Less than half surveyed have information needed for disaster preparation

Booz Allen Hamilton

Legacy Mediums Like TV & Web are Leaving Communities Wanting More

McLean, Va. – Despite an uptick in national disasters over the past few years, members of the general public still admit they are not fully prepared, a new survey finds. Fewer than half of national respondents to an Ipsos survey have obtained or accessed basic information to prepare for a disaster such as emergency responder contact info, evacuation routes or shelter locations.  During a disaster, they rely more on traditional communications channels such as websites, radio and TV, as opposed to social media, but want better options.

The general population feels most prepared for blizzards (51 percent), floods (47 percent) and hurricanes (33 percent) and least prepared for shootings (15 percent).

Recent post-disaster conversations have focused on social media innovations to address the next disaster —functions like Facebook’s “safe check-in” or live-tweeting from inside the eye of a storm. Despite these conversations, the survey respondents were surprisingly traditional in their preferred communications channels.

Respondents (83 percent) agree that technology plays a critical role in disaster preparedness, particularly in in synchronizing efforts and data sources between first responders, aid organizations and other relief personnel.  However, respondents (51 percent nationally) are less likely to rely heavily on social media during an event, preferring websites and online resources (76 percent), radio (63 percent) and television (55 percent).  Respondents believe that information about shelters, contacts, what to pack and disaster locations would be most helpful to prepare, and would also prefer a text messaging service that provides disaster updates or even a telephone hotline.

Ipsos and Booz Allen Hamilton surveyed more than 1,000 respondents nationally and an additional more than 300 each in California, Florida and Texas, states particularly vulnerable to disasters.  Respondents were queried about their preparedness and the value of technology in preparing for and surviving a variety of disasters.

Booz Allen launched the survey in support of the firm’s broader focus on important issues of community resiliency.  Today, the firm also announced the launch of the Booz Allen Foundation with the intent of convening stakeholders to use innovation and technology advancements to help solve challenging social issues and build community resilience.  Community Resiliency also is the topic of IF18, a Booz Allen ideas festival in Washington, D.C. and multiple locations nationally that on April 21 will bring together employees and community leaders on to strategize solutions for resilience.

Other Survey Results Include:

  • While less than half of respondents are prepared with certain specific information, nationally 19 percent feel generally very prepared, and 51 percent feel somewhat prepared for disasters.
  • About 22 percent of respondents feel not very prepared for disasters, five percent are not at all prepared and three percent are not sure.
  •  Respondents generally feel most prepared for disasters more typical to their state. California residents feel most prepared for earthquakes (62 percent) and wildfires (44 percent); Florida feels most prepared for hurricanes (89 percent), and Texas respondents feel most prepared for floods (57 percent).
  • About 12 percent of national respondents do not feel prepared for any disaster listed in the survey.
  • Food and water are the top two items people have on hand for emergencies.

“While intuitive in nature, these findings illustrate what Booz Allen has learned after working with partners like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – most Americans want to be the architects of their own recovery,” said Booz Allen Principal Marko Bourne. “While preferred communication tools vary given the stages of crisis and response, the communities that will achieve better recovery outcomes will be those that consider multi-channel communication tactics and collaborate early across government.”

Based on this data, Booz Allen brought together experts from across the company to offer recommendations for community resilience at all levels of government – from those at Emergency Operations Center to Public Health officials to Federal Leaders. More information on the report and survey can be found here.

Key Recommendations Include:

  1. Keeping the Digital Citizen Informed in a Disaster Requires a Multi-Channel Approach. In the age of government agencies and officials tweeting and citizens sharing information with their extended network, Public Information Officers and Emergency Response Officials must use a multi-channel approach to communications with the public in an emergency. While a quick post to a social media platform may be the easiest method of communications, in an emergency, basic methods like radio, television, and SMS are necessary.
  2. Building Official Information Channels Will Take Collaboration between All Levels of Government. With reliance on text messaging or centralized websites, survey respondents are looking for official sources of information as opposed to peer-to-peer information that may be unreliable or inaccurate. To build better sources of official information, local, state, and federal government officials must work together to help maintain those platforms. This will prevent conflicting information.
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