Are Americans Prepared for a Disaster? Emergency Preparedness Polls Have Surprising Results

February 7th, 2013

As we saw with Hurricane Sandy back in October, a disaster situation can leave a family helpless for days with little assistance from rescue teams. Some people, who regularly practice emergency preparedness, had stockpiled basic emergency supplies months in advance and “weathered” the storm. Countless others, however, did not prepare until the last minute when supplies were running low, causing a frenzy at local grocery stores. A natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, after which approximately 8 million people were left without power for days and thousands had to be rescued from their homes, makes us wonder if Americans will be prepared for the next disaster. A national poll sponsored by the Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation suggests that the answer is no.11180656_s

The Adelphi Natural Disaster Survey, conducted in May 2012, questioned more than 1,000 Americans and, based on the results, estimated that approximately half of all Americans are not adequately prepared for a disaster or other emergency situation. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed do not have any emergency supplies stockpiled and 53% do not have at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food and water. Even more shocking, 44% of the individuals surveyed do not even have first-aid kits!

Aside from the more basic emergency essentials like food, water, and first-aid supplies, there are other items that people should have in their emergency preparedness kit but do not. For instance, 37% of survey participants do not have a list of drugs used by family members and 52% do not have copies of their health insurance documents readily available, which would prove useful if someone is injured or becomes ill during the disaster event. In addition to the emergency preparedness kit, FEMA and the American Red Cross recommend that families designate a meeting place in the event that they become separated during an emergency. Unfortunately many Americans do not consider this a priority since 52% have not established a family meeting place for emergency purposes.

So why are Americans not preparing for disasters or other emergencies? Recently, FEMA conducted a poll, asking the question, “What makes disaster prep hard?” and respondents provided a variety of explanations. The top five reasons were:

  1. Complacency: Many Americans are not concerned that they will ever find themselves in an emergency situation such as a natural disaster.
  2. Procrastination: Americans do not consider emergency preparedness to be a high priority.
  3. Time: Americans do not want to take the time necessary to make adequate preparations.
  4. Cost: An emergency preparedness kit requires an initial expense.
  5. Unknown Disaster:  Despite the fact that most emergency preparedness kits are very general and can be used for any situation, many individuals say that they do not know what type of disaster to plan for.

Number eight on the list of reasons for lack of preparedness is the thought that the Government will be available to help everyone if a disaster strikes. Interestingly, the Adelphi Natural Disaster Survey also received a similar response in their poll where 55% of participants believed that local authorities will rescue them following a disaster. This is a dangerous assumption. Depending on the situation, relief workers may not reach survivors for hours or even days which can have fatal consequences.

We all must be prepared to be self-reliant during any emergency. Unfortunately it seems that a large portion of Americans are not concerned about emergency preparedness for a variety of different reasons. Remember, a disaster can strike at any time so putting together an emergency preparedness kit should be a top priority. Preparation will require some time and an initial expense but the peace of mind that comes with having an emergency supply kit is priceless.


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