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Disaster Threats to Vulnerable Populations: Cultural Competency Critical to Disaster Threats

Amy Lippmann

August 1, 2009

This study examines the link between culture and emergency preparedness. It focuses on preparing vulnerable populations for emergencies by identifying the need for developing culturally competent protocols for vulnerable populations in response to disaster threats. My research questions the level of preparedness in cultural minority communities and determines that cultural incompetency in fact exists. A lack of understanding of the needs of these vulnerable minority populations puts them at greater risk than “mainstream” communities. Despite efforts by public administration disaster management systems to improve organizational infrastructure addressing disasters, minority communities remain an “Achilles heel” in the overall preparation program. The study combines an ethnographic or “portrait of a people” study with an exploratory cross-sectional research design. The ethnographic study examines two cultural minorities in the state of Maine – the Passamaquoddy tribe on Pleasant Point Reservation and the Somali refugee community in the city of Lewiston. The study consists of unstructured stakeholder interviews, focus groups and observation. These study-specific surveys take into account the possible cultural parameters that may affect preparedness.


Lippmann Disasters Vulnerable Populations