Just Over Half of Americans Say They Are Prepared for a Long Term Power Outage or Disaster

NEW YORK , N.Y. – July 2, 2013 – It is hard to escape the news of natural disasters in this country lately. From deadly tornados in the Midwest and South to forest fires and blistering heat waves in the West and last fall’s super storm in the Northeast, Americans have had their share of adversities. It seems there isn’t a part of the country immune from these disasters, but are Americans prepared for them? Sort of is the answer. Just over half (54%) of U.S. adults say they are prepared for a long term power outage or a disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, flood, wildland fire or terrorist attack by having the necessary supplies, including extra food and water for three days while 44% are not prepared. Surprisingly, despite all the disasters that have occurred over the past few years, this number is actually down; 58% were prepared in 2007 and 56% were prepared in 2011.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,240 adults surveyed online between May 8 and 13, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

Certain areas of the country are better prepared than others. Almost six in ten Westerners (58%) say they are prepared, as do 56% of Southerners and 55% of Easterners, but just 44% of Midwesterners say the same. Looking at this by type of area one lives in, urban residents are least prepared: while 56% of Suburban residents and 55% of rural dwellers say they are prepared, just 48% of urbanites say the same.

Types of Disasters and Government Readiness

Americans show different levels of concern for different types of disasters, particularly depending on where they live. While almost half of Americans say they think tornados (48%) or snow and/or ice storms (45%) are among the types of disasters most likely to directly impact them, the numbers vary greatly by region. Some top regional concerns are:

  • Seven in ten Easterners (70%) say snow and/or ice storms will most directly impact them, and 63% say hurricanes will;
  • In the Midwest, 87% say tornados will directly impact them and 78% say snow and/or ice storms will;
  • For Southerners, two-thirds (66%) say tornados will directly impact them and 57% say hurricanes will; and
  • In the West, two-thirds say earthquakes will impact them (67%) while 47% each say a drought or wildfires will.

Looking at government readiness for a disaster, over half of Americans (56%) say a nuclear power plant disaster or meltdown is among the issues the federal government is currently worst equipped to handle, down from 59% saying this in 2011. More than two in five U.S. adults (43%) call out terrorism; this is up from 34% in 2011. Just about one in five each select earthquakes (21%), hurricanes (18%) and drought (17%) as among the disasters the federal government is w rst equipped to handle.

While the debate may rage on as to why some types of disasters seem to be getting deadlier and occurring more frequently, the bottom line is they are. With the entire country in danger of some sort of disaster, there appears to be a need for more to be done to drive Americans to be better prepared. That drive may need to come from all angles – government, whether federal, state, and/or local, as well as private, including the Red Cross or other such organizations.

TABLE 1

PREPAREDNESS FOR LONG TERM POWER OUTAGE

Now, thinking about you and your household, how prepared are you for a long-term power outage or a disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, flood, wildland fire or terrorist attack by having the necessary supplies, including extra food and water for three days?

Base: All Adults

April 2007

June 2011

May 2013

%

%

%

PREPARED (NET)

58

56

54

Very prepared

14

12

13

Somewhat prepared

44

44

40

NOT PREPARED (NET)

40

41

44

Not too prepared

27

26

29

Not at all prepared

13

16

15

Not sure

2

3

3

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 2

PREPAREDNESS FOR LONG TERM POWER OUTAGE – by Region and Urbanicity

Now, thinking about you and your household, how prepared are you for a long-term power outage or a disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, flood, wildland fire or terrorist attack by having the necessary supplies, including extra food and water for three days?

Base: All Adults

Total

Region

Urbanicity

East

Midwest

South

West

Urban

Suburban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

PREPARED (NET)

54

55

44

56

58

48

56

55

Very prepared

13

13

12

15

12

12

14

14

Somewhat prepared

40

42

32

40

47

36

42

41

NOT PREPARED (NET)

44

41

53

42

41

48

42

42

Not too prepared

29

25

36

28

27

30

29

27

Not at all prepared

15

16

17

13

14

18

13

15

Not sure

3

4

3

3

1

4

2

3

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding.


TABLE 3

DISASTERS WITH MOST DIRECT IMPACT

Which three of the following do you believe are most likely to directly impact you?

Base: All adults

Total 2006

Total 2011

Total 2013

Region

East

Midwest

South

West

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Tornados

46

52

48

25

87

66

6

Snow and/or ice storms

45

48

45

70

78

19

28

Hurricanes

27

30

33

63

3

57

2

Drought

39

34

33

18

34

33

47

Floods

35

28

31

32

30

37

22

Terrorism

39

25

25

28

21

19

32

Earthquakes

20

22

23

11

7

11

67

Wildfires

24

21

18

5

6

15

47

Nuclear power plant disaster or meltdown

NA

11

9

15

5

7

9

Mudslides

4

2

1

1

1

3

Note: Multiple-response question; NA indicates it was not asked in that year.

TABLE 4

GOVERNMENT WORST EQUIPPED TO HANDLE

Which of these two issues do you believe the federal government is currently worst equipped to handle?

Base: All adults

Total 2006

Total 2011

Total 2013

Region

East

Midwest

South

West

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Nuclear power plant disaster or meltdown

NA

59

56

59

59

53

54

Terrorism

48

34

43

36

44

47

43

Earthquakes

26

25

21

22

18

21

24

Hurricanes

50

16

18

22

16

20

13

Drought

18

13

17

14

16

16

21

Floods

24

11

10

10

12

9

10

Wildfires

9

11

9

8

6

8

11

Tornados

11

11

8

9

6

9

6

Snow and/or ice storms

7

5

5

5

6

4

4

Mudslides

8

4

4

3

5

5

3

Note: Multiple-response question; NA indicates it was not asked in that year.

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 8 and 13, 2013 among 2,240 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J43275

Q905, 910, 915

The Harris Poll‘c2’ae #42, July 2, 2013

By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations, Harris Interactive

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