How to Include Diverse, Vulnerable Populations in Emergency Preparedness

When creating a disaster preparedness plan, it is important to keep in mind diversity. Oftentimes, communities — and businesses within those communities — are comprised of individuals representing many different cultures and subpopulations. According to a article by Elaine Pittman, when preparing residents for disasters, officials must think about both the different cultures within their community and the vulnerable populations — the disabled, very young, elderly, homeless and people who don’t speak the native language.

To effectively educate and connect with diverse and vulnerable populations, partner with organizations that you already interact with. Or if a new partnership makes sense, seek it out. Here are some tips to help guide you:

  • Work with large organizations, such as the American Red Cross, United Way and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. These resources have a good roster of agencies currently active in the community.
  • Conduct an assessment of those in the community who have functional needs, which will help you prioritize who to work with first.
  • Ensure that outreach efforts include two-way communication, which further enhances a partnership approach to disaster preparedness.
  • Understand that planning and relationship building will take time and require patience.

The article also pointed out that initiatives aiming to increase emergency preparedness in vulnerable and diverse communities can “provide ideas and help establish best practices for governments and emergency management organizations.” Here are recommendations for how to reach all the citizens in a community:

  • Partner with community- and faith-based organizations.
  • Partner with the ethnic media.
  • Help organizations find funding to keep preparedness programs front and center.
  • Don’t tell people what to do. Start a conversation with people by discussing what items they can use in an emergency that they already own.
  • Know the audience you’re trying to reach.

For more information on disaster planning and preparedness in diverse cultures, read the full article: