Washington, DC -- James L. Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), expressed concern today about new poll results that show a startling lack of preparedness in communities vulnerable to hurricanes. The poll results were released just as the National Weather Service announced forecasts for an above average hurricane season beginning June 1.
"If there's one message we can take from this poll, it's the fact that there's still enormous work to be done, to help people understand specific steps they can take to safeguard their families' lives and homes - as well as their communities," Witt said. "It's important that people living in harm's way understand there are actions they can take not only to help prepare for storms -but also to help prevent some of the storm damage from occurring in the first place.
The new poll is part of the "National Hurricane Survival Initiative" - a first-of-its-kind public service campaign to educate residents along the Eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast about hurricane safety and damage prevention. The initiative is sponsored by FEMA, the Salvation Army, the National Emergency Management Association and Caradco Wood Windows (a manufacturer offering impact-resistant glass in its windows and patio doors).
National polling firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates in April and May queried more than 1,200 residents of coastal states from Massachusetts south along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to Texas. The poll was conducted to gauge residents' knowledge of storm safety and damage prevention, in order to more successfully tailor the initiative to address specific needs. The findings reveal that many of those most vulnerable to the devastation of hurricanes and related flooding underestimate their risk and, as a consequence, have not taken the steps to protect their homes and families from the storms.
"I urge anyone living in a coastal state to take the first step today - and that's to simply recognize that disasters are not confined to other peoples' communities," Witt said. "Hurricanes and the widespread flooding they often bring can - and do - affect towns that never thought it would happen to them."
The poll found that:
- Although the level of concern about a hurricane striking their community is twice as high in the South as in the North (78 and 35 percent respectively), only one-third (35 percent) of Southern homeowners are very concerned, compared with 9 percent in the North.
- Less than half, 46 percent, of those in the South believe that taking preventive actions can significantly reduce the impact of a hurricane - a view shared by just 33 percent of those in the North.
- Half of all polled either incorrectly believe that homeowner's insurance covers flood damage or simply did not know. In the North, 77 percent had not purchases flood insurance, while in the South, 64 percent did not have flood insurance.
- Although 64 percent in the North said they believe they are well prepared, 76 percent of them have taken NO actions to protect their homes from the impact of a hurricane; 81 percent of respondents in the South said they believe they are well prepared, but 58 percent also had taken no action.
- The purchase of pre-cut plywood for windows was the only protective action mentioned by more than one-third of homeowners in the North or South, when asked what specific actions people can take to protect their homes.
- Seventy-seven percent in the North and 57 percent in the South have not prepared a hurricane disaster supply kit.
- Sixty percent in the north and 34 percent in the south have no predetermined location they would evacuate to, and even fewer have actually prepared an evacuatio...