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Keywords:

  • disaster;
  • evacuation;
  • hurricanes;
  • older adults;
  • vulnerable populations

ABSTRACT Objectives: To investigate the evacuation needs and beliefs of older adults in 2 counties in Georgia; to identify health risk factors; and to provide public health and emergency management officials with planning information.

Design: A descriptive survey using The Older Adult Disaster Evacuation Assessment.

Sample: 139 lower socioeconomic participants at congregate meal sites.

Results: Hurricane Katrina significantly influenced decisions to evacuate in disasters. Over 70% said they would definitely evacuate in the future and nearly 16% would probably evacuate, yet over 13% reported “maybe” or “no.” Multiple logistic regressions suggest that those who do not trust their TV and county officials' information would have only 1/4 the odds of definitely evacuating. Those who say they would not follow their county officials' advice have only 1/3 the odds of definitely evacuating. Primary health problems were decreased mobility (40.1%), hypertension (70.5%), and arthritis (53.2%). Forty-six percent would need transportation; approximately 40% lived alone; and about 40% had fair or poor health.

Conclusions: Trust and belief in county officials and the media were the best predictors of willingness to evacuate. Participants in this study would need assistance with transportation, preparation, and support for serious health problems in order to evacuate. Further study is needed with a larger, more representative sample.