Hazard Vulnerability Assessment for the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area

Dates: 2012-2013

States: Massachusetts, New Hampshire

Client(s): MA Department of Public Health Emergencies

Services: Health Care & Public Health Planning, Applied Research & Evaluation

Technical Expertise: Community Health Coalitions, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Environmental Health, Population Health, State and Local Public Health


Incidents such as the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, underscore the importance of increasing community preparedness. The goal of this project was to assist the Commonwealth in developing and implementing a Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA) of the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area, comprised of 147 municipalities in Massachusetts and 50 municipalities in New Hampshire.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the critical need for state and local public health departments to partner with key organizations across a variety of community sectors to prepare for incidents that may significantly impact public health, medical, and/or mental/behavioral systems and services. CDC developed 15 public health preparedness capability standards for states to use for public health preparedness planning. Within the CDC’s Public Health Preparedness Capabilities, Capability 1: Community Preparedness, defines the level of engagement for effective collaboration and coordination to include the active participation of community sector representatives in identifying hazards, vulnerabilities, and risks to serve as the foundation for developing local emergency preparedness, response, and recovery plans.

JSI worked with the MA Department of Public Health (DPH) and the NH Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to conduct an all-hazards (man-made, natural disasters and severe weather, chemical and radiation emergencies, recent outbreaks and incidents) health care, behavior health and public health systems-focused Hazard Vulnerability Assessment for the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Boston was one of ten metropolitan areas nationally to be chosen to receive CDC Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) funding to accelerate the development and completion of a jurisdictional risk assessment that focuses on public health.

Drawing on the experience of other CDC-funded MSAs, JSI developed a participatory HVA process that was unique both in its focus on the health and public health systems, as well as in its use of data derived from historical experience, models, and research to quantify potential hazard impacts. JSI assisted HVA participants to identify the top risks based on the estimated severity and likelihood of a set of hazards. JSI then facilitated a capabilities-based preparedness assessment process to identify preparedness gaps, with the work culminating in the identification of strategies to address vulnerabilities and increase regional preparedness.