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

Nuclear meltdown or terrorism are the disasters Americans feel the federal government is worst equipped to handle

02 Jul, 2013, 05:00 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, July 2, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- 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.

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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. (Full findings for all tested disasters, including data tables, available here)

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 worst 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.

To see the full list of disasters evaluated, or to read other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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.

Q905, 910, 915

The Harris Poll® #42, July 2, 2013
By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research. Harris possesses expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing our client's research investment. Serving clients in more than 196 countries and territories through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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