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Creating a Gold Standard for Emergency Prep at Home

By LIDA TUNESI

Researchers led by Professor Tara Heagele of Hunter College have created what they hope will become a “gold standard” tool to evaluate household emergency preparedness.

The idea is that a thorough questionnaire like this can help assess preparedness in a standardized way, which can in turn help local planners create mitigation strategies, and highlight the areas in which a community can bolster its resilience.

The authors present the household emergency preparedness instrument (HEPI) in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.

We all generally know what emergency preparedness looks like—having a fire safety plan, being ready for tornados, earthquakes, or hurricanes, depending on your location, as well as stocking water and having a first aid kit—but until now, there hasn’t been a widely agreed-upon definition or list.

To create one, the authors first looked through past research on the subject and considered existing instruments. They then brought together a panel of 154 people from 36 countries, with relevant backgrounds like public health, emergency management, nursing, social work, and firefighting. The panel went through three rounds of consideration to decide what was most important to include in an ideal HEPI.

The result was a list of 51 questions meant to determine how ready a person or household is to deal with common results of disasters, like power outages, limited drinking water, and a limited ability to get supplies. It isn’t tailored to specific environments, so people in colder climates might need to add a question about snow shovels, for instance. Depending on how fast help can arrive, people in some areas might also need to stock more supplies than others.

Next, the authors plan to do a pilot test of the HEPI on CUNY students, faculty, and staff. CUNY’s diversity, they hope, will let them see if the instrument is culturally biased, and they will then adjust it accordingly.

Heagele is a registered nurse and EMT in addition to holding a Ph.D. in nursing.