• Article

Reducing Public Health Risk During Disasters: Identifying Social Vulnerabilities

All regions of the US experience disasters which result in a number of negative public health consequences. Some populations have higher levels of social vulnerability and, thus, are more likely to experience negative impacts of disasters including emotional distress, loss of property, illness, and death. To mitigate the impact of disasters on at-risk populations, emergency managers must be aware of the social vulnerabilities within their community. This paper describes a qualitative study which aimed to understand how emergency managers identify social vulnerabilities, also referred to as at-risk populations, in their populations and barriers and facilitators to current approaches. Findings suggest that although public health tools have been developed to aid emergency managers in identifying at-risk populations, they are not being used consistently. Emergency managers requested more information on the availability of tools as well as guidance on how to increase ability to identify at-risk populations.


Wolkin, A., Patterson, JR., Harris, S., Soler, E., Burrer, S., McGeehin, M., & Greene, S. (2015). Reducing Public Health Risk During Disasters: Identifying Social Vulnerabilities. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 12(4), 809-822. https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2014-0104

DOI Links