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Open Access Research article

Factors influencing readiness to deploy in disaster response: findings from a cross-sectional survey of the Department of Veterans Affairs Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System

Nicole K Zagelbaum1, Kevin C Heslin1, Judith A Stein1, Josef Ruzek2, Robert E Smith3, Tam Nyugen2 and Aram Dobalian14*

Author Affiliations

1 Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center, 16111 Plummer Street MS-152, North Hills, CA 91343, USA

2 National Center for PTSD, 795 Willow Rd, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA

3 Veterans Health Administration Office of Emergency Management, 510 Butler Ave Bldg. 203B, Martinsburg, VA 25405, USA

4 Department of Health Policy and Management, University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health, 650 Charles Young Dr. S., Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA

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BMC Emergency Medicine 2014, 14:16  doi:10.1186/1471-227X-14-16

Published: 19 July 2014

Abstract

Background

The Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS) program provides a system of volunteers whereby active or retired Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) personnel can register to be deployed to support other VA facilities or the nation during national emergencies or disasters. Both early and ongoing volunteer training is required to participate.

Methods

This study aims to identify factors that impact willingness to deploy in the event of an emergency. This analysis was based on responses from 2,385 survey respondents (response rate, 29%). Latent variable path models were developed and tested using the EQS structural equations modeling program. Background demographic variables of education, age, minority ethnicity, and female gender were used as predictors of intervening latent variables of DEMPS Volunteer Experience, Positive Attitude about Training, and Stress. The model had acceptable fit statistics, and all three intermediate latent variables significantly predicted the outcome latent variable Readiness to Deploy.

Results

DEMPS Volunteer Experience and a Positive Attitude about Training were associated with Readiness to Deploy. Stress was associated with decreased Readiness to Deploy. Female gender was negatively correlated with Readiness to Deploy; however, there was an indirect relationship between female gender and Readiness to Deploy through Positive Attitude about Training.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that volunteer emergency management response programs such as DEMPS should consider how best to address the factors that may make women less ready to deploy than men in order to ensure adequate gender representation among emergency responders. The findings underscore the importance of training opportunities to ensure that gender-sensitive support is a strong component of emergency response, and may apply to other emergency response programs such as the Medical Reserve Corps and the American Red Cross.

Keywords:
Emergency preparedness; Public health; Training; Readiness; First responder; Gender; Stress