The American Red Cross, George Washington University, the Department of Homeland Security and the Council for Excellence in Government, co-sponsored a symposium titled, “Public Preparedness—A National Imperative,” which brought together a broad spectrum of leaders to identify the issues, challenges and barriers to public preparedness, and the needs and expectations of the public both during and after a disaster. The American Red Cross chose this forum to release preparedness research conducted last month by Wirthlin Worldwide.
The Red Cross/Wirthlin Worldwide survey found that only two in ten Americans feel “very prepared” for a catastrophic event; only about half of parents polled knew the disaster plans of their child’s school or daycare; the number of people who are familiar with the disaster plan at their workplace is also only about half; and the number of people who said that they have a family emergency plan that includes a place to meet if they are evacuated and emergency contact numbers has plummeted in the last year. In fact, only one in ten American households has a family emergency plan, a disaster kit, and training in first aid and CPR.
“We need to narrow the universe of the unprepared–those we need to worry about in catastrophic situations—and it’s not going to be easy,” said American Red Cross President and CEO, Marsha J. Evans, in her opening remarks to attendees at yesterday’s symposium. She continued, “Every one of those unprepared Americans is a potential barrier to the effectiveness of our response to any disaster.”
In her speech Evans also discussed new insight into why people are not preparing. The recent survey found that people fall into five camps: the “head-scratchers,” who say they do not know where to get the information to prepare; “head in the sand” types who say they are not concerned and that being prepared is not necessary; the individuals with their “head in the clouds,” who feel they are already prepared even though they are not; the “headset crowd,” who are too busy and have no time to prepare; and finally, and the “head-for-the-hills” group, those who have not thought about preparedness in any respect.