Predicting Rural Population Surge Following Urban Disasters

Discussions with emergency preparedness planners have revealed that the lack of population surge estimates (i.e., estimates of the number of persons who may enter a rural community after a catastrophic event) is a significant barrier to local planning efforts.  Rural preparedness dollars can be more effectively and efficiently utilized at the local level if communities have information on population surge, thereby creating a basis upon which community preparedness planners can determine needed resources and supplies. This study, conducted for the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, consisted of a national survey of urban households and a series of interviews with community and national experts to inform rural preparedness planning efforts and augment the predictive accuracy of an online, map-based planning tool developed by NORC's Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis. 

In the first phase of this study, key informant interviews were conducted with 17 preparedness experts, including national experts and paired urban-rural preparedness planners.  Interview protocols focused on anticipated behavior and response of urban residents following a disaster, the likelihood of urban residents to spontaneously evacuate to surrounding rural areas, the ability of rural communities to accommodate evacuees, and planning efforts to address these concerns.  

The second phase of the project consisted of a national survey of urban households to assess their intended behavior following an urban disaster.  Interview questions addressed issues including family evacuation plans, family networks, adherence to governmental orders to shelter in place, and evacuation intentions.  The survey also collected standard respondent demographic questions information.

This project was conducted as part of the Rural Health Research and Policy Center.

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