A mixed-method analysis: Disaster preparedness of families with children with access and functional needs


  • Krysten Chin, MD
  • Phyllis Tan, MPhil
  • Tracey Simmons, RN, MSN
  • Rita V. Burke, PhD, MPH




disaster preparedness, children with access and functional needs, special health care needs


Introduction: The aim of this study is to evaluate challenges to disaster preparedness of families with children with access and functional needs (CAFN). CAFN are a particularly vulnerable population, with increased risk of morbidity and mortality in the event of an emergency. Families with CAFN require specialized preparedness plans and support from multidisciplinary teams; however, previous research has shown that they are not adequately prepared.

Methods: A mixed-methods approach was used involving twenty parents/guardians of CAFN. Questionnaires and focus groups were conducted in three school districts in a large metropolitan county. Data were analyzed using a content analysis approach.

Results: Majority of CAFN had behavioral and sensory impairment. Eighty-five percent of families did not have a written communication plan, and forty percent did not have a three-day emergency kit. Sixty-five percent did not have a copy of their child’s medical emergency plan. Focus groups identified multiple barriers to preparedness, including coping with disability, poor communication, difficulty with knowledge acquisition, social-cognitive factors, and external factors.

Conclusion: Disaster preparedness among families with CAFN is low. The presence of chronic medical conditions, disabilities, and technology or medication dependence requires more detailed and strategic planning on the part of the parents, schools, healthcare providers, and communities.

Author Biographies

Krysten Chin, MD

Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellow, Division of Emergency and Transport Medicine, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California

Phyllis Tan, MPhil

Staff Analyst, Emergency Preparedness and Response Division, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Los Angeles, California

Tracey Simmons, RN, MSN

Director, Community Resilience Unit, Emergency Preparedness and Response Program, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Los Angeles, California

Rita V. Burke, PhD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Clinical Preventive Medicine, Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California


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How to Cite

Chin, MD, K., P. Tan, MPhil, T. Simmons, RN, MSN, and R. V. Burke, PhD, MPH. “A Mixed-Method Analysis: Disaster Preparedness of Families With Children With Access and Functional Needs”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 15, no. 3, Oct. 2020, pp. 187-9, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2020.0367.




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