Social vulnerability is a widely recognised way of assessing the sensitivity of a population to natural hazards and its ability to respond to and recover from them. In the traditional approach to computing social vulnerability, the emphasis is mainly on the weaknesses only (e.g. old age, low income, language barriers). This study presents a strength-based social vulnerability index that identifies the strengths that communities have that help minimise disaster risk exposure. The strength-based social vulnerability index method is compared with the traditional approach using various statistical procedures like the one-sample T-test and the Wilcoxon signed rank test. This is performed through a case study measuring the social vulnerability for the 108 suburbs of Wollongong in New South Wales. The results show there is a significant difference between the values obtained from measurements using the strength-based social vulnerability index technique and those generated by the traditional approach. The implications of the results for emergency and disaster management are broadly discussed.