Study Shows Hurricane Planning a Challenge for Low-Income Residents

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ -- Hurricane season begins Saturday, June 1st. Emergency officials have told us for years to "get a plan." But how does that happen for low-income residents and neighborhoods?

New Jersey's Rutgers University studied low income people in areas hit by Superstorm Sandy in 2012...

Lead author, Dr. Joanna Burger, says emergency agencies need to do a better job, especially with seniors and those in the country illegally.

While politicians in our state have endorsed building more toll roads to ease hurricane evacuation, Dr. Burger says expecting the financially challenged to hit the road and travel 500 miles to get out of harms way may not be realistic. For one thing, low-income people are the most likely not to have access to a car.

"In order to do that, you have to have... prescriptions ready... and there are a lot of preparations that go into evacuation as well," Burger said.

Burger and other researchers interviewed almost 600 people who didn't have health insurance and were in areas impacted by Sandy. Among other findings... small grocery stores serving economically challenged areas ran out of canned goods long before the storm arrived.

Her recommendations include reaching out to community organizations and creating focus groups to target problems such as transportation. Public awareness campaigns should focus not only on obvious issues such as stocking up on food, water and batteries, but maintaining health and safety and looking for loved ones after a disaster. The study also calls for setting up ways to check on senior citizens and undocumented residents, who may be afraid to seek help because they're in the country illegally.

Listen to an interview with Dr. Joanna Burger:

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