Panel Paper: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, be Prepared: Household Level Determinants of Action- and Resource-Based Disaster Preparedness

Friday, November 8, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 3 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Lucila M Zamboni and Erika G. Martin, State University of New York at Albany

Despite federal, state, and local government efforts to promote emergency preparedness, studies have consistently found that Americans are not ready for emergencies, there have been no significant improvements in preparedness, and in some cases the percentage of people fulfilling recommended preparedness actions (such as having a communication plan) has decreased. We use nationally representative survey data to identify the determinants of households’ preparedness, and differences by type of preparedness. Previous studies have identified predictors of some preparedness actions; however, no study has analyzed extensively their association with different types of disaster preparedness items. We define action-based preparedness items as activities that enhance households’ preparedness through coordination actions such as having an alternative communication plan or a meeting location. These items do not rely on material resources and are thus less likely to have economic limitations for fulfillment. Conversely, we define resource-based items as material or financial resources such as food and water stockpiles or having financial resources for evacuation.

Using household-level data from the 2017 American Housing Survey, we classify nine preparedness items into resource- or action-based indicators, with preparedness defined as meeting at least half of the items. Logistic regressions test the association between households’ socio-economic characteristics, household composition, and region, and their disaster and emergency preparedness (overall, resource- and action-based preparedness, and by item). Our sample is a subset of 32,856 occupied housing units included in the survey’s topical section on emergency and disaster preparedness. Included households responded to all nine questions on emergency and disaster preparedness (N=16,725).

Most (68.9%) households have met the criteria for overall disaster preparedness but are more likely to fulfill resource- than action-based preparedness (65.5% versus 41.1%). Types of preparedness vary by household characteristics; for example, wealthier households and those with adults >65 are more likely to meet resource-based items but less likely to meet action-based items; households with children are generally less prepared but more likely to have an alternative meeting location; and Black not Hispanic households are more likely to meet items directly related to emergencies but less likely to meet resource-based items that require large financial investments. The multivariate models for the adjusted odds of fulfilling specific preparedness items are consistent with our aggregate preparedness measures. For example, female-headed households have lower preparedness on most individual resource-based items, and married households were more likely to fulfill each resource- and action-based item. However, there were differences in households’ likeliness of fulfilling items that require financial security or are exclusive to emergencies.

We advance prior studies on the determinants of preparedness and resilience by categorizing preparedness items as resource or action-based preparedness. Differences in findings for action- and resource-based preparedness may indicate that households treat items differently or have different capacities. This suggests that targeted strategies might be needed to promote preparedness across communities with different socio-economic characteristics, and that current risk communication strategies should emphasize the importance of both action- and resource-based types of preparedness.

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