193578 Preparedness for Evacuation Emergencies in Southeastern Pennsylvania: A comparison of households with and without individuals with “special needs”

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lori Uscher-Pines, PhD, MSc , Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Wynnewood, PA
Alice Hausman, PhD, MPH , Department of Public Health, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Sarah J. Powell, MA , Public Health Department, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Phillip DeMara, MSEd , Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, Philadelphia, PA
George Heake , Institute on Disabilities, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Michael G. Hagen, PhD , Department of Political Science, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Background: Individuals with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable in evacuation emergencies and face numerous challenges accessing resources for response and recovery.

The aim of this study was to compare the preparedness behaviors of households with and without special needs members. Methods: Random digit-dial telephone survey of 501 adults in southeastern Pennsylvania in 2008. The survey instrument gathered data on socio-demographic characteristics, disability status/functional limitations, and preparedness behaviors related to an evacuation emergency. Analyses used included multiple logistic regression and data were weighted to correct for unequal probabilities of selection and response. Results: Nineteen percent of respondents reported living in a household in which someone had transportation-related special need requiring assistance in case of an emergency. Households with a special needs member had greater odds of having arranged a place to meet (OR= 2.2, 95% CI: 1.26-3.88), located a shelter (OR=1.8, 95% CI: 1.05-3.24), and packed a bag (OR=1.8, 95% CI: 1.02-3.21). No significant differences were identified with respect to awareness of evacuation routes, purchasing of food and water, or creation of an emergency plan to guide evacuation decision-making. Conclusions: Despite their greater vulnerability to disaster and numerous messages by government and non-governmental organizations, households with special needs members are not more likely to engage in time-consuming planning and buying preparedness behaviors. Understanding the motivations and behaviors of different special needs groups is critical to designing informed risk communications messages and interventions to bolster the preparedness of our most vulnerable populations.

Learning Objectives:
Describe how preparedness behaviors vary by special needs status Discuss the Health Belief Model's application to preparedness behaviors

Keywords: Disasters, Vulnerable Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a PhD in emergency preparedness and conducted survey research on vulnerable populations for my dissertation
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.