Running Head: RACE AND ETHNICITY IN DISASTERS
Race and Ethnicity in Disasters
Name of Student
RACE AND ETHNICITY IN DISASTERS
Factors the HSEM Experts Should Understand
The race and ethnicity issue has been a bone of contention in the USA since it affects the
disaster preparedness and response. The country is a significant economic powerhouse thus it is
very appealing to the majority of the people who end up being immigrants within the state.
Besides, it is seen as the land of greener pastures since it offers immigrants from Latin America,
Asia, and Africa a new sense of life since they are escaping from factors such as wars and
poverty. However, the geographical position of the nation has made it vulnerable to natural
disasters such as the Hurricane Michael that causes significant impacts to the people. The HSEM
experts are compelled to assist everybody without considering their ethnic or racial
background.Moreover, the country is a democratic state that is governed by a set of laws that
states that each person is equal regardless of the ethnic background. Besides, the immigrants that
are mostly the African Americans and the Hispanic people have more economic problems
(Bolin, 2018). The specialists should consider the communities during their preparation such that
the minority groups will be assisted faster in case an epidemic occurs. Besides, some are always
in isolated areas with poor housing conditions hence it is advisable to offer a practical guideline
on the management of the Hurricane Michael. Therefore, the race and ethnicity issue must be
adequately addressed and understood by the experts.
Functional Needs associated with Diversity Issues
Disaster management requires professionals to have clear guidelines and policies
regarding cultural diversity. The disaster has led to the massive losses within the society hence
certain factors have to be respected. The vital functional needs that should be regarded include:
RACE AND ETHNICITY IN DISASTERS
The understanding of the different cultural backgrounds will lead to the experts gaining
enough experience on the management of the calamity. Furthermore, various research indicates
that the vulnerability of the minority groups is high as compared to the majority groups.
Moreover, their reaction to disasters is slow due to the information asymmetry hence a lot of
caution should be taken care off. The gaining of cultural knowledge will equip the officers on
factors such as the beliefs and customs of the various communities.
Social and Economic conditions
The social problems in society such as housing problems, social support, and
employment problems are a significant issue. There is a feeling of neglect by the minority
groups. Thus it is imperative to handle them with caution. Besides, the minority groups mostly
live in harsh economic conditions that prevent them from gaining disaster preparation such as
taking insurance and medical cover. Moreover, the housing conditions are not pleasing since
most of them are concentrated in a particular place that makes the diversification of the risk to be
a challenge. The economic difficulties may lead to the hostility of the people during instances of
disasters (Meyer, 2016). The HSEM experts should, therefore, develop policies that address the
social and economic challenges within the minority groups. For instance, the disaster preparation
should be in collaboration with the government in the improvement of the infrastructure within
the communities. The development of the infrastructure will have a positive effect since it will
enable the disaster preparation to be active and easily manageable.
Pre-Disaster and Post-Disaster Management Policy
Community needs determine how the disaster can be managed before and after it occurs.
To address the pre-disaster problems, for instance, the community should have a proper wiring
RACE AND ETHNICITY IN DISASTERS
system for power supply running all over the community to ensure that there is an adequate
power supply. Besides, construction of boreholes and increasing the number of water harvesting
materials would ensure that there is constant water supply within the community. Problems such
as shortage of food and supply can easily be solved by providing that there are intense
agricultural activities taking place in ensuring that food supply is maximized and that the
community members are food secure. The professionals in HSEM the community should ensure
that there are enough medical centers. However, in case a disaster has taken place great
destruction has taken place in the community, several measures can be done to rectify the
situation. Disasters like floods, it would be important that dams are constructed to avoid the
destruction of agricultural activities. Several medical centers should be constructed in different
locations that can serve in case of damage in one area.
Ways of outreach to the community.
Mass communication can be used to reach vulnerable community members can be
gathered in one strategic place. Media such as radios can also be used, where the local dialect is
embraced to reach all the community members who may be at a position of possessing one. The
door to door method can be applied in this case by assisting both the infected and affected
households in the community to address the destruction and ways forward. With aforementioned,
the race and ethnicity situation can be improved through the engagement of every community
regardless of their background.
RACE AND ETHNICITY IN DISASTERS
Bolin, B., & Kurtz, L. C. (2018). Race, class, ethnicity, and disaster vulnerability. In Handbook
of disaster research (pp. 181-203). Springer, Cham.
Meyer, M. A., Peek, L., Unnithan, N. P., Coşkun, R., Tobin-Gurley, J., & Hoffer, K. H. (2016).
Planning for Diversity: Evaluation of a Volunteer Disaster Response Program. Journal of
cultural diversity, 23(3).
Race, Ethnicity and Disasters in the United
States: A Review of the Literature
University of Colorado
Enrique G.M. Maestas
University of Texas
JoAnne DeRouen Darlington
Western Illinois University
In this paper we synthesise past disaster research that addresses issues of race and
ethnicity in the United States. Using an eight-stage typology to organise the findings,
this literature review presents the results from a wide range of studies. The synthesis
shows how various racial and ethnic groups perceive natural hazard risks and
respond to warnings, how groups may be differentially affected, both physically and
psychologically, and how disaster effects vary by race and ethnicity during the periods
of emergency response, recovery and reconstruction. We show that studies have
important findings, many illustrating that racial and ethnic communities in the US are
more vulnerable to natural disasters, due to factors such as language, housing
patterns, building construction, community isolation and cultural insensitivities. By
presenting these studies together, we are able to witness patterns of racial and ethnic
inequalities that may be more difficult to see or interpret in individual studies that take
place in one specific time and place. We conclude the review with policy and research
Key words: race and ethnicity, United States, natural disasters.
The environmental justice movement examines social and racial inequities in exposure
to technological risks and hazards, monitors environmental racism in the siting of
hazardous materials, and seeks to eradicate the disproportionate vulnerability faced by
racial and ethnic communities in the US due to technological hazards (Bullard, 1990,
1994). Advocates of the environmental justice movement work to compile evidence to
illustrate how certain racial and ethnic groups are disadvantaged in order to change
policies and protect marginalised and less powerful communities in the US. As a result
of their efforts, there is considerable national attention on this issue.
While public concern grows over equity issues bound up with technological risks
and hazards, less attention has been given to natural risks and hazards and the social
inequities displayed in vulnerability to them. According to Blaikie et al. (1994),
vulnerability may apply to a person or group in terms of their ‘capacity to anticipate,
cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of a natural hazard’ (9). People’s
vulnerability to natural hazards is determined not so much by the event itself but, by
ß Overseas Development Institute, 1999.
Published by Blackwell Publishers, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
Race, Ethnicity and Disasters in the United States
social, economic and political processes, society creates different conditions under
which people face hazards (Blaikie et al., 1994). In terms of racial and ethnic
communities, we believe that there are links between racism, vulnerability and
economic power in the disaster context that need to be explored. The disaster field has
long acknowledged that natural disasters are ‘social’ events, having their foundation in
the social structure, and recently the dialogue surrounding the vulnerability of racial
and ethnic communities in the US has increased (Anderson, 1996; Peacock et al.,
1997). None the less, a synthesis of the research outlining this vulnerability is lacking.
As it stands, the existing studies on racial and ethnic differences cover such a wide
spectrum of time, disaster event, place and racial group, that it is difficult to identify
patterns and draw conclusions.
The goal of this article is to review and synthesise the existing research literature on
issues of race and ethnicity in times of disaster in the US in order to take stock of what
is known and to identify gaps in our knowledge. The aim is to be as thorough,
inclusive and exhaustive as possible in the review, and we draw on both qualitative
and quantitative studies. The Natural Hazards Center Library at the University of
Colorado was a starting-point for collecting all articles that focused on the social
aspects of natural hazards and disasters. The majority of the articles reviewed here
were identified by electronic searches of the database. We focused on the US, as
previously much more attention has been paid to marginalised populations in other
countries (see, for example Blaikie et al., 1994). We used the terms ‘race’ and
‘ethnicity’, but each study used a variety of social labels for different individuals and
groups, such as Anglos (white Americans) or blacks, African-Americans and more
recently ‘people of colour’. As each study used different racial and ethnic terms, we
have made an effort to present the terms used in the original research, in order to stay
closest to the authors’ original meanings. Similarly, if the authors failed to place their
findings in the context of the larger population, the information from the original
article did not permit us to do so in this review either.
To present the findings, we use a typology based on the stages of a disaster event.
Borrowing from Fothergill (1996), the typology expands the cyclical framework of the
human ecological perspective which uses the following categories: preparedness,
response, recovery and mitigation. The expanded typology consists of eight categories,
based on the stages of a disaster: risk perception; preparedness behaviour; warning
communication and response; physical impacts; psychological impacts; emergency
response; recovery; and finally, reconstruction. This typology, designed for detailed
literature reviews, uses refined categories as they provide more detail in the analysis,
allow for more understanding of issues of stratification and help to pin-point the gaps in
our knowledge base. We focus solely on climatological and geophysical hazards and
disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. The results of the review follow;
explanations for the findings are provided only if they were given by the original author.
This section examines how people viewed the risks and threats of disasters, and
presents evidence of how groups held different risk perceptions. The research record
A. Fothergill, E. Maestas and J.D. Darlington
shows that the findings for racial and ethnic groups’ perception of risk were mixed.
Some illustrate that racial and ethnic communities in the US had a heightened
perception of disaster risk, while others found no race or ethnicity differences. The
specific research findings follow.
In Ives and Furseth’s (1983) study of flooding in Charlotte, South Carolina, the
results showed no significant difference in hazard perceptions along race lines. There
was evidence that in the California earthquakes some immigrant groups had
heightened perceptions of risk due to disasters they had previously experienced in
Mexico. Prior to the Loma Prieta earthquake, the Watsonville residents who had
experienced the Mexico City earthquake, or heard about it from relatives or friends,
had more heightened perceptions of earthquake risks than other residents (Aptekar,
1990). Lindell et al. (1980), in research on flooding in a small town in 1978, found that
Mexican-Americans tended to define a risk as high much less often than whites, even
though they lived in equally hazardous areas.
In terms of feelings of fatalism and risk perception, a study done by Turner et al.
(1980) of earthquake threats in southern California, discovered differences between
Anglos, blacks and Mexican-Americans. Their study found that blacks were much
more fatalistic about earthquakes than Anglos, and felt that there was little or nothing
one could do to protect against them. Mexican-Americans and white Anglos were
about equal in their fatalistic feelings. However, some studies purport that white males
as a category were the least worried about the risks of natural disasters. Palm (1996)
discovered that white men were consistently the least concerned group about the risk
to their homes in her study. Blanchard-Boehm (1997) reported that blacks were most
likely to perceive the chances of a major earthquake seriously damaging their homes
to be high or extremely high.
Preparedness is the stage of a disaster involving all pre-event preparation activities and
mitigation efforts in advance of a specific warning. For example, preparedness
behaviour includes stocking emergency supplies, mapping evacuation paths, response
training, practice drills and disaster educational efforts. Little is known about
differences in disaster preparation between racial and ethnic groups during this stage,
but the limited literature suggests that there were some preparedness differences
pertaining to race and ethnicity.
In California, money had been allotted to preparedness after the Whittier-Narrows
earthquake, yet information about these efforts were disseminated only in English
(Tierney, 1993). Mejer (1994) explained that there is great cultural diversity in the
ways families and communities enact a ‘culture of safety’ (201). Before Hurricane
Andrew hit, black and Hispanic families were more likely than Anglo families to have
been helped by relatives in preparing for the disaster (Morrow, 1997).
Racial and ethnic communities were less likely to have had disaster educational
opportunities in the earthquake-preparedness stage, and as such, they were also
marginal to hazard preparedness (Faupel et al., 1992). Turner et al. (1980) studied
various racial groups and their household preparedness and found several differences.
Preparation, in their study, included having a flashlight, a battery-operated radio, a
first-aid kit, stored food and water, putting latches on cupboards and giving children
Race, Ethnicity and Disasters in the United States
earthquake instruction. They found that white Anglos prepared more than blacks or
Mexican-Americans. Mexican-Americans had less interest in earthquake insurance
than blacks or white Anglos. In their sample, white Anglos had higher education
levels, incomes and occupation levels of the household head than blacks or MexicanAmericans. Blanchard-Boehm (1997) found that whites were more likely than blacks,
Hispanics and Asians to make structural changes to minimise the damage an
earthquake might cause to their home. Of those that did not make improvements, the
reason most often given was that it was too expensive. Blacks were the least likely to
stockpile emergency supplies, and Asians the least likely to develop an earthquake
plan. Whites were the most likely to buy earthquake insurance (Blanchard-Boehm,
Warning communication and response
The warning communication and response stage entails receiving warnings, such as
emergency broadcasts and tornado sirens, or other risk communication of an
immediate danger, and taking some type of action in response to this warning, such as
evacuation. The warning response process is initiated by hearing the warning, which
leads to consideration of various behaviours. There have been several studies
examining racial and ethnic differences in the various components of the warning
process; the results of these studies follow.
Some research addressed the sources of disaster warnings. Perry and Mushkatel
(1986) found that Mexican-Americans used social networks to relay warning
information more than blacks or whites, and that urban residents, particularly
Mexican-American ones, had higher levels of warning information exchange. Phillips
and Ephraim (1992) reported that Anglos received formal information from Englishlanguage sources and Latinos received informal information from family and friends
based on events they experienced in other countries. Blanchard-Boehm (1997) also
found that Hispanics were more likely than whites, blacks and Asians to use social
networks for disaster information. Before Hurricane Andrew, minority households
were likely to report that relatives were an important information source (Morrow,
1997), while Gladwin and Peacock (1997) found that over 14 per cent of their subjects
relied exclusively on Spanish-speaking television and 32 per cent listened to Spanishlanguage radio for Hurricane Andrew information. Perry and Nelson (1991) confirm
more ethnic differences between Mexican-Americans, whites and blacks, in hazard
information dissemination. Mexican-Americans used social networks more than the
other two groups, and they preferred neighbourhood meetings more than the others.
Both minority groups were more likely to prefer local television for hazard
information than whites. Perry and Mushkatel (1986) discover that blacks and
Mexican-Americans preferred neighbourhood meetings as a communication channel
regarding hazards more than whites.
Other studies examine warning source credibility. In one study, the three groups
studied — blacks, whites and Mexican-Americans — found warnings from an
authority to be reliable. Mexican-Americans found the mass media to be reliable,
whereas blacks and whites found the media to be a less-reliable source. Whites with
previous disaster experience believed more strongly in the warnings they heard, but
this did not hold true for blacks and Mexican-Americans (Perry and Mushkatel, 1986).
A. Fothergill, E. Maestas and J.D. Darlington
Another study found that there were ethnic differences in the credibility of warning
sources and in the warning confirmation process: minorities were more likely to value
social networks as a source than whites, and minorities attempting to confirm the
warnings contacted a greater number of sources than did whites (Perry and Lindell,
Several studies explored the issue of the effectiveness of warnings and risk
communication. Aguirre (1988), after researching failed tornado warnings in Texas,
concluded that in the US disaster warning effectiveness ‘ ...
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