Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness

Research Article

Personal Disaster Preparedness: An Integrative Review of the Literature

Sivan Kohn c1, Jennifer Lipkowitz Eaton, Saad Feroz, Andrea A. Bainbridge, Jordan Hoolachan and Daniel J. Barnett


Experts generally agree that individuals will require partial or complete self-sufficiency for at least the first 72 hours following a disaster. In the face of pervasive environmental and weather hazards, emerging biological threats, and growing population densities in urban areas, personal preparedness is critical. However, disaster planners and policymakers require further information to create meaningful improvements to this aspect of disaster preparedness. A systematic review of the literature was conducted to determine the state of evidence concerning personal disaster preparedness. The purpose of this integrative review is to describe and analyze the professional literature as an intended basis for advancing the field of disaster management research and practice. Included in the review were 36 studies that met the predetermined inclusion criteria. The current evidence indicates that factors influencing preparedness attitudes and behaviors are complex and multifaceted, including demographic characteristics, trust in government efforts, previous exposure to a disaster, and number of dependents in a household. Furthermore, certain population groups, households, and individuals have different disaster preparedness needs and vulnerabilities. This constellation of findings has significant implications for community and national emergency planning and policymaking.

(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2012;6:217–231)

(Received March 13 2011)

(Accepted February 13 2012)

Key Words:

  • disaster;
  • preparedness;
  • household;
  • family


c1 Correspondence: Sivan Kohn, MPH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Public Health Preparedness Programs, 615 N Wolfe St, Room E7038, Baltimore, MD 21205 (e-mail: skohn@jhsph.edu).

Author Affiliations: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (Drs Barnett and Lipkowitz Eaton, Mss Kohn and Bainbridge, and Mr Hoolachan), Johns Hopkins Public Health Preparedness Programs (Dr Barnett and Ms Kohn); and Department of Environmental Health Sciences (Drs Barnett and Lipkowitz Eaton and Ms Kohn); and Division of Occupational and Environmental Health (Dr Lipkowitz Eaton); and Department of Biostatistics (Mr Hoolachan); University of Maryland Baltimore School of Social Work (Ms Bainbridge); Johns Hopkins University (Mr Feroz).