Being prepared for a disaster is an important strategy for reducing physical, social, psychological and cultural harm. Preparedness practices mitigate the immediate impacts of a disaster while also enabling people to respond to and cope with any ongoing consequences. However, not all people have the ability to prepare. This paper queries how preparedness discourses impact on people without financial means, capacity or support to prepare. The work situates preparedness within a neoliberal system that is preoccupied with risk management as an economic cost reducing exercise. It highlights that without the ability to feel safe and achieve ontological security in a disaster, people can experience instability and mental health is compromised. It questions disaster preparedness texts that produce a form of structural violence, preventing the ability to have needs meet, while privileging agency to some and denying it to others. Government documents and preparedness websites from Aotearoa/New Zealand are outlined to highlight the frequently ignored preparedness needs of vulnerable groups. The role of research in preparedness activities is also discussed. People working in the emergency management space should contest the socio-political conditions that produce increased risk for disadvantaged groups.
International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 2017