Supporting disaster risk reduction in high-risk populations

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High-risk populations are at disproportionate risk when disasters occur because of the social vulnerabilities they experience. The purpose of this study was to explore the current practices, challenges, and barriers experienced by emergency managers (EMs) and emergency social services directors (ESSDs) to support individual and community resilience in disaster risk reduction (DRR) practices, with an emphasis on high-risk populations. EMs and ESSDs (n=21) from six Canadian provinces were interviewed. Through content analysis three themes were identified and one model was developed. The themes included: 1)Disasters magnify inequities and vulnerable settings/circumstances, 2) Supporting resilience means shifting the focus from planning to prevention/mitigation, 3)Inclusive engagement empowers high-risk populations but is challenging to implement. The concept of ‘lifestyle drift’ was identified in DRR practices and has unique implications for high-risk populations whose basic needs are already challenged. While both top-down and bottom-up interventions can reduce the likelihood of overwhelming the emergency management system in the hours after a disaster, bottom-up interventions, such as a ‘whole community’ approach, are more likely to foster asset literacy, adaptive capacity, and social justice supporting the resilience of high-risk populations.