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2020 NHS Data Digest: Summary Results

September 2020

2020 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.

  • 68% of adults have pursued three or more of the six basic preparedness actions
  • 68% of adults have set aside some money for an emergency

Key Takeaways from the 2020 NHS on the Culture of Preparedness

The data indicates there is a relationship between awareness messaging and behavior. Several key takeaways emerge from the data analysis and that relate to messaging and behavior.

Tidal Wave of Culture Change: The majority of the US population continues to invest time in disaster preparation activities. Additionally, positive shifts in individual’s intentionality to prepare present important opportunities to influence and support those who want to create or maintain a more active preparedness posture. Influencers are Defines and Remain Effective: Preparedness influencers continue to work independently as effective predictors of preparedness behaviors. Specifically, awareness, experience, and efficacy, have meaningful and measurable impacts on preparedness behavior. Preparedness Actions Cluster Together: Engaging with one type of preparedness action is associated with engaging in others. By encouraging persons to take one action, there is an expectation that they will engage in others as well. Customization is Key: Preparedness varies based on a variety of factors such as the stage of change or hazard. The result is that by understanding who and where, we can create relevant messages for the public that may have a greater success rate.

Measuring Preparedness Behavior Change in America – The Stages of Change

Infographic: Five Stages of Change: Precontemplation (from 21% in 2013 to 9% in 2020), Contemplation (from 19% in 2013 to 14% in 2020), Preparation (from 9% in 2013 to 26% in 2020), Action (15% in both 2013 and 2020), Maintenance (from 34% in 2013 to 36% in 2020).

FEMA uses the Stages of Change (SoC) model and other social science models to guide evidence-based program and policy decisions to maximize impacts. The SoC model measures an individual’s attitude and behavior regarding preparedness based on the principle that the process of changing an individual’s behavior occurs progressively across five stages. Behavior changes in people can take time, which is why we track the SoC for the Nation over multiple years. In this way, noticeable changes happening at the national level can be easily viewed.

What the data indicates:

  • The percentage of the adult population that have no intent to prepare (stage 1) has decreased substantially since 2013 (21% in 2013 to 9% in 2020).
  • The percentage of the adult population that is not prepared but understands the importance of preparing and intends to do so within the next year (stages 2 and 3) has increased by 12 percentage points since 2013 (28% in 2013 to 40% in 2020) supporting the notion that there is an increased social awareness of the importance of preparing.

The percentage of the population that perceives themselves as prepared (stages 4 and 5) increased only slightly from 2013 (49% in 2013 to 51% in 2020), implying that the rate at which the adult population becomes prepared or maintains preparedness has stalled over the years, despite any year to year (e.g., 2020 versus 2019) fluctuations. This suggests a critical need to encourage, guide, and assist individuals and communities progress from intent-to-prepare to engagement in preparedness action and activities.

Preparedness Influencers

Infographic: Awareness of Information: 47% have read, seen or heard information in the past six months about how to get better prepared for a disaster (up 4% from 43% in 2019 to 47% in 2020). Experience with Disasters: 47% have personal or familial experience with the impacts of a disaster (up 3% from 44% in 2019 to 47% in 2020). Preparedness Efficacy: 47% believe that preparing can help in a disaster AND are confident in their ability to prepare (up 5% from 42% in 2019 to 47% in 2020). Risk Perception: 98% acknowledge that the occurrence of at least one disaster type could impact where they live (no change: 98% in both 2019 and 2020).

Preparedness Actions

Six basic preparedness actions lay the groundwork for pursuing other actions. Gather supplies to last 3 or more days (81%, up from 80% in 2019). Talk with others on getting prepared (48%, up from 45% in 2019). Attend a local meeting or training (29%, down from 30% in 2019). Seek information on preparedness (65%, up from 64% in 2019). Participate in an emergency drill (56%, up from 49% in 2019). Make an emergency plan (48% in both 2020 and 2019). In 2020, 68% took three or more of these preparedness actions. In 2019, 62% took three or more of these actions.
  • Overall, the estimated number of preparedness actions taken has increased from 2019.
    • 68% of NHS respondents have taken 3 or more of the 6 basic preparedness actions; an increase of 6% from 2019.
    • For the second year in a row, the percentage of people reporting four of the six basic actions increased.
    • The number of people who indicated that they talked to others about getting prepared increased from 45% to 48%.
    • The number of people who indicated they participated in an emergency drill increased from 49% to 56%.
  • NHS data shows that, when individuals indicate that they’ve taken one preparedness action, we can expect that they will take additional preparedness actions.
  • NHS data shows that preparedness actions can vary by stage of preparedness, hazard areas, and even demographics. As such, customizing preparedness messaging based on these factors will likely result in more effective messaging.

Financial Resilience

Infographic: 68% of adults have set aside some money for an emergency. Pie chart: (14% saved more than $0 but an unspecified amount, 21% saved more than $5,000, 11% saved between $3,000 and $5,000, 13% saved between $1,000 and $2,999, 9% saved between $1 and $999, and 32% saved $0).
  • From 2019 to 2020, a slight decrease was observed in the proportion of individuals who had homeowners or renters insurance (3% decrease to 77% in 2020) and flood insurance (1% decrease to 22% in 2020).
  • Overall, the number of individuals that reported having set aside some money for an emergency remained largely unchanged from 2019 (from 69% to 68% in 2020). Still, 1 in 3 people do not have any money saved for an emergency.

Helpful Links

To learn more about research at FEMA, please visit: https://www.ready.gov/preparedness-research
Have questions about this data? Contact FEMA at FEMA-Prepare@fema.dhs.gov