Knowledge and Behaviors of Parents in Planning for and Dealing with Emergencies

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In recent years, a number of large-scale disasters have occurred both locally and internationally, heightening our awareness of potential dangers. If a disaster were to occur at a school, there is the potential for a large number of children to be injured or affected in some way. The school community includes not only the staff and students who are on campus each day, but also students' parents and the surrounding neighborhood. How parents react during emergencies and disasters at schools is likely associated with their knowledge and perceptions of emergencies and disasters. Parents' preparedness levels and their planned response to a school-based emergency and how schools plan and manage for these reactions have not been explored. Utilizing a mixed methods design that included surveys, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with members of the communities in two South Los Angeles school districts, this study aims to provide an overview of parents' levels of emergency and disaster preparedness and the challenges they face in preparing for these events. Additionally, parents' planned responses to a school-based emergency or disaster are discussed as well as the challenges that schools may face as a result. Data from this study confirm that there are a number of challenges related to parents' planned response to a school-based emergency, including an expected inundation of parents to the schools, lack of communication between schools and parents and language barriers. Recommendations for schools are provided to take advantage of parent populations to better integrate them into schools' emergency planning processes.

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