Considerations of Public Disaster Literacy
Recently, scholars have suggested that clear and open communication cannot be considered only from the perspective of the party sending the message. Rather, careful consideration of the audience's ability to comprehend and act on the information is equally important.
Disaster literacy is defined here as an individual's ability to read, understand, and use information to make informed decisions and follow instructions in the context of mitigating, preparing, responding, and recovering from a disaster.
Although many government, nonprofit, and relief organizations have endeavored to educate and prepare the American public for disasters, it is found that adults with physical, mental, and educational disabilities remain among the most vulnerable and least prepared subgroups of the population. If there is a gap between the literacy demands of existing disaster preparedness and recovery materials and the literacy skills of many vulnerable subgroups, their ability to understand and effectively use potentially life-saving information would be hampered. There is a need for organizations to examine existing disaster preparedness or recovery materials based on the following criteria:
- readability levels
- understandability of content
- acceptability of format
- the ability of community-dwelling, vulnerable adults to act on the information presented