringing it in line with the resources available to conduct the study. Assess Vulnerabilities.  Having defined the objectives and scope of the study, identified key climate variables, and limited the number or types of assets to be considered, the agency can now begin to assess the vulnerability of its selected assets to the impacts of climate change. Integrate Vulnerabilities into Decision-Making.  Integrating vulnerability considerations into existing decision-making processes, such as those related to asset management and emergency management, can lower barriers to adaptation. Develop New Objectives:  Monitoring and evaluation may reveal a need to revise or develop new objectives, in order to keep adaptation efforts on track with evolving understanding of climate risks. Monitor and Revisit.  Adapting to climate change is an iterative process that requires monitoring and evaluation to keep adaptation efforts on track with our evolving understanding of climate risks.

Introductory Video

This short video provides an overview of FHWA's Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework, and describes the benefits of conducting a vulnerability assessment.


Highlighted Resources

CREAT 1.0 (Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool)

CREAT is a software tool to assist drinking water and wastewater utility owners and operators in understanding potential climate change threats and in assessing the related risks at their individual utilities. CREAT provides users with access to the most recent national assessment of climate change impacts for use in considering how these changes will impact utility operations and missions.

Getting on the Right Track: Real-world Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation

This workshop focused on addressing impacts of climate change on public transit systems in the United States. Sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration, in collaboration with the American Public Transportation Association.

A Vulnerability Assessment for the Saco Bay Communities of Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, and Scarborough

This vulnerability assessment was conducted by the Saco Bay Sea Level Adaptation Working Group (SLAWG), and assessed the vulnerability of Saco Bay communities to sea-level rise (SLR), flooding and erosion.

City of Lewes, Delaware Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Action Plan

In 2011, the City of Lewes, Delaware undertook a pilot project to develop a unified Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Action Plan, which considers the City’s vulnerability to climate change, particularly sea-level rise, and includes an evaluation of the vulnerability of roads and critical evacuation routes.

City of Santa Cruz Climate Adaptation Plan

This plan identifies the infrastructure and resources most vulnerable to climate change impacts, including critical transportation infrastructure. It also presents climate adaptation action items ranked by priority based on risk to the community

See more Tools and Documents »

Updated: 3/4/2016
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