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Big Surprise?!? Alas, Not Really…Study Reveals Most Americans Unprepared for a Disaster…What Will It Take to Get Us Ready?

September 15, 2011

Your first reaction could be…perhaps they have not experienced a major incident/disaster/awful or horrible situation.

I am thinking…maybe they have been living in a cave!  I mean really…after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the greatest tornado deaths in 60+ years (just a month ago!), a drought affecting 16 southern states like it was 1930 (remember the dust bowl), wildfires galore…OMG, what does it take?  What will it take to make American’s take emergency/family/home preparedness seriously??!?!?

A new survey finds that most Americans are unprepared for major disasters and that they maintain a false sense of security with regard to what will happen if a major disaster or a terrorist attack took place.  If fact, contrary to reality, almost one-third of respondents believed that during a major disaster, calling 911 would bring help within an hour.   Where have we gone wrong?!?!?!  What are they thinking?!?!?!?!

The poll, conducted by the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, indicated that more than half of the families surveyed had no emergency plan in place for an event such as a major hurricane or earthquake. Even those with plans in place were lacking essential items like a flashlight, two days of food and water, key phone numbers, and extra batteries.

Frankly…that is depressing!!!!!

Contrary to reality, almost one-third of respondents believed that in a major disaster calling 911 would bring help within an hour, while 30 percent said they believed help would come within several hours. 19 percent believed that it could take more than a day.

I repeat…where have we gone wrong?!?!?

In actuality, major disasters quickly overwhelm emergency responders and residents are often left to fend for themselves for several days before help can arrive. The survey clearly reveals that people’s faith in emergency response is completely unrealistic.  Following the 9/11 attacks and more recently the Great Japan earthquake and tsunami, phones did not work and first responders were completely and immediately overwhelmed.

It is important to note that even in minor disasters, like the blizzard that shut down New York City last December, dramatically hampered police and paramedic response times. In the event that Hurricane Irene had hit New York with devastating force, EMS and every other emergency service would have been totally overwhelmed.

Still, the survey reveals that many, many people believe that within an hour or two, you will have someone knocking on your door. There is a strange delusion that, even after all we have been through, people imagine that the rescue response will occur rapidly.

Again…what are people thinking?!?!?!

In the event of a disaster, individuals MUST have enough supplies to take care of themselves for at least 72 hours including prescription medicines. In addition, families should have a designated family meeting spot in the event that they are separated and communication is lost.

As a profession, I am wondering out loud…how to we (business continuity and emergency management professionals)  really tackle this menacing problem!?!??!  I would love to hear from you about your ideas on how to make preparedness an important issue in people’s lives.

Check out these great websites for basic preparedness information.

What are your favorite preparedness websites?!?!  Let’s talk!

http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/most-americans-unprepared-disaster-survey-finds

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