08:12am Saturday 11 July 2020

Emergency preparedness tips for the vulnerable

The presentations are part of a series of seminars addressing evacuation planning, welfare and community preparedness, being hosted by the centre (which is part of the School of Psychology) at the Wellington campus.

In 2012 PhD candidate Robyn Tuohy undertook a series of interviews with adults from Christchurch and Wellington aged in their 70s and 80s. Older adults are a rapidly increasing population group who are at greater risk of negative effects during and after a disaster she says; however little attention has been given to their accounts of disaster preparedness. 

“The Christchurch earthquake sequence highlighted challenges that some participants had in maintaining ongoing preparedness during the prolonged two-year earthquake sequence, “ she says. “The presence or absence of social relationships was a central feature of their stories about preparedness, with less emphasis on survival items.” 

She suggests that plans around disaster preparedness should be organised according to age groups in tandem with support from health welfare and emergency management organisations. 

“Disaster preparedness needs to be linked with medical care, social and emotional support as older people are also managing the demands of ageing in the community,” she says.

Similarly, Dr Suzanne Phibbs, who co-authored a study measuring the disaster preparedness of the disabled, says emergency management needed to engage with disabled people in the community and have specific policies to help disabled people before and during a disaster. 

Dr Phibbs, who is a senior lecturer at the School of Health and Social Services, interviewed 23 disabled people living in Christchurch during the quakes. In April 2012 researchers re-interviewed eight of the original participants about how a year of earthquakes had affected their lives. A further survey involved 25 disabled people living in Christchurch during the earthquakes and ten people who worked in the disability sector.

Some of the most common responses and advice from the disabled to allow them to prepare and maintain their independence in an emergency included building up support systems such as getting to know neighbours so they know how to help in an emergency, having a list of two or three people who can be contacted for immediate support as well having their contact numbers. 

Senior lecturer at the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences Hayley Squance says animal welfare needs to be considered too, with the combination of natural disaster and pet ownership of concern for more than three million New Zealand households.

Her presentation includes the preliminary findings of a pilot study into the health effects of the Christchurch earthquakes on animals.

A definite spike in the number of animals being treated at veterinary clinics for gastro intestinal and renal problems was recorded after each major earthquake in September 2010 and February, June and December 2011. 

Overall increases in animal death, which may be co-related to owners having to move out of their homes for repairs, were also noted by Ms Squance who says their value in times of disaster could not be underestimated.

“Pets are part of the family and they create positive impacts on mental and physical health of people during response and recovery phases particularly for the most vulnerable, the elderly and children.” 


The presentations are being delivered from 1pm-3.15pm on Wednesday March 12 in the Executive Seminar Suite; Entrance A, Wallace St, Massey University Wellington.

Massey University.

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