Ready to Roll: New Zealand wheelchair users' preparedness for emergencies.
Nicholls, Jason Murray
Background:People with disabilities are disproportionally affected by emergency situations compared to the general population, with higher mortality rates and increased vulnerability to disrupted infrastructure and services. The 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes highlighted issues regarding personal and organisational preparedness for people with disabilities in New Zealand (NZ). The Ready to Roll (RTR) study investigates issues of emergency preparedness by wheelchair users in NZ, seeks their opinions about a proposed register of vulnerable people for use in emergencies, and also surveys information communication technology (ICT) use patterns amongst this group to determine whether such technology could augment emergency response planning.Aims:This study focused on four key questions: 1. What is the current state of emergency preparedness amongst NZ wheelchair users?2. What are their perceived barriers to emergency preparedness?3. What is the level of support for, and concerns about, a Disabled Persons Emergency Response Register in this group?4. What types of ICT, able to support emergency planning and response, are currently being accessed and used by this group?Methods:A nationwide survey of adult, community dwelling wheelchair users was conducted using SurveyMonkey™ or a postal questionnaire. Survey questions were developed through a process of engagement with disabled people. A snowball sampling recruitment method using Disabled Persons Organisations and disability service providers was used to disseminate the survey. Results:The key findings from the 101 people who completed the survey revealed less than 30% had an emergency plan and less than 20% were planning for their disability related needs. Personal preparedness barriers identified included the need for assistance from someone else to carry out planning activities (n = 50), lack of disability relevant information (n = 37), limited accessibility to information (n = 24), cost (n = 23), and being unable to stockpile medications (n = 20) or consumables (n 11). Ninety participants supported the concept of a Disabled Persons Emergency Response Register but fewer (n = 76) thought they would personally participate in such an initiative. The participants of this study reported high levels of internet engagement including internet searches, emails and downloading/installing software (n= 91), online financial transactions (n = 84) and using social media (n = 80). Seventy nine participants were currently smart phone users.ConclusionsRTR participants reported much lower levels of personal emergency preparedness and a higher incidence of barriers to preparedness than that reported for the general NZ population, a concerning finding given the increased vulnerability of people with disabilities in emergencies. Findings of this study indicated that adjuncts to assist emergency planners respond to the needs of people with disabilities such as a register system or ICT enabled tools could be useful, well utilised and accessible to this group of participants. However the small scale and limitations of the study produce an inability to generalise findings beyond participants to people with disabilities more broadly. As such, further research into the issues raised by this and previous studies is recommended to improve the personal and organisational emergency preparedness for disabled New Zealanders.
Advisor: Dunn, Jennifer; Snell, Deborah
Degree Name: Master of Health Sciences
Degree Discipline: Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: emergency preparedness; disability; New Zealand; wheelchair user
Research Type: Thesis