Take Charge of Your Health Today…Disaster preparedness


Recently we had a conversation with the new President & CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh (ULGP) to gain perspective on the impact of disasters on the Black Community and the bias that exists.

What is your perspective on disasters and how Black People are impacted?

The unfortunate reality is that families and people who are in marginalized communities often do not fare well when disasters and emergencies occur. A tragic illustration is Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the devastation of New Orleans’ Black community.  There were more than 1,800 fatalities and many could have been prevented with disaster preparedness.

This tragedy is one of many that demonstrates the disproportional impact of disasters on the most vulnerable whose lives don’t appear to be as valued as others.  The sad thing is that Black people do not receive the same level of support as White people due to poverty, oppression, and structural racism.

This underscores the need for governments and organizations to make sure that marginalized communities are prepared and have the resources to support the most vulnerable communities.

What role should Black organizations play in helping to address this issue?

Given the bias in disaster preparedness, it is critical that Black organizations are involved to make sure that our voices are heard and that critical resources are equitably distributed. The ULGP provides information to help our clients/community save the lives of family members, maintain their property, and survive a short- or long-term emergency leveraging community resources. 

We provide emergency preparedness information to persons who attend our monthly homeownership sessions. These items are covered as part of the post purchase segment.

Program participants receive information that includes preparing a home and vehicle safety kit, emergency escape plans, disaster basics, inspections of appliances, gas/electric and heating/cooling systems on a yearly basis.

We also aid with housing via the Allegheny Link and leverage our emergency food pantry to support families during emergencies.

What can be done to address bias in Disaster Response and Preparedness?

Given the bias in disaster preparedness, it is important that we increase diversity in public health as a career. When this happens, there will be more leaders who represent and value Black people as they help to mitigate inequities.  To start, we need to expose young people to the field.  Pitt, for instance, has the Public Health Academy, which provides young people with exposure to careers in public health. Offering these opportunities to our youth will increase the probability of having more Black voices involved in disaster response and create better outcomes for Black People in emergency situations in the Greater Pittsburgh Region and beyond.

Carlos Carter is President and CEO, Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh

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