The complexities of critical decision making processes for Hispanic/Latino immigrant families concerning whether to shelter in place or evacuate preceding hurricanes along the southern coastal region of the continental United States are explored. Hispanic/Latino immigrant families in the U.S., particularly migrant workers, may experience obstacles of language, social vulnerabilities, information dissemination, distrust of authorities, and contextual barriers. Historical perspectives and lessons learned from previous disaster preparation efforts suggest a more inclusive infrastructure at the local, community, regional, state and national levels through coordinated efforts to enhance existing meso and macro-level practice and procedures supporting health and safety of Hispanic/Latino families in times of disaster.

Key Take Away Points

  • Emergency preparedness for Hispanic/Latino immigrant families in times of natural disaster
  • Historical perspectives and lessons learned
  • Practice implications and strategy suggestions for possible mezzo and macro-level coordination and intervention

Author Biography

Melinda Lewis, PhD is an associate professor at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida. Primary research and scholarly interests include rural health disparities, rural mental health, Hispanic populations, creative teaching strategies, and human trafficking education and prevention. Dr. Lewis has taught across the social work curriculum at UWF, including generalist and advanced practice, clinical social work, leadership and supervision, and field practice. Previously, Dr. Lewis taught in the School of Social Work at the University of Alabama and held professional leadership positions in public and private social service and healthcare organizations serving rural populations in the southeastern United States. Professor Paula Rappe earned a Bachelor of Science in Sociology with an emphasis in Social Work and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Southern Mississippi. Ms. Rappe joined UWF in 1988 after working with children and their families for approximately ten years and has continued providing services to the community in the areas of trauma and disaster relief. As the State of Florida’s Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Clinical Director she led a five person assessment team to Dade County, Florida following Hurricane Andrew, providing stress education to disaster responders and assessing needs of agencies that housed Emergency Service Personnel. Ms. Rappe has also assisted with other disasters including Hurricanes Ivan, Hurricane Katrina and Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Disaster, Japan. Ms. Linda Tierney earned her master's degree in Social Work from the University of West Florida in 2018 with an emphasis in behavioral health. She is employed with Adult and Child Mental Care in Pace, Florida and is pursuing her clinical social work license. Professor Jann Albury has a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Alabama, and is an Instructor at the University of West Florida since 1997. She teaches numerous social work courses, drawing on her 19 years of professional experiences as a clinical social worker, program coordinator and prevention coordinator in a variety of settings such as a hospital, a substance abuse facility, a community mental health agency and the Birmingham, Alabama Police Department. Prior to teaching, she worked as an assistant director, program coordinator, and research scholar for the Office of Community Outreach at UWF. She has made numerous presentations on social work issues to several conferences as well as provided training to numerous agencies on family counseling, group counseling for adolescents, team-building, parent education and other topics.


*The terms “Hispanic/Latino" are used in this article to refer to persons of Mexican, Central American, Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican, South American, and Spanish descent who may be of any race.