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National Results

 

Key Findings Online
II. The Reality: Knowledge & Behavior
  • Local Government Plans
  • Emergency Alert Systems
  • Local Preparedness Campaigns
  • What Have You Done to Prepare?
  • How Prepared Are We?
  • First Aid and Volunteering
  • Plans, Drills, Meeting Place
  • Emergency Kits
  • What’s the Plan?
  • Communicating in an Emergency
  • Where Would You Go?
  • Shelter Issues
III. Data that Makes a Difference
  • Age, Education & Income Affect Preparedness
  • School and Work Impact Readiness
 
IV. The Landscape: Americans’ Experience with Emergencies

 


 

I. How Ready We Are: The Nation’s Score

To find the nation’s Public Readiness Index score, a random sample of 1000 Americans across the country were surveyed by telephone interview between May 4 and June 10, 2006. In addition to this national sample, 400 adults in Chicago, Miami-Dade County, New York City and San Francisco were surveyed.

The Public Readiness Index score for the entire nation is: 3.31

The Number of Readiness Steps Taken By Respondents to Be Prepared

The following chart shows how many respondents across the country
gave a positive response to each element of the PRI.


II. The Reality: Knowledge & Behavior

Ten “elements” comprise preparedness. Three of the elements are knowledge-based and include:

  • an individual’s knowledge/awareness of: their local government’s disaster plan;
  • the radio emergency broadcast channel/alert system in their area; and
  • preparedness campaign efforts in their community.
The remaining seven elements are behavior-based:
  • preparation of a home disaster supply kit;
  • preparation of a “go” kit for work or car;
  • creation of a family communications plan;
  • designation of a specific meeting place during an emergency;
  • practicing and performing drills for emergency situations;
  • volunteering to help in emergencies; and
  • having successfully completed a first aid training in the past 5 years.

Knowledge Elements

Local Government Plans: Public awareness of local disaster plans is surprisingly low. Nationally, only 38% of people say that their local government has an emergency or disaster plan for their community. Nineteen percent said their local government does not have a plan. Two out of five Americans are not sure whether or not their local government has an emergency or disaster plan for their community.

The majority of Miami (69%) and San Francisco (55%) residents are aware that their local government has an emergency or disaster plan. However, those living in New York (31%) and Chicago (39%) are less aware of such a plan.

Emergency Alert Systems: The majority of Americans (57%) report that they have an emergency alert system in place in their community; nearly one-third (31%) say they do not have an emergency alert system in their community; and 12% are not sure.

Since not all communities have an emergency alert system, it is helpful to compare responses among the four cities areas in the sample. Almost three-fourths of San Franciscans (74%) say they have an emergency alert system, compared to 12% saying there is no emergency alert system and 13% saying they are not sure. The majority of Chicago residents (63%) also report that there is a siren or some other emergency alert system in their community. By contrast, most people in Miami (53%) say they do not have an alert system, and 42% of New Yorkers report that there is no emergency alert system in place in their community.

Local Preparedness Campaigns: Americans were asked if they have ever heard of various websites geared towards preparing for an emergency situation. The websites listed included two national websites (Ready.gov and ReadyKids), and well as local websites, such as AlertChicago.org and 72hours.org. Just sixteen percent of adults say they have heard about Ready.gov at the national level and 5% say they have heard of ReadyKids.

Adults in each of the four cities (13%-15%) are only slightly less likely to report they have heard of Ready.gov. Adults in San Francisco (2%), Miami (4%), New York (5%), and Chicago (7%) are about as likely to have heard of ReadyKids.

When asked about their local website for emergency preparedness information, people in Chicago and San Francisco are more likely to be aware of their local program than those in Miami and New York. In Chicago, 20% say they know of AlertChicago.org and in San Francisco 26% are aware of 72hours.org. Only 7% of Miamians recognize Ready, Set, Safety and only 8% of New Yorkers are familiar with ReadyNY.

Behavior Elements

What Have You Done to Prepare? Only 8% of the American public has done everything that is needed to fully prepare for a natural disaster or terrorist attack, according to the seven specific action steps. Another 11% say that they have done everything they are likely to do to prepare for an emergency situation; 49% have done some things to get ready; and one-third (32%) have taken no steps to prepare.

People living in areas that have experienced natural disasters are significantly more likely to have taken at least some steps to prepare. Only 7 % of those in Miami and 21% in San Francisco have taken no steps, compared to 38% in New York, and 41% in Chicago. However, nearly half of the residents of Miami say that they have done everything need or everything they are likely to do (49%) to prepare, compared to only 17% in Chicago, 18% in New York, and 19% in San Francisco.

How Prepared Are We? Regarding the seven specific steps to prepare for an emergency situation, the national survey found that:

  • Most Americans (63%) have taken a first aid class;
  • Forty-two percent have a disaster supply kit at home;
  • Thirty six percent have a portable emergency kit in case of evacuation;
  • Twenty-nine percent have a communication plan;
  • Twenty-one percent have set a meeting place in case of separation during an emergency;
  • Twenty-six percent have practiced or drilled what to do in the event of an emergency; and
  • Fifteen percent have volunteered to help prepare for or respond to an emergency situation.
  • In total, four out of five Americans (81%) report taking at least one of the seven steps toward emergency preparedness, but only 2% have done all seven.

First Aid and Volunteering: Although more than six out of ten in the nation (63%) report taking a first aid class, this is less common in the four cities: Miami (50%), Chicago (51%) and San Francisco (53%) residents report that they have taken a first aid course, and only 38% of New Yorkers report having taken one. The proportion of those who have volunteered is not greatly dissimilar in Chicago (12%), Miami (20%), New York (16%) and San Francisco (15%), compared to the national proportion (15%).

Plans, Drills, Meeting Place: Chicagoans are below the national average with regard to having a communication plan, with only 20% reporting having one. However, the other three cities are slightly above the national average. The proportion of the public who report having practice drills at home is lower in New York (19%) and San Francisco (20%) than the other two cities or the nation as a whole. The proportion of the public who have a specific place to meet outside of their home is somewhat less in Chicago (17%), and somewhat higher in New York (23%), San Francisco (25%) and Miami (27%), compared to the nation as a whole.

Emergency Kits: Miami (44%) and San Francisco (39%) residents are more likely to have a small portable kit ready in case of evacuation. People living in both these cities are also much more likely to have a disaster supply kit, with 55% of San Franciscans saying they have one and almost three-quarters (73%) of Miamians having one. Only 32% of Chicagoans and 40% of New Yorkers report having a disaster supply kit--below the national norm. Almost all respondents with a kit report they have a flashlight (99%), and 93% say they have a first aid kit. Most people with a kit say they have a three-day supply of water (83%), and/or a three-day supply of food (81%). Four out of five (82%) report they have extra batteries in their kit. Over three-fourths (76%) have a battery-operated or hand cranked radio in their kit and 70% have a three-day supply of medicine.

What’s the Plan? Those who report they have a communication plan in place (29%) were asked if there was a specific person living outside their community whom everyone knows to contact in case of separation. Less than three out of five (58%) who have a communication plan say there is a specific person living outside their community who family members know to contact. Each of the four cities fare better than the national average for having a specific contact, with San Francisco the highest at 73 percent.

Communicating in an Emergency: Those with a communications plan were asked about the last time they had talked with family about how they would communicate in an emergency. Nearly two-thirds (65%) say they have talked with their family about the plan within the last six months, with 24% talking about it within the last month. Persons with family communication plans in Miami (36%) are more likely to have spoken with their families about the communication plan within the last month than those in New York (23%), Chicago (23%) and San Francisco (30%).

Where Would You Go? Over two-thirds of Americans (68%) report they have both a place to stay and the means to get there if they are ordered to evacuate. Nonetheless, one in ten in the national sample have no place to stay and no means to get there if ordered to evacuate. New Yorkers (46%) have the lowest percentage of adults who have both a place to stay and means to get there if they have to evacuate, followed by Chicago (50%), San Francisco (53%) and Miami (60%). Miami, despite having the highest proportion of residents with a place to go and a means to get there is still 8 percentage points lower than the national average. The same trend emerges with New Yorkers (24%) being most likely to report they have no place to stay and no means to get there, followed by Chicago (21%), San Francisco (19%), and Miami (14%). Nineteen percent of New Yorkers say they have a place to stay but do not have means to get there, while only 8% have no place to stay but means to get there.

Shelter Issues: Nearly three out of ten Americans (29%) would definitely follow evacuation orders to go to a local shelter, while another 41% report they would be very or somewhat likely to do this. However, 18% report they would be very or somewhat unlikely to go to a local shelter if ordered, and another 9% say they would definitely not go. Those who report they are unlikely to or definitely would not evacuate to a shelter, most commonly cite that they have an alternative place to go (24%).

III. Data that Makes a Difference

The PRI data presents many important findings for public policy experts, first responders, elected and appointed officials, and communicators to consider and incorporate when developing local and national preparedness campaigns. Specifically, the survey found that:

Age, Education & Income Affect Preparedness: Respondents were asked basic demographic questions.
The data reveal several interesting findings regarding how age, education and income may impact preparedness:

  • People aged 65 or older are significantly less prepared than younger people.
  • Adults with some high school education or less are significantly less prepared than those with a high school diploma or more education.
  • Households with an income of $40,000 a year or lower are less likely to be prepared than households that earn more.
  • Hispanics are less likely to be prepared than white or African-Americans.

School and Work Impact Readiness: The data indicates that participation in the workplace and having school-aged children correlate highly with individual and family preparedness. Workplace and school readiness scores are not incorporated in the 10 point core PRI because they only apply to those who are employed or have children in school rather than the public as a whole. We recommend in addition to the 10 PRI questions, that 5 additional questions be asked of those who are employed or have children in school to determine correlations with the overall PRI score.

Employment Status & Knowledge/Practice of Workplace Plans Increases Overall Preparedness:
There is a strong correlation between an individual’s PRI score and their employment status, awareness of workplace emergency plans, and practicing those plans.

  • Sixty four percent of respondents are employed full- or part-time. Among them, two-thirds (67%) work for an employer with an emergency plan.
  • Almost half of employees (49%) work at an office where emergency supplies are kept on hand. However, more than one in three (35%) employees do not. A little over half (53%) of employees performed an emergency drill at work within the last year; however a substantial number (42%) did not.
  • Employees in Chicago and San Francisco are about as likely as other employees nationally to have an emergency plan at work. Employees in Miami (74%) however, are more likely to work for an employer with an emergency plan, while those in New York (57%) are less likely to do so.
  • Employees who have practiced for an emergency at work score significantly higher on the PRI than employees who have not. A little over half (53%) of employees nationally performed an emergency drill at work within the last year; however a substantial number (42%) did not. Employees in Chicago (68%) are the most likely to have practiced their emergency plan at work within the last 12 months. The majority of employees in New York (61%) and San Francisco (61%) also have practiced their emergency plan at work, although only half of Miami employees have done so in the last year.

Having at Least One School-Aged Child at Home, Knowing the School’s Emergency Plan, and Having Practiced It Increases Overall Preparedness: There is a strong correlation between an individual’s overall PRI score and having a school-aged child at home, knowing the emergency plan of the child’s school, and practicing the school’s plan.

  • Thirty eight percent of respondents have at least one child in school. Of them, 71% report that all of the schools their children attend have an emergency plan. Almost one in five parents with school-age children (17%) do not know whether their children’s school(s) has an plan.
  • Almost half (48%) of the respondents with children in schools that have an emergency plan report that their children’s school keeps emergency supplies on hand in case the students must shelter in place. However, a substantial number of parents (39%) do not know if their children’s school has any supplies on hand.
  • Adults with children in schools having an emergency plan in San Francisco (66%) are far more likely to say the school has emergency supplies on hand in case the students needed to shelter in place, than those nationally as well as in New York (51%) and Miami (50%). Only 37% of parents in Chicago say their children’s schools have emergency supplies.
  • Adults with children who practiced their school’s emergency plan in the last 12 months score significantly higher on the PRI.

Most of these parents (70%) say that there has been a drill in the last twelve months at each of their children’s schools and 6 percent say that some of their children’s schools had a drill in the last year. Almost one in ten (9%) have children in school with an emergency plan but a drill was not run within the last year and a substantial proportion (14%) are not sure if an emergency drill has been run at their children’s school. Parents with children in schools with an emergency plan in Miami (68%) and New York (71%) are just as likely as parents nationally to report that all of their children’s schools had a practice drill in the last year. Those in Chicago (60%) and San Francisco (64%) are slightly less likely to say their children’s schools had run an emergency drill in the past year.

These findings indicate that workplaces and schools provide opportune venues for communities to leverage the message of individual and family preparedness.

IV. The Landscape: Americans’ Experience with Emergencies

What Kind of Emergency? One-third of Americans have experienced one or more emergency situations--the most frequently cited was hurricane (12%), followed by tornado (10%), flood (8%), fire (7%), and earthquake (7%). Only 2% have experienced a terrorist attack. Most Miami respondents (55%) say they have been in an emergency situation due to a hurricane; thirty-eight percent of San Franciscans report being in an emergency situation as a result of an earthquake. One in seven persons living in the New York City (16%) report being in an emergency situation as a result of a terrorist act.

When Did it Happen? Nearly one in five of those with any emergency experience say it occurred within the past year. Another 41% of those with past experience in emergency situations report that it occurred one to five years ago. In total, nearly seven out of ten respondents with experience in public emergency situations report such an experience within the past ten years. This translates into nearly 23% of adult Americans who have experienced a public emergency situation within the past ten years. Most New Yorkers (64%), who have been in a public emergency situation report their most recent experience was 1 to 5 years ago, a time frame in which the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center occurred. In Miami, 34% of residents with disaster experience report their most recent situation within the last year, in all likelihood reflecting the hurricanes which battered Florida during the last two years.

How Did it Impact You? The majority of Americans (52%) who have been in an emergency situation report that they lost electricity for three or more days. Thirty-two percent had to leave their home for at least one night. Twenty-seven percent had to leave work for at least a day. Twenty-two percent could not get in touch with their family, while an identical proportion could not get to a store for three days. Nineteen percent say that they saw others injured or killed; six percent were injured themselves. In Miami, the overwhelming majority of disaster victims (92%) report losing electricity for three or more days; could not get to a store for three days (61%); had to leave work for at least one day (55%); and could not get in touch with their families (42%). In New York, 30% of people involved in an emergency saw others injured or killed compared to 19% nationally.

How Likely is the Next One? Less than half of Americans expect a natural disaster, public health emergency or terrorist attack in their community in the next two years, and very few believe that any of these types of emergencies will definitely happen. Less than a quarter of Americans (23%) think a public health emergency (like Avian Flu) will probably occur in their community in the next two years, and only 3% think this till definitely happen. Twelve percent of Americans think a terrorist attack will probably happen in their community in the next two years, while only 2% think it will definitely happen.

Cities and the Next Emergency: Miamians are the most likely to expect a natural disaster to occur in their community in the next two years, with 47% saying that it will probably happen and another 36% saying that it will definitely happen. San Franciscans report high levels of expectation about future natural disasters, with 50% saying that it will probably happen and another 7% saying that it will definitely happen in the next two years.

What’s Next and Where? Almost two in five New Yorkers believe that a terrorist attack will probably (32%) or definitely (5%) occur in their community in the next two years. Persons living in Chicago (23%) and Miami (22%) are significantly more likely than the nation, as a whole, to believe that a terrorist attack will probably or definitely occur in their community within the next two years.

Trusted Sources: Almost half of Americans (45%) say that they trust the news media to provide the most accurate and reliable information during an emergency. One-third (33%) say their police/fire chief is the most trusted source for information. Eight percent say they would rely on the mayor for information, while others say they would trust city emergency management officials (5%), family and friends (5%), and no one (5%). However, in Miami, 60% say they trust the news, compared to 39% in Chicago, 33% in New York and 43% in San Francisco. By contrast, only 20% in Miami say they would trust their police/fire chief the most for information during an emergency, compared to 29% in San Francisco, 32% in the Chicago, and 37% in New York. The third most often cited source is the mayor, who is regarded as the most trusted source by 11% in New York, 14% in Chicago, 17% in Miami, and 21% in San Francisco.

Whose Instructions Would Be Followed? In the event of evacuation, nearly half of Americans (46%) say they would most likely follow the instructions of the police/fire chief. Slightly more than one-fifth of the national sample (21%) say they would follow the evacuation instructions of the “news”. One in seven (14%) say they would likely follow their mayor’s instructions. Public trust in the police/fire chief in emergency situations in Miami stands in stark contrast to the other three cities and the nation. In case of an evacuation, nearly half of the national sample, and similar proportions in Chicago (41%), New York (50%) and San Francisco (45%) would most likely follow the instructions of their police/fire chiefs. By contrast, only 24% of Miami residents say they would likely follow the instructions of their police/fire chief. The residents of Miami are more likely to follow the instructions from news sources (31%). The instructions of the mayor in all four cities are more likely to be followed in case of an emergency than in the nation as a whole.

V. Why Americans Don’t Prepare

Thirty-two percent of Americans have done nothing to prepare for an emergency. Among this group:

  • Almost half (45%) simply have not thought about it;
  • One-third (34%) do not think an emergency will happen to them or their family;
  • One-quarter think that nothing they can do would be effective;
  • Twenty-four percent do not want to think about it;
  • Twenty-one percent say that not knowing what to do is a major reason for their lack of preparedness;
  • Eighteen percent say it takes too much time; and
  • Sixteen percent say it costs too much money.

Those who have not prepared in San Francisco (36%) are a little less likely to say they have not thought about it. Miamians (23%) are the least likely to cite this as a major reason, and only 18% of Miamians who have taken no steps say that a major reason is that they do not think an emergency will happen to them. Surprisingly, nearly the same proportion of unprepared in San Francisco (29%) as nationally says they have not done more because they don’t believe an emergency will happen. Chicagoans (31%) and New Yorkers (28%) are somewhat more likely to say nothing would be effective was a major reason that they have not done more.

Reasons for Preparedness: The majority (80%) who have performed at least one task in order to prepare cite the need to be self-sufficient and not reliant on others for protection during an emergency as a major incentive for getting prepared. Nearly half (49%) of those who have taken steps to prepare for an emergency say that being responsible for children is a major reason. In contrast to the national pattern, most people in San Francisco (61%) and Miami (62%) who have taken at least one step to prepare say they have done so because they live in a high risk area. The proportion of New Yorkers (38%) and Chicagoans (26%) who have taken steps to prepare because they live in high risk areas is lower than in San Francisco and Miami, but still higher than the national rate.

 

National Results
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