Iowa researcher developing program to keep most vulnerable safe

    Dr. Sato Ashida is working with the state and several communities to implement Disaster Prepwise into their emergency protocol.<p>{/p}

    Dr. Sato Ashida, an associate professor at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, is developing a new tool to keep the elderly and people with disabilities safe during a disaster or other mass emergency.

    "Some of those things that we find very easy might not be easy for older adults or people who experience disabilities, so we want to make sure people who may need extra help during and after disaster or natural situations like this are prepared before it actually occurs," said Ashida.

    Her research focuses on understanding how well prepared older Iowans are in case of a disaster or extreme cold weather. The state data center of Iowa shows over 16 percent of Iowa's population are 65 or older Her program includes identifying important contact information and compiles a checklist of what to do in case of different emergencies. The program acts as a mobile emergency support network compiling resources and giving vulnerable community members a place to have all of their preparation done in one place.

    "We need something like this for older adults, that's a different group of vulnerable people that we need extra support for," said Ashida. "I hope that we can work with larger agencies or the Iowa department of homeland security to work better to implement this wider. The information that we have can be used by these agencies to help in their emergency recovery plans."

    Dr. Ashida's teams has been working with individuals on creating their personal emergency plan to test Prepwise but have already reached out to the department of public health and other communities to try and implement Prepwise on a larger scale. It is currently still being tested to make sure it works correctly and includes all necessary information to potentially save lives.

    "We want them to have a conversation ahead of time," said Ashida. "When things happen it's easier to pick up the phone and call and they don't have to worry about bothering those people or I am not sure if this person is going to help me. Having a strong support system ahead of time, is very important."

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