Journal of Community Health

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 158–168 | Cite as

Knowledge and Behaviors of Parents in Planning for and Dealing with Emergencies

  • Katrina Kubicek
  • Marizen Ramirez
  • Mary Ann Limbos
  • Ellen Iverson
Original Paper


In recent years, a number of large-scale disasters have occurred both locally and internationally, heightening our awareness of potential dangers. If a disaster were to occur at a school, there is the potential for a large number of children to be injured or affected in some way. The school community includes not only the staff and students who are on campus each day, but also students’ parents and the surrounding neighborhood. How parents react during emergencies and disasters at schools is likely associated with their knowledge and perceptions of emergencies and disasters. Parents’ preparedness levels and their planned response to a school-based emergency and how schools plan and manage for these reactions have not been explored. Utilizing a mixed methods design that included surveys, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with members of the communities in two South Los Angeles school districts, this study aims to provide an overview of parents’ levels of emergency and disaster preparedness and the challenges they face in preparing for these events. Additionally, parents’ planned responses to a school-based emergency or disaster are discussed as well as the challenges that schools may face as a result. Data from this study confirm that there are a number of challenges related to parents’ planned response to a school-based emergency, including an expected inundation of parents to the schools, lack of communication between schools and parents and language barriers. Recommendations for schools are provided to take advantage of parent populations to better integrate them into schools’ emergency planning processes.


Emergency Disaster Schools Parents Emergent behavior 



Special thanks to the staff, parents and students from these school districts for their time, interest and effort in this research study. We also acknowledge Eileen Argueta, Adriana Armenta, Alejandra Medina, Rizaldy Ferrer, MA, Bryce McDavitt, and Marcia Reyes for their role in collecting, cleaning and coding the data for this project. The Principal Investigator of this study, Dr. Ramirez, also thanks her advisory committee for their mentorship for this project, Peggy Brustche from the American Red Cross, Linda B. Bourque, PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles, Joyce Harris from the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management, Michele D. Kipke, PhD from Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Corinne Peek-Asa, PhD, MPH from the University of Iowa, Frank Sorvillo, PhD, MPH from the University of California at Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Department of Health, Marleen Wong, PhD, MA from the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Post-traumatic Child Network, William Ybarra, MA from the Los Angeles County Office of Education. This study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention award number K01-CD000196–02.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrina Kubicek
    • 1
  • Marizen Ramirez
    • 2
  • Mary Ann Limbos
    • 3
    • 4
  • Ellen Iverson
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Community, Health Outcomes, and Intervention Research Program, Saban Research InstituteChildrens Hospital Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Occupational & Environmental Health, College of Public HealthUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Pediatrics, Keck School of MedicineUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Childrens Hospital Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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