Half of American families don't have an emergency plan in case of disaster, and among those with a plan, 30 percent lack basic emergency supplies, such as a flashlight or emergency food and water, according to a new survey by the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
An emergency plan is a key to being prepared in an earthquake, hurricane or other disaster, but Americans apparently are not getting the message from government agencies and the insurance industry.
Many are overly optimistic about the speed of emergency response, the survey found. More than half, 62 percent, expect that in a major disaster, first responders would arrive to help them within several hours, and almost a third think it would take an hour or less.
Amercans' confidence in the government to protect them from a terrorist attack has rebounded to 60 percent after declining for five years after 9/11. But only a third say they think the health care system can respond effectively to a biological, chemical or nuclear attack, down from almost three-fifths after 9/11. And less than half of Americans say their community has an adequate response plan for a disaster that comes with no advance warning, such as an earthquake or a terrorist event.
The survey is part of the center's American Preparedness Project, which has tracked U.S. attitudes on domestic preparedness and terrorism in the last 10 years. The most recent results are based on a national telephone survey of 1,000 people conducted in early August.
About two-thirds of Americans think the United States is safer now than on Sept. 11, 2001, up from a little more than one-half three years ago when the question was first asked. But 72 percent are still worried about the possibility of another domestic terrorist attack, down only slightly from 76 perent in 2003, although significantly under the peak of 83 percent after the invasion of Iraq.