Panel Paper: Measuring the Impact of Socio-Economic Inequalities on Post-Hurricane Power Restoration

Thursday, July 19, 2018
Building 3, Room 209 (ITAM)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Siobhan Kerr, Anand Patwardhan and Allison C. Reilly, University of Maryland, College Park

As we increasingly consider adaptation as a central strategy for addressing climate change, recovery emerges as an important dimension that is often the focus of public policy. The progression of climate change will cause an increase in disaster scale and magnitude, so it is important for policy makers to understand how communities can not only prevent impacts, but also recover from them. However, recovery can be very non-uniform. Communities struck by similar damages may have very different outcomes, and it is important to identify the factors that drive these differences.

This paper considers the impact of socio-economic status on post-hurricane recovery at the sub-regional level, using power restoration as a metric by which to better understand the short-term recovery of a specific infrastructure system at the local level. The relationship between power restoration time and socio-economic inequality is examined using outage data that was scraped from utility websites in real time following Hurricane Matthew in the southeastern United States.

There is very little acknowledgment in the literature of the possibility that power restoration could be influenced by considerations other than the prioritization of vital services, the extent of the damage, and the goal of restoring power to the most households as quickly as possible. Therefore, positive results from this study would be of great relevance to policy makers and utilities alike, highlighting the need for policies that improve the equitability of recovery outcomes.