Community Disaster Preparedness: An index designed to measure the disaster preparedness of rural communities

Amanda Seymour*, Benedict C. Posadas, Christine E. Coker, Scott A. Langlois and Randy Y. Coker
Mississippi State University, Coastal Research and Extension Center

Disaster preparedness can be defined as the knowledge and capacities developed by governments, professional response and recovery organizations, communities and individuals to effectively anticipate, respond to, and recover from, the impacts of likely, imminent or current hazard events or conditions. The coastal communities of the Northern Gulf of Mexico region stretching from Louisiana to Florida are predominantly rural and, as such, have the potential to not only be impacted directly by a variety of hazards in the region, but also indirectly due to their geographical association to the more populated urban areas to which they border. A better understanding of how these communities prepare for and respond to disasters may offer insight into factors which could be used to increase the resiliency of these communities before, during and after a disaster.

In spring 2010, the Mississippi State University, Center for Urban Rural Interface Studies (CURIS) began an investigation into the development of a tool to measure how well prepared coastal communities were with regard to their ability to handle any type of natural hazard in the region. The goal of this project was to measure and compare the level of disaster preparedness of coastal communities along the CURIS region, which was defined as twenty counties and parishes in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Collection of disaster preparedness data was accomplished through the use of a mailed 52 question survey. Survey responses from sources which included emergency management, law enforcement, fire department and county/parish extension personnel were used to create a Community Disaster Preparedness Index (CDPI).

The CDPI measures disaster preparedness based on eight variables:  disaster preparedness plan, communication, security, transportation, sheltering, volunteer collaboration, utilities and critical infrastructure. Based on responses is each community, these variables are scored with a numeric value and form a basis for the CDPI representing the current level of disaster preparedness of the county/parish. Surveys were mailed to 83 targeted participants with completion instructions and included a postage paid envelope to return the completed survey. Over the course of several weeks, two complete CDPI survey mailings were performed with a total response 24 surveys completed from 17 counties/parishes in the CURIS region.

The data from these completed surveys have been analyzed and preliminary results show an average CDPI score of 0.50 for the participating counties.  The lowest average score was for the volunteer collaboration variable at 0.31 while the highest scoring variable was communication at 0.83. More results will be displayed on the poster.  The scores are based on a ranking system of 0 to 1 where 0 is the lowest level of preparedness and 1 is the highest level of preparedness.

View the pdf version of the poster presentation.