Natural hazards pose significant threats to different communities and various places around the world. Failing to identify and support the most vulnerable communities is a recipe for disaster. Many studies have proposed social vulnerability indices for measuring both the sensitivity of a population to natural hazards and its ability to respond and recover from them. Existing techniques, however, have not accounted for the unique strengths that exist within different communities to help minimize disaster loss. This study proposes a more balanced approach referred to as the strength-based social vulnerability index (SSVI). The proposed SSVI technique, which is built on sound sociopsychological theories of how people act during disasters and emergencies, is applied to assess comparatively the social vulnerability of different suburbs in the Wollongong area of New South Wales, Australia. The results highlight suburbs that are highly vulnerable, and demonstrates the usefulness of the technique in improving understanding of hotspots where limited resources should be judiciously allocated to help communities improve preparedness, response, and recovery from natural hazards.