Section 4: Society and Policy Making


Section 4 explores how policymakers and stakeholders can incorporate information about coastal process and hazards (Sections 1 and 2) and strategies for mitigating these hazards (Section 3) into coastal management and decision-making. This section is divided into three modules:

  • Understanding and assessing coastal vulnerability (Module 10)
  • Tsunami and storm surge policy (Module 11)
  • Sea level rise policy (Module 12)

These modules consider how policymakers can use this information to determine who and what is most vulnerable to coastal hazards, which strategies are most suitable for protecting these persons and properties, and when and where these strategies should be implemented.

Section Goals

Upon completion of Section 4, students will:

  • analyze how coastal vulnerability emerges from the complex interactions among coastal hazards, people, and the natural and built environment;
  • apply disaster management, planning, and policy-making tools to coastal human-environment systems.

Section Objectives

In order to reach these goals, the instructors have established the following objectives for student learning. In working through the modules within Section 4, students will be able to:

  • analyze and compare the vulnerability of different people and places in terms of vulnerability’s three dimensions (exposure, sensitivity, adaptive capacity);
  • apply the disaster management cycle to storm surge and tsunamis;
  • evaluate strategies for preparing for sea level rise and related hazards from the perspective of multiple stakeholders and policy makers.


Learning Check Point questions will evaluate your understanding of the key concepts for each section of this section’s modules. Activate Your Learning questions will extend the core module content through external readings and data sets and will help you engage with the material. These questions are asked for your benefit; you are encouraged to answer them since they frequently introduce datasets and methods that you will need to use again during graded assessments. Some modules also contain formative assessments, which are similar to Activate Your Learning questions but are usually longer and more complicated, and are also graded. At the end of each module, you will be asked to complete a graded summative assessment. In Module 10, you will analyze and compare the vulnerability of three cities on the U.S. east coast to hurricane storm surge. In Module 11, you will complete a post-disaster recovery plan for a city in Florida. In Module 12, you will create a report on policy options for preparing for sea level rise in a Virginian city. Finally, in the Section 4 summative assessment, you will complete the coastal vulnerability project that you began in Section 1.