Household disaster preparedness and information sources: Rapid cluster survey after a storm in New South Wales, Australia

Cretikos, Michelle; Eastwood, Keith; Dalton, Craig; Merritt, Tony; Tuyl, Frank; Winn, Linda; Durrheim, David
January 2008
BMC Public Health;2008, Vol. 8 Issue 1, p195
Academic Journal
Background: A storm-related disaster in New South Wales, Australia in June 2007 caused infrastructure damage, interrupted essential services, and presented major public health risks. We investigated household disaster preparedness and information sources used before and during the disaster. Methods: Rapid cluster survey of 320 randomly selected households in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia. Results: 227 households (71%) responded to the survey. By the day before the storm, 48% (95%CI 40-57%) of households were aware of a storm warning, principally through television (67%; 58-75%) and radio (57%; 49-66%) announcements. Storm preparations were made by 42% (28-56%) of these households. Storm information sources included: radio (78%; 68-88%); family, friends, colleagues and neighbours (50%; 40-60%); and television (41%; 30-52%). Radio was considered more useful than television (62%; 51-73% vs. 29%; 18-40%), even in households where electricity supply was uninterrupted (52%; 31-73% vs. 41%; 20-63%). Only 23% (16-30%) of households were aware that the local government-operated radio network has a designated communication role during disasters. A battery-operated household radio and appropriate batteries were available in 42% (34-50%) of households, while only 23% (16-29%) had all of: a torch, battery-operated radio, appropriate batteries, mobile phone, emergency contact list and first aid equipment. Conclusion: Broadcast media are important information sources immediately before and during disasters. Health services should promote awareness of broadcast networks' disaster role, especially the role of radio, and encourage general household disaster preparedness. A rapid cluster survey conducted shortly after a natural disaster provided practical, robust information for disaster planning.


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