AUSTIN (KXAN) — Natural disasters such as drought and severe storms can be devastating to many communities. Each community across the nation is impacted by disasters in different ways. It’s important to understand how individual communities are influenced by climate in order to better prepare them for emergencies.

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) has updated its Billion Dollar Disasters mapping tool to do this. Before the new update, the tool allowed users to see the risk of damage by different climate hazards at the county level. They added census data to the tool which allows users to see the risk at the community scale by using the census tracts.

Hazard Risk by community in Texas
Hazard Risk by community in Texas. Credit: NOAA.

The update also added CDC Social Vulnerability data to the tool that can help measure socioeconomic factors that may put a community at higher risk. This data includes socioeconomic status, household composition, disability status, minority status, language, housing type and transportation availability. This information helps pinpoint communities where natural disaster risk and socioeconomic vulnerability are high, allowing decision-makers to allocate better funding and resources to these areas.

It is also useful for individuals to see how their community may be affected by natural disasters. This can help them make their own plans to respond to an emergency.

“This mapping tool helps people understand the risk of weather and climate disasters where they live–at a time when we’re seeing more costly extreme weather events,” billion-dollar disaster expert for NOAA NCEI, Adam Smith, explained. “For example, a user can explore multiple hazard risks, such as the cascading impacts of drought, wildfire and flooding on vulnerable populations in the U.S. Southwest or see how combined hurricane, flooding and severe storm events across the Gulf coast could severely impact their neighborhood.”

If you’re interested in seeing your own community, check out the tool here.