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Communication, information seeking, and evacuation plans for a disaster using Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response in the Gulf Coast counties of Alabama and Mississippi, 2011

Danielle Buttke, DVM, PhD, MPH, Sara Vagi, PhD, Tesfaye Bayleyegn, MD, Amy Schnall, MPH, Melissa Morrison, MPH, Mardi Allen, PhD, Amy Wolkin, MSPH


Objective: To determine communication, information seeking, and evacuation behaviors of coastal residents in a disaster-prone area.

Design: A two-stage, probability sampling design to select 210 households in each assessment area was used. Data were analyzed using a weighted cluster analysis to report projected households for each assessment area.

Setting: Public health services areas of coastal Alabama and Mississippi.

Participants: Eligible respondents were 18 years of age or older, had lived in the community for at least 30 days, and were residents of the selected household.

Main outcome measures: Evacuation propensity, primary communication forms, primary information forms, and special needs.

Results: Most coastal residents would evacuate if recommended by public health authorities. Fewer residents had landlines (45.9-58.8 percent) compared to residents using cellular or mobile phone service only (84.3-95.8 percent), and these residents were significantly older compared to non-landline owning residents. Most residents own pets (61.9-70.1 percent).

Conclusions: Our assessment suggests that the majority of Alabama and Mississippi coastal residents plan to evacuate during a disaster if recommended by public health authorities. However, public health authorities should strive to evaluate multiple forms of communication to disseminate disaster preparedness and response messages to reach all vulnerable residents, especially in situations where electric services might be compromised. Emergency preparedness personnel should also be prepared for a large pet population in the event of an evacuation.


CASPER, emergency preparedness, evacuation, disaster, pet ownership

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