Volcanic risk assessment: Quantifying physical vulnerability in the built environment

Susanna Jenkins, Robin Spence, Joao Fonseca, Renato Solidum, Thomas Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents structured and cost-effective methods for assessing the physical vulnerability of at-risk communities to the range of volcanic hazards, developed as part of the MIA-VITA project (2009–2012). An initial assessment of building and infrastructure vulnerability has been carried out for a set of broadly defined building types and infrastructure categories, with the likelihood of damage considered separately for projectile impact, ash fall loading, pyroclastic density current dynamic pressure and earthquake ground shaking intensities. In refining these estimates for two case study areas: Kanlaon volcano in the Philippines and Fogo volcano in Cape Verde, we have developed guidelines and methodologies for carrying out physical vulnerability assessments in the field. These include identifying primary building characteristics, such as construction material and method, as well as subsidiary characteristics, for example the size and prevalence of openings, that may be important in assessing eruption impacts. At-risk buildings around Kanlaon were found to be dominated by timber frame buildings that exhibit a high vulnerability to pyroclastic density currents, but a low vulnerability to failure from seismic shaking. Around Fogo, the predominance of unreinforced masonry buildings with reinforced concrete slab roofs suggests a high vulnerability to volcanic earthquake but a low vulnerability to ash fall loading. Given the importance of agriculture for local livelihoods around Kanlaon and Fogo, we discuss the potential impact of infrastructure vulnerability for local agricultural economies, with implications for volcanic areas worldwide. These methodologies and tools go some way towards offering a standardised approach to carrying out future vulnerability assessments for populated volcanic areas.
Original languageEnglish
Article number276
Pages (from-to)105
Number of pages120
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • Volcanic risk assessment
  • Volcanic hazards
  • Eruption impacts
  • Building vulnerability
  • Vulnerability curves
  • Infrastructure vulnerability


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