Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Health

First Advisor's Name

O. Dale Williams

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Mary J. Trepka

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Jayachandran Krishnaswamy

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Juan P. Sarmiento

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Public health, environmental health, needs assessments, risk assessments, disaster assessments, shelters, vulnerable populations, emergency management, mass care

Date of Defense



Disasters are complex events characterized by damage to key infrastructure and population displacements into disaster shelters. Assessing the living environment in shelters during disasters is a crucial health security concern. Until now, jurisdictional knowledge and preparedness on those assessment methods, or deficiencies found in shelters is limited. A cross-sectional survey (STUSA survey) ascertained knowledge and preparedness for those assessments in all 50 states, DC, and 5 US territories. Descriptive analysis of overall knowledge and preparedness was performed. Fisher’s exact statistics analyzed differences between two groups: jurisdiction type and population size. Two logistic regression models analyzed earthquakes and hurricane risks as predictors of knowledge and preparedness. A convenience sample of state shelter assessments records (n=116) was analyzed to describe environmental health deficiencies found during selected events.

Overall, 55 (98%) of jurisdictions responded (states and territories) and appeared to be knowledgeable of these assessments (states 92%, territories 100%, p = 1.000), and engaged in disaster planning with shelter partners (states 96%, territories 83%, p = 0.564). Few had shelter assessment procedures (states 53%, territories 50%, p = 1.000); or training in disaster shelter assessments (states 41%, 60% territories, p = 0.638). Knowledge or preparedness was not predicted by disaster risks, population size, and jurisdiction type in neither model. Knowledge: hurricane (Adjusted OR 0.69, 95% C.I. 0.06-7.88); earthquake (OR 0.82, 95% C.I. 0.17-4.06); and both risks (OR 1.44, 95% C.I. 0.24-8.63); preparedness model: hurricane (OR 1.91, 95% C.I. 0.06-20.69); earthquake (OR 0.47, 95% C.I. 0.7-3.17); and both risks (OR 0.50, 95% C.I. 0.06-3.94). Environmental health deficiencies documented in shelter assessments occurred mostly in: sanitation (30%); facility (17%); food (15%); and sleeping areas (12%); and during ice storms and tornadoes.

More research is needed in the area of environmental health assessments of disaster shelters, particularly, in those areas that may provide better insight into the living environment of all shelter occupants and potential effects in disaster morbidity and mortality. Also, to evaluate the effectiveness and usefulness of these assessments methods and the data available on environmental health deficiencies in risk management to protect those at greater risk in shelter facilities during disasters.





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