How Prepared are US Households?

Within the 2013 American Housing Survey, the United States Census Bureau asked US residents how prepared they were for disasters.  They assembled a great infographic on their findings, which can be found here.  Thanks to Jason S for posting this on LinkedIn last week! (commentary below)

Measuring America: How Ready Are We?

I find many of the numbers to be interesting, and am quite honestly skeptical of several of them.  I’m sure the methodology of the Census Bureau’s survey is sound, but I question some of the results based upon my own interactions with the public regarding preparedness.  I’d be interested in seeing the questions.  I did a bit of digging around and found the Census website for the American Housing Survey, which is located here.  There are a variety of data tables available, including breakdowns related to these preparedness questions, but nothing that I can find that specifically provides the questions.  From what I’ve seen, it appears the survey was only conducted in major metropolitan areas around the US.

Emergency Water Supply: 54.3% of households state that they have at least three gallons of water for each person in the household.  This number seems high to me.  I’m left wondering if some people may have thought this included tap water?

Non-Perishable Emergency Food: 82% of households said they have enough non-perishable food to sustain their family for three days.  Have you looked in your pantry lately?  I fully agree with this number.  You may not be able to make full meals or have them be nutritionally balanced, but I do believe that most pantries can provide adequate sustenance for a family for three days.

Prepared Emergency Evacuation Kit: 51.5% of households say they have one.  Really?  I’m not convinced.

Emergency Meeting Location: 37.4% of households say they have an identified emergency meeting location.  While the number still might be a little high, I think it’s within a realistic range.

Communication Plan: 33% of households say they have a communication plan which includes a contingency for the disruption of cell service.  Same as the previous item, perhaps a little high, but I think it’s in the ballpark.

Evacuation Vehicles: 88.6% of households say they have a vehicle or vehicles able to carry all household members, pets, and supplies up to 50 miles away.  I did a bit of digging around, and this number seems accurate, as about 90% of US households have vehicles.  I’m a bit surprised about how high the number is considering that this survey canvassed major metropolitan areas, though.

Evacuation Funds: 69.8% of households said they have access to up to $2000 in the event of evacuation.  In all, between cash and credit, I can believe this number.  They may have to get out of the disaster area, however, to access funds electronically.

House or Building Number Clearly Visible: 77.5% of households said they have this.  Having worked as a firefighter and EMT for many years, I’d agree that somewhere between 2/3 to ¾ of building numbers are visible.

Generator Present: 18.3% of households say they have a generator present.  All in all a sound number, I believe, but perhaps a bit high for urban areas.

Access to Financial Information: 76.8% of households say they have access to their financial information.  This is a question I’d like to see the wording on, but aside from taking time to dig through old bills, I’m skeptical.  Emergency Financial First Aid Kits are a great idea and should be maintained regularly.

I’m hopeful that many of these numbers are reflections of reality, but even if they are we have a long way to go.  One of the best resources out there is WWW.READY.GOV.  Everyone should check it out and make some progress toward individual and family preparedness.  First responders and emergency managers – this means you, too!

What are your thoughts on these statistics?  Those of you in other nations – what kind of preparedness data have you seen for your country?

Stay safe!

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLCYour Partner in Preparedness


Flooding – ’tis the Season

In central New York we have experienced 50+ degree (F) weather for the first time in months.  With the warmer weather has come the melting of a fair amount of snow which accumulated through the winter.  Winter temperatures rarely reaching above freezing up here resulting in little melting of snow through the season, so it’s all occurring now. Coupled with spring rains and storms, flood watches and warnings have been issued here and in other locations around the nation.  If you haven’t already, now is the time to prepare for flooding!

Aside from the measures that homeowners, business owners, and facility managers can take (sump pumps, doorway dams, sand bags, and flood barriers), jurisdictions need to be prepared for the impacts of flooding.  If electronic gauges don’t exist in your streams and rivers, be sure to have someone periodically measure and report their depth and progression toward flood stages.  Ensure that culverts are clean and open for the flow of water, and have personnel, equipment, signage, and barriers ready to deploy to address trouble spots and close roads.

Ironically, water and wastewater systems have a significant vulnerability to flooding.  The EPA has issued Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities that includes worksheets, videos, and flood maps to guide water and wastewater system operators through identifying their flood risk and vulnerability and mitigation options available to them.  Along with that effort, they have issued a Flooding Incident Action Checklist.

Most importantly, make sure that flood awareness is not a unilateral effort.  Involve emergency managers, elected officials, and first response organizations.  Review plans, policies, and procedures and ensure they are up to date.  Consider related actions, such as notification and warning, evacuation, and flood fighting measures.  Preemptive messaging to property owners/residents and business owners to help them be aware and prepared for flooding is also crucial; and make sure everyone knows how to receive local weather alerts so they are aware of any imminent flooding dangers.

Stay dry!

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC