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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

North Texas Researchers Quantify Population Vulnerabilities to Be Incorporated Into the Effective Emergency Response Planning

The study focused on the methodological advancement and analytical approach of using multi-level data to define population vulnerability and risk in bio-emergency disaster planning.

Approaches to disaster management warrant a critical examination of resource allocation, especially selecting the placement of points of dispensing (PODs) for affected communities. A Point of Dispensing (POD) site is a mass medication dispensing location that is designed to provide medications, vaccinations (prophylaxis), or medical supplies to protect or treat the general population in the event of a health emergency or biological threats. The researchers considered two types of vulnerabilities, transportation vulnerability that stems from lack of access to transportation (public or private) and communication vulnerability that stems from unavailability of needed language-specific communication resources. We used Transit Authority general transit feed data and the American Community Survey 5-year estimate data (2006-2010 summary files) to quantify these vulnerabilities. These data were integrated with Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) data for spatial analysis. A response plan was generated for Tarrant County, Texas and deemed feasible before consideration of vulnerable populations.

The results point to the importance of integrating geographical and population demographic features that represent potential barriers to the optimum distribution and utilization of resources into the analysis of response plans. An examination of transportation vulnerabilities indicate that, out of those vulnerable in Tarrant County, nearly 23,000 individuals will be at-risk of not being able to reach the Point Of Dispensing (POD) to obtain services as they are beyond walking distance to the POD and lack access to transportation resources.

The analysis of language vulnerability depicts an uneven distribution resulting in non-uniform demand at PODs for translation resources.  The value of information during disasters and emergencies cannot be understated. Management of communication and information dissemination during emergencies are of paramount importance to the goal of mitigating risk for responders and impacted populations.  Further, efficient communication of important information to the public requires the maintenance of effective media relations. 54 With respect to minority populations, such as the Latino population during Katrina disaster, these problems are compounded with language inabilities, immigration status and lack of health insurance. These findings are applicable to planning and implementation of disaster-related health care services for Latinos and other minority and underserved groups.  The results indicate that in the SE Region of Tarrant County alone, there are over 11,000 at-risk households among all vulnerable households that are truly in need of translation services. The demand for translators is higher at the PODs designated in this region. The translators will also be needed for rapid assessment and information dissemination during the emergency. Their proposed methodology enables researchers to quantify risk and help health planners to be efficient in distributing available translators and other resources.

The study demonstrated that multiple vulnerabilities at each POD can be quantified by aggregating the vulnerability at the available granularity (i.e. all blocks or block groups) in a given service area. The quantification of vulnerability at each service area facilitates a POD-based at-risk analysis for the response plan. Disparities stemming from social, behavioral, cultural, economic, and health characteristics of diverse subpopulations could induce the need for additional targeted resources to support emergency response efforts.

NIH  Grant R01 LM011647-01:  Minimizing Access Disparities in Bio-Emergency Response Planning awarded to PI: Dr. Armin Mikler.

To read more:

Conceptual framework and quantification of population vulnerability for effective emergency response planning Dr. Suhasini Ramisetty-Mikler, Dr. Armin R. Mikler, Dr. Martin O’Neill, Mr. Jared Komatz.  Journal of Emergency Management, May/June 2015; pages 227-238May/June 2015.