Are Americans Prepared for a Disaster?

Natural disasters in the news have become commonplace in the United States, with citizens in 2012 along dealing with no less than 11 major natural disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, which resulted in $65 billion in damages and 159 deaths. The “super storm” in the nation’s northeast last fall to the deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma, no one in the country has been immune to natural disasters.

A recent Harris Poll, however, found that not all Americans are prepared to handle a natural disaster. Just 54 percent of Americans say they are prepared for a long-term power outage or natural disaster, such as a hurricane, flood or wildfire. The survey noted that the term “prepared” mean having at least three days’ worth of food and water.  What is most surprising about the Harris poll is that this number is less than it was in 2011, with 56 percent of respondents saying they were prepared for a natural disaster and 58 percent in 2007.

Given where natural disasters in the nation are likely to hit, the survey revealed that certain parts of the country are better prepared than others. In the West, for example, 58 percent of respondents said they were prepared for a natural disaster, while 56 percent of Southerners and just 55 percent of Easterners saying they were prepared.

The type of natural disaster citizens are prepared for also varies, given on their geographical location. Seventy percent of residents in the eastern portion of the United States, for example, say that they are likely to be impacted by ice or snow, while 87 percent in the Midwest say tornadoes are their biggest worry.

Natural disasters, however, are certainly not the only concern on the minds of Americans, as 56 percent of survey respondents said they believe that a nuclear power plant meltdown is among the top issues they believe the federal government is not prepared to handle. Other issues on the minds of U.S. citizens include terrorism, earthquakes, and drought.

Although concerns vary among citizens, the need to help Americans prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and manmade disasters has become a hot topic among all levels of government and in private companies and other organizations, including the American Red Cross. Better programs and policies regarding emergency management are being developed at the federal level and in nearly every city, county, and town across the United States.

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