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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Geography

Faculty & Staff Directory

Susan L. Cutter

Carolina Distinguished Professor & Director of the Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute
Department of Geography
University of South Carolina

Phone Number: (803) 777-1590
Office: Callcott, Room 312
Susan L. Cutter


Dr. Susan Cutter is a Carolina Distinguished Professor of Geography at the University of South Carolina where she directs the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute.  She received her BA from California State University, Hayward and her MA and Ph.D. (1976) from the University of Chicago. Her primary research interests are in the area of disaster vulnerability/resilience science—what makes people and the places where they live vulnerable to extreme events and how vulnerability and resilience are measured, monitored, and assessed.  She has authored or edited twelve books, more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.

Dr. Cutter has also led post-event field studies of the role of geographic information technologies in rescue and relief operations in (September 11th World Trade Center attack) and studies of evacuation behavior from Three Mile Island (1979), Hurricane Floyd (1999), and the Graniteville, SC train derailment and chlorine spill (2005).  Most recently (2006) she has led a Hurricane Katrina post-event field team to examine the geographic extent of storm surge inundation along the Mississippi and Alabama coastline and its relationship to the social vulnerability of communities.  She has provided expert testimony to Congress on hazards and vulnerability and was a member of the US Army Corps of Engineers IPET team evaluating the social impacts of the New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Protection System in response to Hurricane Katrina.  She has authored a Trends and Outlook report for the US Army Corps of Engineers on Natural and Human-Induced Disasters and other Factors Affecting Future Emergency Response and Hazard Management.

Dr. Cutter serves on many national advisory boards and committees including those of National Research Council, the AAAS, the National Science Foundation, the Natural Hazards Center, and the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment.  She was a founding member and served on the Executive Committee of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) (2004-2008) (a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence focused on the social and behavioral sciences).  Dr. Cutter serves as co-executive editor of Environment and is an associate editor of Weather, Climate, and Society.  She is also a coordinating lead author of Chapter 5 of the IPCC Special Report on “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.”

She is an elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (1999), and past President of the Association of American Geographers (2000).  She is the past President of the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) (2008).  In 2006, Dr. Cutter was the recipient of the Decade of Behavior Research Award given by a multidisciplinary consortium of more than 50 national and international scientific organizations in the social and behavioral sciences. Dr. Cutter holds the MunichRe Foundation Chair (2009-2012) on Social Vulnerability through the United Nations University-Institute for Environment and Human Security, in Bonn, Germany. 


Hazards, risk, and disasters
Vulnerability science
Environmental equality and inequality


GEOG 330: Geography of Disasters
GEOG 530: Environmental Hazards
GEOG 730: Seminar in Environmental Geography
GEOG 735: Seminar in Political Geography
GEOG 830: Advanced Seminar in Environmental Geography

Representative Publications 

Cutter, S. L., and M. M. Smith, 2009. Fleeing from the hurricane’s wrath: Evacuation and the two Americas. Environment 51 (2): 26-36.

Gall, M., K. Borden, and S. L. Cutter, 2009. When do losses count? Six fallacies of natural hazards loss data. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 90 (6): 799-809.

Webb, J., and S. L. Cutter, 2009. The geography of U.S. terrorist incidents, 1970-2004. Terrorism & Political Violence 21: 428-449.

Wood, N. J., C. G. Burton, and S. L. Cutter, 2009. Community variations in social vulnerability to Cascadia-related tsunamis in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Natural Hazards, DOI 10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1.

Borden, K., and S. L. Cutter, 2008. Spatial patterns of natural hazard mortality in the United States. International Journal of Health Geographics 7(64): (31 pp.).

Burton, C., and S.L. Cutter, 2008. Levee failures and social vulnerability in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta area, California. Natural Hazards Review 9 (3):136-149.

Cutter, S. L., 2008. Vulnerability analysis, environmental hazards. In Encyclopedia of Quantitative Risk Assessment, edited by Ed Melnick and Brian Everitt. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd., pp. 1845-1848.

Cutter, S. L., L. Barnes, M. Berry, C. Burton, E. Evans, E. Tate, and J. Webb. 2008. A place-based model for understanding community resilience to natural disasters. Global Environmental Change 18 (4) 598-606.

Cutter, S. L., L. Barnes, M. Berry, C. Burton, E. Evans, E. Tate, and J. Webb, 2008. Community and regional resilience: Perspectives from hazards, disasters, and emergency management. CARRI Research Report 1. Oak Ridge National Lab: Community and Regional Resilience Initiative.

Cutter, S. L., and C. Finch, 2008. Temporal and spatial changes in social vulnerability to natural hazards. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (7): 2301-2306.

Cutter, S. L., M. Gall, and C. T. Emrich, 2008. Toward a comprehensive loss inventory of weather and climate hazards. In H. F. Díaz and R. J. Murnane (eds.), Climate Extremes and Society. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 279-295.

Edmonds, A. E., and S. L. Cutter, 2008. Planning for pet evacuations during disasters. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management 5(1): Article 33 (18 pp.).

James, L. A., and S. L. Cutter, 2008. Flood hazards in the Central Valley of California. Natural Hazards Review 9 (3): 101-103.

Peterson, T. C., D. M. Anderson, S. J. Cohen, M. Cortex-Vazquez, R. J. Murnane, C. Parmesan, D. Phillips, R. S. Pulwarty, J. M. R. Stone with contributing authors T. G. Houston, S. L. Cutter, and M. Gall, 2008. Why weather and climate extremes matter. In Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate. Regions of Focus: North America, Hawaii, Caribbean, and U.S. Pacific Islands. T. R. Karl, G. A. Meehl, C. D. Miller, S. J. Hassol, A. M. Waple, and W. L. Murray (eds.). A Report by the U.S. Climate change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research, Washington, DC.

Piegorsch, Walter W., and Susan L. Cutter, 2008. Urban centers exhibit differential vulnerability to terrorism. Contingency Today, 14 April 2008.

Schmidtlein, M. C., S. L. Cutter, and C. Finch, 2008. Disaster Declarations and Major Hazard Occurrences in the United States. Professional Geographer 60 (1):1-14.

Schmidtlein, M. C., R. C. Deutsch, W. W. Piegorsch, and S. L. Cutter, 2008. Building indexes of vulnerability: a sensitivity analysis of the social vulnerability index, Risk Analysis 28 (4): 1099-1114.