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Understanding citizen perspectives on preparedness: A focus group study of South Carolina residents

Joseph L. Pearson, MS, DrPH, Charlotte Toole Galloway, MSPH, Sonya Forte Duhé, PhD, Nathaniel J. Patterson, MHA


For emergency managers and other preparedness officials to successfully protect the public from disasters, citizen participation and cooperation are essential. Individual citizens must be aware of potential threats and take the fundamental steps needed to protect themselves and their families from disasters. In an effort to gain an understanding of citizen perspectives on preparedness, focus groups were conducted among residents of eight South Carolina counties. Participants (n = 67) responded to questions relating to aspects of disaster awareness, preparedness, and response. Participants were also queried on their sources of preparedness and response information as well as aspects of trust and credibility. Responses were coded by themes reflecting five distinct aspects of preparedness: responsibility, education and training, motivators, barriers, and community assets. Participant comments indicated a clear sense of responsibility in protecting themselves and their families from a disaster. Comments also underscored an interest in having the information and resources to overcome barriers to preparedness. Participants expressed their dependence on local leaders and institutions to gain insight on what to do in an emergency and their reliance on personal experience in guiding preparedness and response actions. These results offer an important glimpse into the mindset of citizens regarding their role in preparing themselves and their families for disasters of all types. Further, these results serve to guide the efforts of emergency managers and other preparedness officials in the process of engaging citizens in preparedness activities.


citizen preparedness; disasters; emergency management

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