Team Epi-Aid students collect data on recovery from Hurricane Irene

 

Team Epi-Aid student volunteers collected data on recovery from Hurricane Irene from residents of New Hanover County, NC during Fall Break.

Team Epi-Aid student volunteers collected data on recovery from Hurricane Irene from residents of New Hanover County, NC, during Fall Break.

Eighteen student volunteers from the NC Institute for Public Health’s Team Epi-Aid spent their Fall Break this year in New Hanover County, NC, conducting an assessment of the County’s recovery from Hurricane Irene, which made landfall near there on August 27, 2011. Volunteers included students from the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Departments of Epidemiology, Health Behavior and Maternal and Child Health. Twelve of the students used this activity to fulfill their practicum requirements for their degree program.

The assessment asked residents to report on their participation in planning for community disaster recovery before Irene, as well as their post-Irene recovery experience. Previous research suggests that residents who participate in recovery planning will be more knowledgeable about resources and will have a more successful recovery. Residents were also asked to prioritize post-disaster activities planned by the County, such as damage assessment, transportation improvements, public safety, housing, health and social services, and media and public awareness.

Interviews were completed with 196 residents. While 115 residents were aware of New Hanover County’s recovery plan, only nine residents reported participating in its development. Priorities for post-disaster activities included restoration of utilities such as water and electricity as well as restoration of emergency medical services.

Matt Simon, research associate at NCIPH, trained the volunteers and supervised the data collection activity. The assessment results will be shared with New Hanover County public health and emergency management and will also be used in a research study on increasing community engagement for preparedness response funded by the National Science Foundation.