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Prehosp Disaster Med. 2013 Apr;28(2):127-31. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X12001811. Epub 2013 Jan 14.

Level of disaster preparedness in patients visiting the emergency department: results of the civilian assessment of readiness for disaster (CARD) survey.

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University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7594, USA.



Patients seeking care in public hospitals are often resource-limited populations who have in past disasters become the most vulnerable. The objective of this study was to determine the personal disaster preparedness of emergency department (ED) patients and to identify predictors of low levels of preparedness. It was hypothesized that vulnerable populations would be better prepared for disasters.


A prospective cross-sectional survey was conducted over a one-year period of patients seeking care in a public university hospital ED (census 65,000). Exclusion criteria were mentally impaired, institutionalized, or non-English speaking subjects. Subjects completed an anonymous survey detailing the 15 personal preparedness items from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster preparedness checklist as well as demographic characteristics. Summary statistics were used to describe general preparedness. Chi-square tests were used to compare preparedness by demographics.


During the study period, 857/1000 subjects completed the survey. Participants were predominantly male (57%), Caucasian (65%), middle-aged (mean 45 years), and high school graduates (83%). Seventeen percent (n = 146) reported having special needs and 8% were single parents. Most participants were not prepared: 451 (53%) had >75% of checklist items, 393 (46%) had food and water for 3 days, and 318 (37%) had food, water, and >75% of items. Level of preparedness was associated with age and parenting. Those aged 44 and older were more likely to be prepared for a disaster compared to younger respondents. (43.3% vs 31.1%, P = .0002). Similarly, single parents were more likely to be prepared than dual parenting households (47.1 vs 32.9%, P = .03).


This study and others have found that only the minority of any group is actually prepared for disaster. Future research should focus on ways to implement disaster preparedness education, specifically targeting vulnerable populations, then measuring the effects of educational programs to demonstrate that preparedness has increased as a result.

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