What Makes A Population Vulnerable To Disasters?

Jake Buckland preparedness response

What Makes A Population Vulnerable To Disasters?


There are several groups within a population that are more vulnerable to disasters.  From those that are economically disadvantaged to single-parent households and new immigrants.  Below is our list of groups that have traditionally faced a much harder time preparing, responding and recovering from disasters and emergencies.

Economically Disadvantaged

Access to wealth is the strongest measurable indicator of identifying a vulnerable population.  The wealthier a community (or family) becomes, the more access that group has to resources in helping them respond and recover from disasters and emergencies.  A weather population can afford to live in areas with low crime, better buildings, access to transportation and food, etc.  Those who don’t have access to wealth, risk living in unsafe conditions and become more vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters.  Low-income families often have poorer health, poorer diets and chronic poor health leading to a much longer recovery from disasters and emergencies.

One way of narrowing this gap is providing emergency kits to families who wouldn’t typically be able to purchase emergency supplies.  Emergency kits offer the opportunity to level the playing field and gives families access to basic human needs necessary to survive.

Manhattan, New York – Darker locations signify areas of higher social vulnerability vs lighter areas that indicate lower areas of social vulnerability


Single Parent Families, Infants & Children

Single parent homes are more vulnerable to emergencies than dual income families because of their reduced access to stable employment, transportation, and health benefits.  Not having sufficient access to many of these necessities puts a single parent family at a higher risk of becoming a victim of a disaster.  For example, a parent may choose to ignore evacuation orders because they can’t afford to be absent from work.  Or they don’t have the means to evacuate their family and are confined to public transportation.

Isolated Individuals & Elderly

Those who are isolated may become more vulnerable to the effects of an emergency because they lack sufficient early-warning systems.  Many times early warnings of a disaster or emergency are shared amongst family members and within social circles.  Isolated individuals and elderly persons are more vulnerable because they lack those social circles that confirm an evacuation. Isolated individuals also tend not to stay informed of ongoing news cycles; as a result, they may not be aware of evacuation orders or any emergency at all.

Intellectually, Psychologically and Physically Disabled Individuals

Those that are psychologically and physically disabled are more vulnerable to disasters and emergencies because they may not have the capacity to recognize a threat.  Furthermore, physically disabled individuals may not be able to transport themselves to safer locations.  As a result, they will be more vulnerable.  They may not be able to interpret environmental cues such as thunderstorms and high winds as danger signs.  Furthermore, if disabled persons don’t have caregivers, often they may not understand official evacuation orders and risk becoming a victim of a disaster.

New Immigrants and Visitors

New immigrants and visitors to our country face a tough time coping with disasters and emergencies because of their lack of communication and social interaction.  It’s essential for new immigrants to learn English, not only to become a citizen quickly but to communicate with neighbors and friends during emergency situations. Neighbors are often the first to respond to any disasters, and if they don’t know your family, they won’t be willing to help.



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