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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

As U.S. Faces Swine Flu, Ad Council Study Finds Citizen Preparedness “Leveling Off”

April 27th, 2009 · 1 Comment

At a webinar promoting September’s National Preparedness Month activities, officials from The Advertising Council and the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s Ready.Gov program said that their most recent tracking polls indicate that citizen emergency preparedness is “leveling off”. (The webinar took place earlier this month before Swine Flu was diagnosed in the U.S.) Some of the results that underlie the “leveling off” finding include:

12% of Americans say their household are “very prepared” for a catastrophic disaster such as an earthquake, hurricane, or terrorist attack (it was 15% in 2006), 48% say they are “somewhat prepared (46% in 2006); 58% say they have taken steps to prepare for disasters (55% in 2006 and 45% in 2004); and 53% say they have put together an emergency kit that contains three-day supply of food & water, first aid kit with their family’s prescription medications, battery powered radio, flashlight, & extra batteries (54% in 2006 and 43% in 2004).

The Ad Council tracking survey — which has been fielded annually since 2003 when the Council began work for the government on emergency preparedness — also looked at the factors for the “leveling off”. The leading reason according to the poll, is citizen skepticism about the need to prepare  (52% believe that people don’t do more to prepare because they are “unlikely to be affected by an emergency/disaster”) particularly as time continues to pass since 9/11 and Katrina. So, a major challenge for DHS & the Ad Council is to communicate that it makes sense to prepare no matter what the odds and that there is little downside to be ready just in case. Of course, it is very possible that the current Swine Flu situation — no matter how serious it becomes — will lead to an increase in citizen awareness and preparedness as well as a lessening of skepticism and complacency.

In trying to make that pitch, the Ad Council believes that appealing to Americans’ personal responsibility for their families may be an effective approach. In response to a survey question: ”in your mind, what’s the best reason you can think of to take some steps to prepare?” the leading response was “family” (22%). As a result, National Preparedness Month will emphasize the theme of family responsibility. The webinar slides with more information on the National Preparedness Month can be found on the Ready.Gov webpage here. Organizations interested in becoming involved in the Month’s activities can register here.

There were several other findings from the study that I found interesting and wanted to mention. On the positive side, in the area of workplace preparedness, there was a significant increase of respondents reporting that their employer has offered training or instruction about emergency plans (58% in 2008 up from 43% in 2006). Less encouraging were the findings that only 37% of parents said that all of their children’s schools have provided them with specific information regarding an emergency plan, and that just one in five adults reported having heard of (the federal government’s main citizen preparedness website).

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Tags: Preparedness Reports

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