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FEMA Data Digest: Drought Preparedness

April 2022

To learn more about research at FEMA, please visit: https://www.ready.gov/preparedness-research.

Have questions about this data? Want to receive the Data Digest in your inbox? Contact FEMA at FEMA-Prepare@fema.dhs.gov.

Use the FEMA Data Digest

Help us build a prepared nation by using the FEMA Data Digest to inform your work!

Preparedness helps individuals, families, and communities stay safe during and after a disaster or emergency.

FEMA publishes the Data Digest to share findings from its preparedness research, like the annual National Household Survey. Our goal is to provide you with relevant insights, graphics, data, findings, and helpful links that you can use to engage with your community. Below, we’ve identified:

  • Data-driven key findings for the preparedness community to use;
  • Calls to action for you to use with your community to encourage people to prepare; and
  • Helpful links to free preparedness publications, research, and tools.

We invite you to use the information below and incorporate Data Digest resources into your drought preparedness-related publications, social media posts, and stakeholder outreach.

Drive Your Outreach with Data!

  • Key Finding 1: One-third (35%) of people who lived in drought-prone areas did not take steps to prepare for a drought.
  • Only one in five (20%) people who lived in drought-prone areas signed up to receive alerts and warnings.
  • Only 8% of people who lived in drought-prone areas had planned with neighbors and just 6% of people got involved in their communities.
  • Key Finding 2: Although risk perception was high, people in drought-prone areas need more information about drought preparedness and risks.
  • Only 42% of people who lived in drought-prone areas had read, seen, or heard information that could help them to get better prepared for a drought.
  • A majority (89%) or people living in drought-prone areas were able to identify drought-related risks they might face.
  • The most commonly reported perceived risks during a drought were the deterioration of residential property (58%) and food shortage (53%).
  • Key Finding 3: Most people (77%) who lived in drought-prone areas acknowledged a drought could impact where they lived, but nearly two-thirds (63%) of people may need support to achieve self-efficacy.
  • A small percentage (17%) of people who lived in drought-prone areas were not prepared and had no intention to prepare in the next year.
  • Nearly half (43%) of people who lived in drought-prone areas were unprepared but intended to prepare in the next six months to one year.

What is a Drought?

FEMA’s National Risk Index defines a drought as “a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time resulting in a water shortage.” Regions, meteorologists, and climatologists all define drought differently. To learn more about the definition, different types, and the impacts of drought, visit Drought.gov.


Key Finding #1:


One-third (35%) of people who lived in drought-prone areas did not take steps to prepare for a drought.



12 Ways to Prepare and the Percentage of People in Drought-Prone Areas Who Took These Steps to Prepare

Figure 1. 12 Ways to Prepare and the Percentage of People in Drought-Prone Areas Who Took These Steps to Prepare



  • Only one in five (20%) people who lived in drought-prone areas signed up to receive alerts and warnings.
  • Only 8% of people who lived in drought-prone areas had planned with neighbors and just 6% of people who lived in drought-prone areas had gotten involved in their communities.


Help Your Communities Prepare


Leverage Your Resources

  • Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Public Health Information Coalition developed a drought communication toolkit. Use this resource to inform your community about the effects of drought on public health.
  • Subject matter experts from federal agencies provide drought monitoring, forecasting, and planning information on Drought.gov. The site also has resources for communicating about drought.


Start the Conversation with Your Community


Preparing for a Drought


How will a drought affect organizations and people in your community?

  • Visit Drought.gov to learn how current conditions and the current drought outlook might affect your community.
  • Look for ways to educate your community about how drought may affect them. Use various resources like printed materials, social media, virtual platforms, and local events to reach different groups in your community.
  • Find inclusive ways to involve your community in preparing for droughts. Make sure your communications and events are accessible. Consider the unique needs of people within your community, such as:
  • The varying needs of historically underserved communities.
  • The languages spoken within your community.
  • Preferred communication methods.
  • What is the most effective way to share FEMA’s free preparedness publications with your community?
  • Order free products to have printed versions on hand.



Key Finding #2:


Although risk perception was high, people in drought-prone areas need more information about drought preparedness and risks.



  • Only 42% of people who lived in drought-prone areas had read, seen, or heard information that could help them to get better prepared for a drought.


 Percent of people in drought-prone areas who had (42%) and hadn’t (58%) read, seen or heard drought preparedness information.

Figure 2. Drought Preparedness Awareness



  • A majority (89%) of people living in drought-prone areas were able to identify drought-related risks they might face.
  • The most commonly reported perceived risks during a drought were the deterioration of residential property (58%) and food shortage (53%).


 Deterioration of residential property and food shortages were the most commonly reported perceived risks during a drought.

Figure 3. Most Commonly Reported Perceived Risks During a Drought


Help Your Communities Prepare


What Information Does Your Community Need to Prepare for a Drought?

  • Consider using the CDC’s publication, “When Every Drop Counts. Protecting Public Health During Drought Conditions. A Guide for Public Health Professionals.”
  • Use this publication to better understand the health threats that your community might face because of a drought.


Help Your Communities Prepare


What Risks Do Droughts Pose to Your Community?


Use FEMA’s National Risk Index (NRI) map to better understand your community’s drought risk. The NRI can give you data about:



 Map which displays the eight levels of drought risk in the United States.

For additional information, visit NRI: Drought

Figure 4. Drought Risk in the United States



Key Finding #3


Most (77%) people who lived in drought-prone areas acknowledged a drought could impact where they lived but nearly two-thirds (63%) of people may need support to achieve self-efficacy.



  • A small percentage (17%) of people who lived in drought-prone areas were not prepared and had no intention to prepare in the next year.
  • Nearly half (43%) of people who lived in drought-prone areas were unprepared but intended to prepare in the next six months to one year.


 Five stages of change reported by people who lived in drought-prone areas: 17%, 19%, 24%, 24%, and 16%, respectively.

Figure 5. Stages of Change: Perceived Preparedness for a Drought


 37% of people in drought-prone areas said preparing would help in a drought AND they were confident they could take steps to prepare; 63% said “no” to one or both of the questions (“How much would taking steps to prepare help you get through a drought in your area? How confident are you that you can take steps to prepare for a drought in your area?”)

Figure 6. Belief and Confidence in Drought Preparedness


Engage with Your Community


What motivates people in your community to prepare?


FEMA conducted research on wildfires and hurricanes and found that personal factors, such as previous disaster experience and a sense of responsibility for taking care of family members, were the most common reasons that people prepared for a disaster.

  • Consider how you might apply this information to drought awareness outreach efforts.
  • Think of stories that you could share with your community to help show the difference that preparedness could make during a drought.


National Household Survey Information

2021 National Household Survey Key Findings

Since 2013, FEMA has measured preparedness attitudes and behaviors annually in the nationally representative National Household Survey & 59% have pursued 3 or more of 12 basic preparedness actions; 44% have saved for a rainy day.

Note: Data obtained from the 2021 National Household Survey.

National Household Survey Questions that Informed Key Findings

Only National Household Survey respondents who lived in drought-prone areas answered the following question. Their responses informed Key Finding #1:

  • What have you done to prepare for a drought in the last year? (See Table 1 for specifics.)

Only National Household Survey respondents who lived in drought-prone areas answered the following questions. Their responses informed Key Finding #2:

  • Thinking about the area you live in, how likely would it be for a drought to impact you? (See Table 4 for specifics.)
  • Droughts result from periods of reduced rainfall. In the past year, have you read, seen, or heard any information about how to get better prepared for a drought? (See Table 4 for specifics.)
  • What are the risks to you in a drought? (See Table 3 for specifics.)

Only National Household Survey respondents who lived in drought-prone areas answered the following questions. Their responses informed Key Finding #3.

  • Thinking about the area you live in, how likely would it be for a drought to impact you? (See Table 4 for specifics.)
  • How much would taking steps to prepare help you get through a drought in your area? How confident are you that you can take steps to prepare for a drought in your area? (See Table 4 for specifics.)
  • Thinking about preparing yourself for a drought, which of the following best represents your degree of preparedness? (See Table 5 for specifics.)

National Household Survey Data Tables

Preparedness Actions

Table 1: Preparedness Actions — Drought

Question

Response

2021

What have you done to prepare for a drought in the last year?

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Assemble or update supplies

26%

Document and insure property

11%

Get involved in community

6%

Know evacuation routes

6%

Make a plan

27%

Make your home safer

21%

Plan with neighbors

8%

Practice emergency drills or habits

12%

Safeguard documents

13%

Save for a rainy day

28%

Sign up for alerts and warnings

20%

Test family communication plan

8%

None

35%

Table 2: Taking Multiple Preparedness Actions — Drought

Question

Response

2021

What have you done to prepare for a drought in the last year?

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Taking at least 1 of the 12 preparedness actions

64%

Taking at least 3 of the 12 preparedness actions

30%

Note: See Table 1 for the 12 Preparedness Actions which could have been taken

Table 3: Risks in Drought — Drought

Question

Response

2021

What are the risks to you in a drought?

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Food shortage

53%

Health and safety

47%

Economic losses (e.g., income)

27%

Fewer recreational activities

21%

Residential property deterioration (lawn, trees, shrubs, gardens, etc.)

58%

None

11%

Table 4: Preparedness Influencers — Drought

Preparedness Influencers

Description of Preparedness Influencers

2021

Awareness

Have read, seen, or heard information in the past year about how to get better prepared for a drought

42%

Hazard experience

Have personal or familial experience with the impacts of a drought

40%

High preparedness efficacy

Believe that preparing can help in a drought AND are confident in their abilities to prepare

37%

Risk perception

Acknowledge that the occurrence of a drought could impact where they currently live

77%

The following questions were asked of National Household Survey respondents:

  • Awareness Question: Droughts result from periods of reduced rainfall. In the past year, have you read, seen, or heard any information about how to get better prepared for a drought?
  • Hazard Experience Question: Have you or your family ever experienced the impacts of a drought?
  • High Preparedness Efficacy Questions: How much would taking steps to prepare help you get through a drought in your area? How confident are you that you can take steps to prepare for a drought in your area?
  • Risk Perception Question: Thinking about the area you live in, how likely would it be for a drought to impact you?

Table 5: Stages of Change — Drought

Stage

Description

2021

Precontemplation

I am NOT prepared, and I do not intend to prepare in the next year

17%

Contemplation

I am NOT prepared, but I intend to start preparing in the next year

19%

Preparation

I am NOT prepared, but I intend to get prepared in the next six months

24%

Action

I have been prepared for the last year

24%

Maintenance

I have been prepared for MORE than a year, and I continue preparing

16%

Helpful Links

  •  FEMA Preparedness Research
  •  Previous Data Digests
  •  General Preparedness Resources
  • FEMA’s COVID-19 Response