Countries along the Pacific coast of Central America are exposed to high environmental risk from natural hazards. Over the past two decades, disasters in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua alone have caused over US$9 billion in damage and affected more than 13.5 million people. Their exposure to environmental hazards and their vulnerability to being adversely affected by them are exacerbated as a result of both the complex socio-political setting and approaches used in those countries for economic development.

Hazard Maps as tools for resilience

Information about hazards and disasters is very commonly disseminated through maps. Hazard maps that are useful, usable and used have the potential to prevent disasters and build societal resilience. Although maps represent the important outward face of hazard research, they are cartographic representations of inherently complex information, with large associated uncertainties. Further, the effective understanding, perception, experience, and usage of maps calls for multidisciplinary engagement.

Project aim

This project brings together and forms, for the first time, a network of researchers and practitioners to understand how hazard maps can be used more effectively to communicate hazard information with decision makers, emergency managers, NGOs, and the public before, during and after times of crisis.

Interdisciplinary approach

Our aim is to create a network that brings together expertise from natural sciences, cartography, visual geographies, landscape perception, media and communication studies and Central American development studies to facilitate engagement between disciplines that would not normally interact. An interdisciplinary approach will strengthen existing emergency management systems and create useful modes of hazard communication that empower communities, enhance the effectiveness of communication and increase resilience in Central America.

Project activities

We defined six deliverables for this project

  1. Strategic reviews to connect literature from diverse fields: Extensive literature reviews help to connect and identify common ground between state of the art literature from the diverse disciplines.
  2. Partnership building: The network participants and partnership information including areas of expertise will be posted and maintained in a dedicated website and an email list will be created.
  3. UK Kick-off Workshop: An initial meeting in Edinburgh, aimed at UK participants. A set of specific objectives for the main workshop will be established.
  4. Communicating with Hazard Maps in Central America Workshop: A network building workshop in Central America. Workshop activities and outcomes will be documented in a report circulated to all network partners.
  5. Conference Activities: Presentation of findings at conferences, including: The UNISDR Global Platform on Disaster Risk reduction, Mexico, May 2017 and IAVCEI, Portland, Aug 2017.
  6. Strategic Planning: An action plan document written by investigators with input from partners.


The project is supported by a Global Challenges Research Fund Resilience grant (NE/P015751/1) and was active between 1 Nov 2016 - 31 Oct 2017

See Proposal Summary pdf download in English and Spanish

Volcanic eruption at Fuego, Guatemala

Image source: Instituto Geofísico, Ecuador

Pyroclastic flow behind a village