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Disaster and disadvantage: social vulnerability in emergency management

Disasters Emergency services Vulnerable people Victoria

This report describes who is most at risk of being socially vulnerable in an emergency or disaster and what needs to be done to better protect them and improve their recovery

Executive summary: While they can be devastating for all affected individuals and communities and cause great physical, financial and psychological hardship, for people who
are already facing disadvantage, the impacts can be overwhelming, leading – in the words of one mother – to a “cascade of sorrows”.

People facing disadvantage, such as those in poverty, migrants, refugees, children, older people, people with disabilities, people who are homeless or transient, and people living in poor quality housing, are more vulnerable at all stages of a disaster – before, during, and after it strikes. These people are considered ‘socially vulnerable’ in the face of a disaster.

Whether it is their capacity to evacuate in time or to recover in the long term from trauma and financial devastation, socially vulnerable people are hit hardest and longest by disasters and emergencies. These people often have fewer resources and less social support, mobility and housing options at their disposal, and so are less able to prepare for, respond to and recover from a disaster or emergency.

As one report put it, socially vulnerable are “more likely to die...and less likely to recover.”

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