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Accounting for vulnerable populations in rural hazard mitigation plans: Results of a survey of emergency managers

Jennifer A. Horney, PhD, MPH, Mai Nguyen, PhD, John Cooper, PhD, Matt Simon, MA, Kristen Ricchetti-Masterson, MSPH, Shannon Grabich, MS, David Salvesen, PhD, Philip Berke, PhD


Rural areas of the United States are uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters. One possible way to mitigate vulnerability to disasters in rural communities is to have a high-quality hazard mitigation plan in place. To understand the resources available for hazard mitigation planning and determine how well hazard mitigation plans in rural counties meet the needs of vulnerable populations, we surveyed the lead planning or emergency management official responsible for hazard mitigation plans in 96 rural counties in eight states in the Southeastern United States. In most counties, emergency management was responsible for implementing the county’s hazard mitigation plan and the majority of counties had experienced a presidentially declared disaster in the last 5 years. Our research findings demonstrated that there were differences in subjective measures of vulnerability (as reported by survey respondents) and objective measures of vulnerability (as determined by US Census data). In addition, although few counties surveyed included outreach to vulnerable groups as a part of their hazard mitigation planning process, a majority felt that their hazard mitigation plan addressed the needs of vulnerable populations “well” or “very well.” These differences could result in increased vulnerabilities in rural areas, particularly

for certain vulnerable groups.


rural, hazard mitigation planning, emergency managers, resiliency

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