Diane L. Smith, Ph.D., O.T.R./L., Stephen J. Notaro, Ph.D.
People with disabilities may be disproportionately at risk of injury or death in emergency situations due to physical, cognitive, and socioeconomic factors. These factors individually or in combination have the potential to affect response to emergencies before, during, or after the incident. This study examines general emergency preparedness of persons with disabilities compared to those without disabilities.
The 2006-2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of 6 states included 188,288 self-reported respondents with disabilities who were surveyed regarding their general emergency preparedness. Chi square analysis examined the relationship of general preparedness variables with disability status. Logistic regression analysis examined how various demographic variables affected the likelihood of being unprepared for an emergency.
Persons with disabilities were significantly more likely to state that they were not prepared at all for an emergency. They were also less likely to have a 3-day supply of water, a working battery-operated radio, and a working flashlight and to evacuate an emergency situation. Persons with a disability are 1.22 times more likely to be unprepared for an emergency. For those with a disability, being female, nonwhite, with less education, less income, and uncoupled and living in an urban area increase the likelihood of being unprepared for an emergency.
Increased effort must be made to empower persons with disabilities to become involved in their own emergency preparedness. Efforts are being made by several government and nongovernmental organizations to assist in this effort though most have not addressed specific needs of vulnerable populations within the disability community. Strategies for emergency preparedness must be considerate of these high risk populations. Finally, mechanisms must be developed to connect persons within the disability community to the information necessary on emergency preparedness through methods such as telehealth.