Americans Most Concerned About Natural Disasters, Terrorist Threats

Published: December 4, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Three in five Americans are most concerned about emergencies involving a natural disaster or terrorist attack, with a health pandemic closely following as a top concern among 46 percent of respondents, according to Federals Signal’s 2010 Public Safety survey released on Dec. 1. The survey was done in partnership with Safe America Foundation and Zogby International as part of an effort to uncover Americans’ chief concerns and most likely behaviors in emergencies.

Among the findings, the 2010 American Public Safety survey revealed that almost half of respondents (47 percent) do not have an emergency plan, while 46 percent do. Americans who live in the West and/or those living in rural areas are more likely to have family/household emergency plans in place versus those who live in the East and/or those that live in large cities.

Research also discovered that Americans are most fearful of an emergency taking place in an airport (60 percent), followed closely by some form of mass transit (52 percent). About two in five respondents are most fearful of an emergency taking place at a school, a stadium or arena, a roadway or shopping mall.

When citing notification preferences, one in four Americans would prefer to be notified about an emergency by a telephone call (26 percent) or by television (25 percent). Another 18 percent say they would like to be notified by text message, while 15 percent would like the announcement by outdoor loud speakers. One in ten prefers to be notified by radio. These responses were similar among all age groups, with the exception of those aged 18-29, who most prefer to receive notification on television (33 percent) or by text message (29 percent).

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“While almost half of Americans have an emergency plan should a natural disaster or terrorist attack take place, more than half do not have an emergency kit readily available,” said John Zogby, Chairman and Chief Insights Officer for Zogby International. “The majority of those with an emergency plan in place live in rural areas or the West while a lesser percentage of people in the East and urban areas have a plan. Of those Americans with an emergency plan, 65 percent have taken into consideration their pets or other animals.  And over 60 percent are confident in their knowledge of their areas emergency procedures, for example evacuation routes. ”  

Additional key findings include:

Less than half of American households or families have an emergency plan

  • Half of respondents say their family does not have an emergency plan, while 44% say they do.
  • Those more likely to have an emergency plan:

Live in the West: 47%

Married: 48%

Live in a Rural Area: 53%

Those least likely to have an emergency plan:

Live in the East: 40%

Single: 36%

Live in a Large City: 40%

Americans that have an emergency plan include their pets

  • Among those who do have an emergency plan in place, two-thirds (65%) have considered their pets or other animals in their preparedness plans.

More than half of Americans do not have an emergency kit available

  • More than half (54%) of Americans do not have an emergency kit available to them to deal with emergency situations, while 43% say they do have such a kit on hand.
  • Those who have an emergency kit, include some of the following items:

First aid supplies: 97%

Lighting supplies (flashlights and extra batteries): 91%

Water: 85%

Tools: 83%

Food supplies: 79%

Personal hygiene supplies: 71%

Clothing: 54%

Pet supplies: 49%

Cleaning supplies: 47%

Americans prefer technology for emergency notification

  • Thirty-nine percent would proactively seek information on their television, while one in three (32%) would use the Internet. One in ten each said they would make phone calls (11%) or use mobile Internet to find more information about an emergency.
  • Younger age group prefers Internet: Those most likely to proactively search for information on the Internet include 18-29 yr olds (49%).
  • Women choose TV: Women (45%) are more likely than men (33%) to turn to a television in an emergency.

Americans want public safety officers equipped with technology

  • Communication technology found most important: The vast majority (88%) of respondents say mobile or wireless communication systems (to connect first responders, EMTs, hospitals, fire, police) are the most important tools for public safety officers to perform their duties.
  • Vehicle technologies are also important:  Just over three in four (79%) say having fully-equipped vehicles is most important. More than half indicate that traffic clearing technology (56%) and GPS tracking devices (55%) are most important.

Only half of the population knows about local alerting

  • Half (51%) say that they know if their city or town is able to alert them in case of an emergency, while 49% say they do not know or are not sure if their town provides updated sirens, communication technologies or procedure/evacuation information.

Read the press release.

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