So how prepared are Americans for a disaster that is likely to befall them in their area? Well, given our history…9/11, Katrina, Joplin, LA/San Diego fires…just to name a few, you think we would all be ready. The good news is that we are making progress!
And that simple things like household preparedness measures, such as having a 3-day supply of food, water, and medication and a written household evacuation plan, can improve a population’s ability to cope with service disruption, decreasing the number of persons who might otherwise overwhelm emergency services and health-care systems.
To estimate current levels of self-reported household preparedness by state, the CDC analyzed Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey data collected in 14 states during 2006–2010. Here is what they found:
- 94.8% of households had a working battery-operated flashlight
- 89.7% had a 3-day supply of medications for everyone who required them
- 82.9% had a 3-day supply of food
- 77.7% had a working battery-operated radio
- 53.6% had a 3-day supply of water
- 21.1% had a written evacuation plan.
Non-English speaking and minority respondents, particularly Hispanics, were less likely to report household preparedness for an emergency or disaster, suggesting that more outreach activities should be directed toward these populations.
BRFSS is a state-based, random-digit–dialed telephone survey of the noninstitutionalized U.S. civilian population aged ≥18 years. The survey collects information on health risk behaviors, preventive health practices, health-care access, and disease status. The General Preparedness module was included in BRFSS surveys conducted by 14 states during 2006–2010.
During 2006–2010, preparedness data were collected (with Council of American Survey and Research Organizations response rates indicated) from the following states: 2006, Connecticut (44.3%), Montana (54.8%), Nevada (50.1%), and Tennessee (56.7%); 2007, Delaware (43.2%), Louisiana (41.0%), Maryland (31.4%), Nebraska (65.4%), and New Hampshire (37.7%); 2008, Georgia (55.1%), Montana (48.3%), Nebraska (65.5%), New York (40.0%), and Pennsylvania (45.6%); 2009, Mississippi (49.3%); and 2010, Montana (65.4%) and North Carolina (41.1%).
Household disaster preparedness measures, as defined by the BRFSS questionnaire, included the following items:
- 3-day supplies of food
- Prescription medications
- Written evacuation plan
- Working battery-powered radio
- Working battery-powered flashlight.
Respondents were asked the following six questions:
1) “Does your household have a 3-day supply of nonperishable food for everyone who lives there? By nonperishable we mean food that does not require refrigeration or cooking.”
2) “Does your household have a 3-day supply of water for everyone who lives there? A 3-day supply of water is 1 gallon of water per person per day.”
3) “Does your household have a 3-day supply of prescription medications for each person in your household who takes prescription medications?”
4) “Does your household have a working battery-operated radio and working batteries for use if the electricity is out?”
5) “Does your household have a working flashlight and working batteries for use if the electricity is out?”
6) “Does your household have a written evacuation plan for how you will leave your home in case of a large-scale disaster or emergency that requires evacuation?”
In general, as the age of respondents increased, reported household preparedness increased. With the exceptions of having a 3-day supply of water and a written evacuation plan, persons with a high school diploma were more likely to indicate preparedness than those with less than a high school diploma. With the exception of having a written evacuation plan, which was most prevalent among respondents who were unable to work, in general, retired respondents were most likely to indicate that their household was prepared.
Respondents who requested that the survey be conducted in Spanish (68.2%) were less likely to report their households had a 3-day supply of food than those administered the survey in English (83.2%) However, respondents who requested the survey be conducted in Spanish were significantly more likely to report their households had a 3-day supply of water (Spanish, 64.5%; English, 53.6%) and were as likely as those interviewed in English to report that the household had a written evacuation plan (Spanish, 25.6%; English, 20.6%; p=0.066).
Not ready?!?!? Get on it!!!!!