Community Resilience: Risk Factors Connected to Potential Disasters in Clackamas County and Other Communities in Oregon

by Lynn Wallis

December 29, 2021

What is RESILIENCE? The American Heritage Dictionary defines resilience as “The ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune.” Community resilience is the capacity of individuals and households within a community to absorb the external stresses of a disaster. To measure this, the Census Bureau produced the 2019 Community Resilience Estimates (CRE).

Through CRE, the Census Bureau provides estimates of the total number of people living in a community facing a specific number of risks. These risk factors measure social vulnerability and equity gaps at the census tract, county, state, and national levels while providing context about the varying needs of different communities. CRE estimates include the following three groups (low, medium, and high risk) and the associated risk factors as illustrated below:
The CRE for Equity dataset provides information about the nation, states, counties, and census tracts from three different data sources. These sources include the Community Resilience Estimates, the American Community Survey (ACS), and the Census Bureau’s Planning Database. Providing all this information in one dataset allows users quick access to the data on a variety of topics concerning social vulnerability and equity.

High Risk Factors at the County Level

The share of Oregon residents, by county, in households with three or more “high risk factors” in 2019 ranged from a low of 14.1% to a high of 32.0%. Lake, Wheeler, and Grant counties had the highest portion of household population at high risk, with an estimated high risk factor of 30% or higher. Alternately, the counties with the lowest portion of household population with three or more risk factors included Washington, Clackamas, Benton, and Polk counties.
Zero Risk Factors at the County Level

The top three counties with the highest rate of zero risk factors, or most resilient, were all located in the Portland Metro region. These counties included Washington County (40.4%), Clackamas County (37.5%), and Multnomah County (36.7%). These counties showed the highest levels of resilience to absorb the external stresses of a disaster while being among the counties with the lowest rate of having three or more risk factors.
High Risk Factors at the Census Tract Level

CRE estimates can also be viewed at the census-tract level to enable a closer look at smaller populations. The graph below shows the percentage range of individuals in Clackamas County with three or more risk factors. The dark-red tracts indicate tracts with 25.1% or more individuals with three or more risk factors. There were nine census tracts in Clackamas County that met these criteria in 2019.
What Does it All Mean?

Communities are becoming increasingly complex and so are the challenges they face. Along with the COVID pandemic, human caused and natural disasters are more frequent and harsh in this current time. In response, community resilience focuses on identifying potential threats and then enhancing the day-to-day health and wellbeing of communities to reduce the negative impacts of these disasters. Resilient communities have more of a capacity to identify the problems, find solutions, and create partnerships with supportive agencies that can supply goods and services when needed.

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