Defining Vulnerable Populations

Vulnerable populations can be defined broadly to include any individual, group, or community whose circumstances present barriers to obtaining or understanding information or to access resources offered before, during and after a disaster event. These circumstances may include, but are not limited to: age; physical, mental, emotional, or cognitive status; culture; ethnicity; religion; language; citizenship; or socioeconomic status.

Because every community is comprised of different groups of people that have needs that could be overlooked during a disaster, VPAT defined a list of vulnerable population groups that best represent the diversity and make up of the communities in our region. Your list may look different than ours but it is important to define the list and keep it manageable.

It’s not uncommon for vulnerable segments to overlap. Whether you’re classifying groups of individuals or the agencies that serve them, you’ll want to develop a method to differentiate segments. For example, you might want to classify by the most prominent service received or provided.

Narrow your list using qualifying criteria and answering key questions in the Vulnerable Populations Segment Worksheet.

Vulnerable Populations Segment Worksheet

Use these sample lists and resources as a guide:

Public Health – Seattle & King County Vulnerable Populations Segment Sample Grid


Preparing for Emergencies: Are We Serious?: Presentation from Northwest Center for Public Health Practice, Tuesday, August 9, 2011