One catastrophic day of weather can lead to improved preparedness, according to new research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.
According to the National Weather Service, 62 confirmed tornadoes touched down in Alabama on April 27, 2011. Around 240 fatalities and more than 2,600 injuries resulted.
“We know from past research that disaster experience influences personal disaster preparedness,” said Department of Health Care Organization and Policy Assistant Professor Lisa McCormick, Dr.P.H.
McCormick and her team looked to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Get 10 campaign, which launched in 2007 to promote personal preparedness. A 2010 phone survey of Jefferson County, Alabama, residents found that 37 percent of respondents had a complete disaster preparedness kit, which is defined as having at least nine of the 10 items on the ADPH Get 10 list.
A year after the April 27, 2011, outbreak, a follow-up phone survey was performed to ascertain to what extent the tornado outbreak experience had altered preparedness awareness, willingness to act and levels of personal preparedness, as well as the effect this experience had on the variables associated with having a complete disaster preparedness kit.
“We felt it was important to look at how levels of personal preparedness changed due to the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak so we have a baseline understanding of how prepared the residents of Jefferson County are for future disasters,” McCormick said.
They found a 66 percent increase in respondents with a disaster preparedness kit, and 59 percent have taken actions since the tornado to increase their level of preparedness. Additionally, 86 percent of respondents reported that they were now thinking more about personal or family preparedness, and nearly 24 percent said they had an increased general awareness of preparedness media campaigns.
“We were surprised by the increase of those that had a complete preparedness kit in the home after the event as opposed to before,” McCormick said. “We were also surprised to find that vulnerable populations, for example the elderly or those with chronic conditions or activity-limiting disabilities, were no more prepared than the general population even though their risk of adverse health effects after a disaster is higher.”
McCormick says that because her team was able to determine what segments of the population are prepared versus those not prepared, they know who should be targeted in delivering future preparedness health education campaigns.
“This study also gives us insight into not only who should be targeted with these campaigns, but when these campaigns may be most effective to reduce death and injury due to future disasters,” she said.
The most effective time to initiate a preparedness campaign may be in the months immediately following a disaster.
“Due to media coverage of disaster events, the general population is aware of the effects of the event whether they were directly affected or not,” McCormick said. “This then affects their awareness of preparedness campaigns, their awareness of the need to become better prepared for future disasters and their willingness to take action to become better prepared.”
Further research into personal preparedness will be performed by McCormick and her team.
Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham