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2019 NHS Data Digest: Hurricane Preparedness

August 2020

2019 National Household Survey

Since 2007, FEMA has conducted the National Household Survey (NHS) to assess the development of a culture of personal disaster preparedness and resilience in the American public. Specifically, the NHS measures individual preparedness attitudes and behaviors and investigates what factors influence individuals to begin preparing for a future hazard.

The NHS includes 5,000 respondents including both a large representative national level sample and a series of smaller hazard-specific samples.

  • 62% of adults have pursued three or more of the six basic preparedness actions
  • 69% of adults have set aside some money for an emergency
  • $700 is the most amount of money that about half of all adults have set aside for an emergency

Hurricane Preparedness Key Messages

Emergency Plans in Hurricane Areas

About half the population living in hurricane prone areas do not have an evacuation plan (50%) or a safe place plan (47%). Also, less than 14% received information about how to create those plans.

Infographic: Has an evacuation plan? 50% yes, 50% no. Received information about how to evacuate? 14% yes, 86% no. Has a safe place plan? 53% yes, 47% no. Received information about how to find a safe place? 13% yes, 87% no.
Emergency Plan Includes: Hurricane-Prone Areas
A process for connecting with family members 86%
Information on how to evacuate 81%
Information on where to shelter or find a safe place 85%
Checking on neighbors 75%

Emergency plans are an essential element to preparedness. Knowing your evacuation zone is especially important during the COVID pandemic.

  • Follow instructions from local emergency managers who work closely with state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies and partners. They will provide the latest recommendations and appropriate safety measures based on the threat to your community.

  • Create an emergency plan so that you and your family know what to do, where to go, and what you will need to take with you to safely weather the storm. Keep in mind that your best protection from the effects of a hurricane may differ from your best protection from diseases, such as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

  • Your best protection from the effects of a hurricane may differ from your best protection from COVID-19

    Due to limited space as a result of COVID-19, public evacuation shelters may not be the safest choice for you and your family. If you don’t live in a mandatory evacuation zone and it’s safe to do so, plan to shelter in place in your home. If you cannot shelter at home, make plans to shelter with friends or family where you will be safer and more comfortable.

  • Note that your regular shelter may not be open this year. Check with local authorities for the latest information about public shelters.

  • If you must evacuate to a public shelter, try to bring items that can help protect you and others in the shelter from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, cleaning materials, and two cloth face coverings per person. Cloth face coverings should not be worn by children under 2 years old, those who have trouble breathing, and those who are unable to remove them on their own. Prepare these items early!

  • Remember that not everyone can afford to respond by stocking up on necessities. For those who can afford it, making essential purchases and slowly building up supplies in advance will allow for longer time periods between shopping trips. This helps to protect those who are unable to procure essentials in advance of the pandemic and must shop more frequently. In addition, consider avoiding WIC-approved products so that those who rely on these products can access them.

Insurance in Hurricane Areas

While nearly 100% of those living in hurricane prone areas acknowledged they could be impacted by flooding, only 34% have flood insurance policies and fewer than 1% have recently read, seen or heard information on how to get insurance.

Infographic: Has homeowners or renters insurance? 73% yes, 27% no. Has flood insurance? 34% yes, 66% no.

Since flooding often occurs as a result of hurricane, having a flood insurance policy will impact how fast you can recover.

Infographic: Received information about insurance? 1% yes, 99% no. Received information about home protection? 16% yes, 84% no.

Insurance is an important way to protect homes and messaging that communicates the value of insurance would provide significant benefit to both homeowners and renters.

Awareness and Efficacy

Although nearly 100% of respondents acknowledge that the occurrence of at least one disaster type could impact where they live, only 56% believe that preparing can help in a disaster and are confident in their abilities to prepare.

Chart: Title: What was it that you read, saw, or heard about how to get better prepared for a hurricane? 16% How to protect my home, 14% What to do to prepare for a specific type of hazard, 14% How to evacuate, 13% How to find a safe place for shelter inside, 3% What important documents to collect and safeguard, and, 1% How to get insurance.
Sources of Preparedness Information Estimate
TV/Radio 70%
Web and Social Media 25%
Print Media 18%
Official Notice (Government, Employer, Utility Company, Community Organization) 13%
Discuss with others (including training and events) 7%

Preparedness Influencers

What are the key influencers to hazard preparedness?

The NHS gathers information on four factors that influence a person’s decision to begin preparing for a future hazard. The following show the change from the 2018 findings to 2019 findings.

Infographic: Awareness of Information on Disasters decreased 9% from 64% in 2018 to 55% in 2019. Risk Perception of any Disasters increased 0.8% from 99% in 2018 to 99.8% in 2019. Disaster Experience increased 5% from 72% in 2018 to 77% in 2019. Preparedness Efficacy for Disasters did not change from 56% in 2018.

What methods may have contributed to awareness or action?
What was it that you read, saw, or heard about how to get better prepared for a hurricane? Estimate
How to have enough food or water 48%
How to prepare and make an emergency plan 43%
How to find a safe place for shelter inside 13%
How to evacuate 14%
What to do to prepare for a specific type of hazard 14%
How to protect my home 16%
What important documents to collect and safeguard 3%
How to get insurance 1%

What motivated you to take these steps to become better prepared for a hurricane? Estimate
It is likely that a disaster will occur in my community 23%
I feel like it is my responsibility to take care of my family in a disaster 17%
I want to protect myself in a disaster 24%
My job, school, friend, community leader encouraged me to take steps to become better prepared 2%
It just seems like something I should do 6%
Disasters I have experienced motivated me to get better prepared 26%
Disasters in other places motivated me to take steps to become better prepared 3%

Preparedness Actions

How have preparedness actions among residents in hurricane-prone areas changed in the past year?
Infographic: Gather supplies to least 3 or more days decreased from 86% to 80%. Talk with others on getting prepared increased from 50% to 63%. Attend a local meeting/training increased from 28% to 38%. Seek information on preparedness increased from 66% to 80%. Participate in an emergency drill increased from 46% to 52%. Make an emergency plan decreased from 63% to 62%.
  • Overall, in comparison to the 2018 data, estimates from the 2019 NHS indicate that those who live in hurricane-prone areas have shown an increase in four of the six basic preparedness actions.

  • 98% of respondents have taken 1 or more of the 6 basic preparedness actions and 76% have taken 3 or more of these actions.

  • A great way to help members of your community while practicing social distancing is to organize virtual meetings for communities, such as virtual homeowners association or townhall meetings. By holding virtual meetings, you can help continue the upward trend (38% in 2019 compared to 28% in 2018) of individuals living in hurricane-prone areas who attend a local meeting or training about preparedness.

  • Of those living in hurricane-prone areas:
    • 80% actively sought information on preparedness (a 14-percentage point increase from 2018);
    • 56% have emergency supplies that were already packed and easily accessible in case they need to quickly evacuate;
    • 88% know how to get real-time alerts and warnings for disasters;
    • 78% have documents stored in a fireproof or waterproof location or stored electronically; and
    • 69% have set money aside for an emergency.

Stages of Change

How have disaster preparedness behaviors changed since last year for people living in hurricane-prone areas?
Infographic: Five Stages of Change: Precontemplation (from 7% in 2018 to 4% in 2019), Contemplation (from 6% in 2018 to 5% in 2019), Preparation (from 18% in 2018 to 22% in 2019), Action (from 20% in 2018 to 23% in 2019), Maintenance (from 49% in 2018 to 46% in 2019).
  • 2019 NHS data shows that the number of individuals at either end of the Stages of Change spectrum have decreased slightly. This means that the number of people moving out of the pre-contemplation stage to more-prepared stages is increasing, but there are also some moving from the maintenance stages to less prepared stages. In addition, those who intend to prepare soon or who have started preparing has increased. To this end, we should focus on nudging those folks who intend to prepare within the next year (27%) to start taking preparedness actions. Increased messaging and awareness may provide the individuals in the “middle three” stages with the motivation and support to turn their intent into action and sustained maintenance of preparedness behavior.

  • We encourage you to provide materials to your community members by posting, hanging, or mailing information or using social media that includes guidance on how to prepare for hurricanes and flooding in the COVID-19 environments These methods can be used to reach community members while the country is practicing COVID-19 mitigation strategies such as social distancing and wearing cloth face coverings while in public.

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