Vulnerability of Displaced Persons: Relocation Park Residents in the Wake of Hurricane Charley

March 2006 (VOL. 24, NO. 1)

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Hurricane Charley made landfall in southwest Florida, USA on August 13, 2004. It caused devastation in several coastal counties before moving rapidly north-northeastwards through the state. While storm surge and flooding were minimal, the destruction from high winds was extensive. Hurricane Charley was the most intense storm to make landfall in Florida since Andrew in 1992; three more hurricanes followed in 2004, creating problems throughout the state and leaving many people homeless. This study looked at the vulnerability of these displaced persons, exploring issues of pre and post-event behavior, response and recovery in a relocation park run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Questionnaire surveys and indepth interviews were used to assess perception of immediate and ongoing needs of park residents and to evaluate how well those needs had been met. Though residents reported that emergency response organizations had met most of their immediate needs and they were generally appreciative of FEMA’s efforts, there were some ongoing concerns. Results indicated that relocation park residents were more vulnerable than the general population prior to the storm, and that differences among park residents were associated with variations in perception of needs and outcomes. Specifically, four themes stood out and require further study: special needs, race, access to resources and social networks. With subsequent events, not least being Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, more attention to long-term sheltering needs and temporary housing would seem appropriate.