New Algorithm to Identify Vulnerable People in Natural Disasters

A new algorithm has been developed by the University of Waterloo to assist first responders and home care providers in helping the elderly during natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornados, and floods.

The development comes after a World Health Organization study that revealed elderly individuals living at home face a disproportionately higher fatality rate in natural disasters. This was seen with Hurricane Katrina, where 71% of all deaths resulting from the extreme weather occurring in the over 60’s.

John Hirdes, a researcher in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo, has said in a press release; “Frailty combined with social isolation can mean that older adults still living at home have nowhere to turn during emergencies… Home care services need to have mechanisms in place to manage the needs of their most vulnerable clients during disasters.”

The new algorithm uses data from interRAI’s home care assessment to generate a full list of vulnerable adults using home care services at the moment disaster strikes, compiling data about disability, health status, and degree of social isolation.

“It has the potential to save hundreds of lives,” said Hirdes. “It’s a tool that should be top of mind for any part of the country at risk of natural disasters.”

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