Researchers Say These 6 People Are Little Likely to Be Disaster Prepared

Researchers Say These 6 People Are Little Likely to Be Disaster Prepared ...

People with young children under the age of 18, people of poor socioeconomic status, African Americans, renters, and Asians were all more likely to be unprepared for disasters.

When faced with tragedies such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, which Americans are least likely to be prepared to respond? A recent national study has revealed a answer.

Researchers discovered that women, those with young children (under 18), renters, those with poor socioeconomic status, African Americans, and Asians were all less likely than others to be at least minimally prepared for catastrophes.

Smitha Rao, the lead author of the paper and associate professor of social work at The Ohio State University, has stated that people in these categories need special care before disasters in order to ensure that they have the resources to respond.

“To ensure no one is left behind when disaster strikes,” Rao said.

The research was published recently in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Other co-authors were Fiona Doherty, an Ohio State doctoral student in social work, and Samantha Teixeira, a Boston College associate professor of social work.

Researchers used data from the 2018 Federal Emergency Management Agency National Household Survey. The nationally representative sample included 4,743 respondents from across the country, who answered a number of questions about how well-prepared they were for disasters. According to Rao, the magnitude of the problem is increasing in the United States.

In terms of billion-dollar disasters that occurred in the United States, 2021 was second to 2020, compared to 22 in 2020. The fact that there were 123 distinct billion-dollar disasters in the 2010s compared to just 29 in the 1980s is even more concerning.

"For many Americans, it is not a question of if you're going to be impacted by a catastrophe, but when," she said.

Rao and her colleagues deemed people to be "minimally prepared" if they had the most essential items necessary for immediate evacuation or sheltering in place for three days, including emergency funds, water supply, and transportation.

"It's just a matter of time." We should all have a "go bag" with non-perishable foods, essential medications, a flashlight, and some emergency cash.

The authors studied socio-cognitive variables that might be linked to preparedness in addition to looking at the socially vulnerable group's preparation status.

Findings showed that being at least adequately prepared correlated with a belief in the usefulness of preparing for catastrophes. Those who had less confidence in their personal ability to deal with an emergency were less likely to be minimally prepared.

"Confidence was an essential component of being prepared. We can't say for sure from these statistics, but part of this might be how much confidence they have in government institutions to assist them when they need," Rao said. "Socially vulnerable groups that we found were less likely to be minimally prepared may also lack confidence in institutions that are supposed to assist in emergencies."

It was no surprise that lower socioeconomic groups were less likely to be prepared for catastrophes, according to Rao. Those who are struggling to meet everyday needs often don't have the capacity and resources to plan for everyday events, even for catastrophes.

However, the findings showed that even a minor shift from the lowest income group was associated with a higher readiness score in the study's sample. Another significant finding was that respondents who had received information related to disaster preparedness within the previous six months were more likely to be prepared.

"But more than half of the sample – 56 percent – reported not receiving any information on preparation in the previous six months, therefore this is an important area of intervention," Rao said.

Overall, the findings suggest that social workers and other health and helping professionals should collaborate specifically with the groups identified in this survey to help them prepare for emergencies.

"Disasters don't affect everyone equally," Rao said. "We need to identify strategies to assist those who are most at risk of the consequences of disasters."

Smitha Rao, Fiona C. Doherty, and Samantha Teixeira, "Are you prepared? Efficacy, contextual vulnerability, and disaster readiness," in International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 30 May 2022. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijdr.2022.103072

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