Disaster Preparedness for Children and Families: a Critical Review

  • Kevin R. RonanEmail author
  • Eva Alisic
  • Briony Towers
  • Victoria A. Johnson
  • David M. Johnston
Child and Family Disaster Psychiatry (B Pfefferbaum, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Child and Family Disaster Psychiatry


Preparedness for disasters is universally low; children and families are particularly vulnerable groups. Against this backdrop, research on disaster preparedness for children and families is reviewed, with a focus on disaster preparedness and prevention education programs. Following definitions and theory/rationale, research is critically analyzed. While findings indicate a large growth in research in the past 15 years and largely positive findings, significant challenges remain. These challenges include issues related to methodological rigor, long-term effectiveness, and implementation. Recent research reflecting these important challenges is reviewed. At the same time, other recent research documents real potential for these programs, including findings which suggest that increased attention to incorporating theory- and evidence-supported components can enhance outcomes. Thus, despite some important limitations and challenges, research done to date signals promise for these programs in reducing risk and increasing resilience to disasters for children, families, and the households and communities in which they live.


Disaster preparedness Prevention Disaster risk reduction (DRR) DRR preparedness education programs Children and families 



The funding support of Australia’s Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (BNHCRC) is gratefully acknowledged. This review paper was part of a larger scoping and review exercise for a 3-year BNHCRC-funded project on “building best practice in child-centered disaster risk reduction.”

Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

Conflict of Interest

Briony Towers, Victoria A. Johnson, and David M. Johnston declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Kevin R. Ronan has received a grant from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre. Dr. Ronan has also received payment for development of educational presentations and paid travel accommodations from the Australia-New Zealand initiative: Disaster Resilience Australia-New Zealand Schools Education Network (DRANZSEN).

Eva Alisic has received a grant from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin R. Ronan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eva Alisic
    • 2
  • Briony Towers
    • 3
  • Victoria A. Johnson
    • 4
  • David M. Johnston
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Human, Health and Social SciencesCQUniversity AustraliaRockhamptonAustralia
  2. 2.Trauma Recovery Lab, Monash Injury Research InstituteMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Risk and Community SafetyRMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey UniversityWellingtonNew Zealand
  5. 5.Joint Centre for Disaster Research, GNS Science/Massey UniversityLower HuttNew Zealand

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