268588 Emergency preparedness in rural Alaska communities: Climate change adaptation through disaster risk management

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tenaya Sunbury, PhD , Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK
Grace Beaujean, BA , Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK
Introduction: Given the impact of climate change on the number and severity of extreme weather events, the planning process and evaluation of existing emergency response systems becomes a vital and urgent component of any climate change adaptation program. Increasing community capacity to prepare and effectively respond to the health risks of extreme weather events will have multiple benefits for other high-frequency, low-impact local emergencies. The objective of this study was to describe emergency preparedness and early warning communication activities in rural Alaska communities. Methods: The survey population was a purposive sample of health aids, local officials, and tribal leaders. 84 participants representing 14 predominantly rural Alaska communities were given an anonymous self-administered questionnaire. Results: A majority of respondents (74%) reported that some community residents would have difficulty responding to an emergency due to health or socioeconomic status. Less than half the participants (42%) reported having an early warning system in their community, and those communities without an early warning system mentioned that they would be alerted through citizen's band (i.e., C.B.), VHF radio, and/or other word-of-mouth methods of communication. Half (50%) mentioned having an emergency kit, but less than 25% had no more than three items recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Discussion: Alaska has a vast number of communities spread along coastlines and interior regions in isolated rural areas. Public health promotion and climate change adaptation programs should involve community residents to be sustainable and use radio as a useful medium to disseminate emergency preparedness messages.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Environmental health sciences
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs

Learning Objectives:
1) Describe how prepared rural Alaska communities are for emergencies 2) Identify and compare/contrast recommended emergency supplies with items in Alaskan emergency kits 3) Identify methods to disseminate emergency preparedness information to a rural population.

Keywords: Climate Change, Disasters

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a research technician for the University of Alaska Anchorage and have been a research aide on a CDC funded project studying climate change impacts on human health in Alaska.
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.