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FEMA Data Digest: Low- and No-Cost Ways to Prepare

March 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 to 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 important findings from its preparedness research, like the annual National Household Survey (NHS). Our goal is to provide you with relevant insights, graphics, data, messages, and helpful links that you can use to engage with your community. Below, we’ve identified:

  • Data-driven key messages for the preparedness community to use
  • Calls to action for people and communities to take preparedness actions
  • Helpful links to free preparedness publications, research, and tools

We invite you to use the information below, share the graphics, and incorporate Data Digest resources into your low- and no-cost ways to prepare-related publications, social media posts, or stakeholder outreach.

Drive Your Outreach with Data!

  • Key Message 1: In the 2021 NHS, the most common ways that people reported that they had prepared for a disaster were by assembling/updating supplies, making their home safer, saving for a rainy day, and making a plan.
  • However, the most common preparedness actions for which people had received information were about low- or no-cost actions, like making a plan and signing up for alerts and warnings.
  • Key Message 2: Preparedness professionals can help their communities by finding ways to frame preparedness actions that may be perceived as costly so that those actions are seen as accessible.
  • In 2021, people who were socioeconomically disadvantaged were less likely to take preparedness actions that had a cost associated with them when compared to the actions of people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged.
  • However, people who were socioeconomically disadvantaged were just as or more likely to take low- or no-cost preparedness actions when compared to people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged.
  • In addition, people who were socioeconomically disadvantaged were less likely than people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged to take preparedness actions that required equipment or were perceived as financially burdensome.
  • Key Message 3: Community-based preparedness actions are low-cost but may not be accessible to all community members.
  • In 2021, when compared to people who were not in the aging community, people in the aging community (ages 60 and up) were less likely to take community-based preparedness actions.
  • However, people in the aging community were more likely than people ages 18 to 59 to assemble or update supplies, document and insure property, and make their home safer.
  • Key Message 4: In 2021, people from households where English was not the primary language spoken were more likely to get involved in their community, plan with neighbors, and practice emergency drills or habits when compared to people who were from households whose primary household language was English.
  • When comparing primarily English speaking to non-English speaking households, people from households where English was not spoken as the primary language were more likely to take steps to learn about claiming disaster assistance.
  • But they were less likely to review insurance coverage, sign up for alerts and warnings, review their credit score, and keep important records and receipts safe.

Help Your Community to Prepare


Consider the Differing Needs of People in Your Community


In your outreach:

  • Ensure your community can access the message.
  • Share messaging in multiple ways to ensure community members can access the materials. Consider whether your community has reliable internet access. Share printed materials if your community has limited internet access.
  • Consider how your community will understand the message.
  • Develop clear and straight-forward messaging. Language barriers may alter your intended message for households with limited English proficiency and other members of historically underserved communities.
  • Encourage your community to learn its risk.
  • Develop disaster and hazard messaging specifically for historically underserved communities. Outline common protective actions they can take during power outages, winter weather, and other hazards.
  • Highlight how preparedness can make a difference in an emergency.
  • Develop messaging that informs the community of actions to take to be prepared for, stay safe during, and recover after a disaster or emergency. Consider the accessibility and affordability of the actions in your messages.
  • Motivate your community to take steps to prepare with tailored messages.
  • Develop messaging that promotes low- and no-cost ways to prepare for all members of your community.


Historically Underserved Communities

Historically underserved communities are “populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life…” (Source: Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government).

Examples of historically underserved communities include people who are “Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.” (Source: Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government).

We need everyone’s help to build a prepared nation. Consider the differing needs of the communities that you serve. The 2021 National Household Survey (NHS) found that historically underserved communities have varying preparedness needs, and no community or demographic is fully prepared for everything. You can help your community to take steps to prepare by providing tips on low- and no-cost ways to prepare for a disaster or an emergency.


Did You Know?

In response to a FEMA survey about financial resilience conducted in 2019:

  • 91% of people who experienced a disaster reported they incurred a financial impact.
  • Of this group, 37% reported they incurred a “major” financial impact due to a disaster.


Percentage of people who had (91%)/had not (9%) incurred a financial impact. Of these, 37% incurred a “major” financial impact due to a disaster.

Figure 1. Percentage of People Who Experienced the Impact of a Disaster



Key Message #1:


In the 2021 NHS, the most common ways that people reported that they had prepared for a disaster were by:

  • Assembling/updating supplies (45%).
  • Making their home safer (45%).
  • Saving for a rainy day (44%).
  • Making a plan (43%).


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Chart displaying the 12 ways people prepared for disasters in 2021 and the percentages of people who took those actions..

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Figure 2. 12 Ways People Prepared for Disasters in 2021



However, the most common preparedness actions for which people had received information were about low- or no-cost actions, like:

  • Making a plan (56%).
  • Signing up for alerts and warnings (52%).


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 The two preparedness actions reported as most commonly read, seen or heard about for getting prepared for a disaster in 2021.

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Figure 3. Preparedness Actions Most Commonly Read, Seen, or Heard in 2021


Help Your Communities to Prepare


How Can You Help?


Help members of your community think about how they can take and make low- and no-cost steps to prepare for a disaster a part of their everyday lives. Make your outreach inclusive by:

  • Knowing your audience.
  • Learn about the members of your community.
  • Attend local events and speak to local leaders.
  • Focusing your strategy.
  • Tailor messaging to your community.
  • Consider the needs of community members and any challenges they may face.
  • Outline strategies to help reduce the barriers to preparedness.


Call Individuals to Action


Download FEMA’s Guide for Alerts and Warnings

  • Download FEMA’S Guide for Alerts and Warnings to learn more about hazards, alerts, and the steps you can take to prepare before and during a disaster.
  • Use the Guide to identify low- and no-cost ways to prepare, like:
  • Talking to your friends and neighbors about making plans in case of a disaster.
  • Signing up for alerts and warnings to learn about hazards in real time.
  • Paying attention to alerts and warnings.



Key Message #2:


Preparedness professionals can help their communities by finding ways to frame preparedness actions that may be perceived as costly so that those actions are seen as accessible.



In 2021, people who were socioeconomically disadvantaged* were less likely to take preparedness actions that had a cost associated with them when compared to the actions of people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged.

For example, fewer people who were socioeconomically disadvantaged:

  • Documented and insured property (20%) than people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged (29%).
  • Assembled supplies (39%) than people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged (47%).
  • Safeguarded documents (29%) than people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged (35%).
  • Saved for a rainy day (38%) than people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged (46%).

* The NHS defines the category of the socioeconomic disadvantaged based on U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Poverty Guidelines. HHS determines the socioeconomically disadvantaged by a calculation that is based on location, household size, and household income.



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 Comparing preparedness actions seen as costly by communities that were and weren’t socioeconomically disadvantaged.

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Figure 4. Preparedness Actions with a Cost Taken by Communities that Were and Were Not Socioeconomically Disadvantaged



However, people who were socioeconomically disadvantaged were just as or more likely to take low- or no-cost preparedness actions when compared to people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged. From the data, we know that more people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged have:

  • Practiced emergency drills or habits (24%) than people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged (22%).
  • Tested communications plans (28%) than people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged (25%).

In addition, people who were socioeconomically disadvantaged were less likely than people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged to take preparedness actions that required equipment or were perceived as financially burdensome, such as:

  • Documenting their property via photo or video (18%, compared to 28% for people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged).
  • Keeping important records and receipts safe (35%, compared to 49% for people who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged).


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 Comparing low- and no-cost preparedness actions taken by communities that were and weren’t socioeconomically disadvantaged.

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Figure 5. Low- or No-Cost Preparedness Actions Taken by Communities that Were and Were Not Socioeconomically Disadvantaged


Engage with Your Community


Promote Disaster Preparedness Tips that Are Accessible and Affordable

  • Consider how you can help people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged find preparedness actions they can take before a disaster. Identify ways to help people who belong to a socioeconomically disadvantaged community modify preparedness actions they perceive as costly into more actions that are low- and no-cost.
  • Share FEMA’s free preparedness publications to help your community learn more about how to prepare for a disaster. Download or order copies of preparedness products to share with your community.
  • Highlight the low- and no-cost ways that people in your community can prepare for a disaster. Promote local resources and opportunities to help turn intent into action.


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12 ways to prepare for a disaster.

For translations of the postcard visit: https://www.ready.gov/collection/12-ways-to-prepare              To download this graphic, right click and save

Figure 6. 12 Ways to Prepare Postcard


Engage with Your Community



Make Preparedness Actions Relatable for Your Community


Consider how you can adapt the preparedness actions your community sees as costly or cost prohibitive so that these actions fit into their budget.



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Download and order free preparedness products at order.gpo.gov/icpd/ICPD

Visit https://orders.gpo.gov/icpd/ICPD to download and order free preparedness products.                 To download this graphic, right click and save

Figure 7. Download and Order Free Preparedness Products


Call Individuals to Action


Prepare for an Emergency by Gathering Emergency Supplies


Gathering supplies does not have to be expensive! Think about what you will need during an emergency and what you might have on hand.

  • Do you know where the items you will need are located?
  • Can you quickly gather the items you need in an emergency?


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Think about what you have on hand already that you could use in an emergency; supplies don’t need to be expensive or fancy.

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Figure 8. Emergency Supplies Can Be Found in Your Home



Key Message #3


Community-based preparedness actions are low-cost but may not be accessible to all community members.



In 2021, when compared to people who were not in the aging community, people in the aging community (ages 60 and up) were less likely to take community-based preparedness actions, such as:

  • Getting involved with their communities (11%, compared to 18% for people between ages 18 and 59).
  • Planning with neighbors (11%, compared to 17% for people between ages 18 and 59).
  • Practicing emergency drills or habits (14%, compared to 25% for people between ages 18 and 59).

However, people in the aging community were more likely than people ages 18 to 59 to:

  • Assemble or update supplies (54%, compared to 41% for people between ages 18 and 59).
  • Document and insure property (35%, compared to 24% for people between ages 18 and 59).
  • Make their home safer (47%, compared to 45% for people between ages 18 and 59).


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Comparing preparedness actions seen as costly by communities that were over 60 and between the ages of 18 and 59.

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Figure 9. Preparedness Actions with a Cost Taken by Communities that Were Over 60 Years of Age and Between 18 and 59 Years of Age


Help Your Communities to Prepare


Help Turn Intent into Action


Engage with older adults in your community by:

  • Making sure events and outreach are accessible.
  • Using FEMA’s 2021 National Household Survey data to identify where there may be opportunities to increase preparedness actions.
  • Leveraging their intent to prepare (as seen by their willingness to commit financial resources) to motivate them to take action.


Help Your Communities to Prepare


Be Creative with Your Preparedness Outreach

  • Look for creative ways to promote preparedness actions to your community.
  • Use resources that already exist to communicate low- and no-cost preparedness actions.
  • Turn your neighborhood “contact tree” into a way to for community members to practice checking on neighbors during an emergency.
  • Help others prepare for a disaster or a hazard while practicing pandemic safety by using the neighborhood newsletter to share promising practices.


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While promoting preparedness, take precautions to protect yourself and others.

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Figure 10. Take Precautions While Promoting Preparedness



Key Message #4


In 2021, people from households where English was not the primary language spoken were more likely to get involved in their community, plan with neighbors, and practice emergency drills or habits when compared to people who were from households whose primary household language was English.



When comparing primarily English speaking to non-English speaking households, people from households where English was not spoken as the primary language were more likely to take steps to learn about claiming disaster assistance.


But they were less likely to review insurance coverage, sign up for alerts and warnings, review their credit score, and keep important records and receipts safe.



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A comparison of preparedness actions most taken by households whose primary spoken language were and weren’t English.

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Figure 11. Comparison of Preparedness Actions Taken by Primarily English-Speaking and Not Primarily English-Speaking Households


Engage With Your Community


Language Barriers Shouldn’t Limit Access to Information

  • 2021 NHS data indicates that households whose primary language is not English have an intent to prepare for disasters and hazards. These households also want to learn how to become better prepared, but there may be barriers preventing them from accessing the information they need. Have you considered:
  • What languages are spoken in your community?
  • Visit LEP.gov and use the Language Map App to learn more about what languages are spoken in your community.
  • How can you use the community ties to promote disaster preparedness to people whose primary language is not English?
  • How can you make sure that people who have a limited English proficiency have access to disaster preparedness materials in a language that they understand?
  • What free FEMA products could you share with your community to promote preparedness in your community?
  • FEMA offers free preparedness products in Spanish, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Vietnamese.
  • Download or order these products to share with your community.


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Be prepared to apply for disaster assistance in the primary language spoken in your household at www.fema.gov/assistance/.

For additional information, visit: https://www.fema.gov/assistance/languages                                       To download this graphic, right click and save

Figure 12. Learn How to Apply for Disaster Assistance


Call Individuals to Action


Take Advantage of Free Preparedness Publications


Download disaster preparedness information in multiple languages from Ready.gov/be-informed. Fill out a copy of the family communications plan and keep a copy on your phone or print a copy from a library that offers free printing. Make sure you have a copy of your family communications plan on hand in case of an emergency.



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Bulletin board that has FEMA preparedness products in different languages attached to it.

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Figure 13. FEMA Preparedness Bulletin Board


NHS Information

2021 NHS 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.

* Data obtained from the 2021 NHS

NHS Questions that Informed Key Messages

NHS survey respondents answered the following questions. Their responses informed Key Message #1:

  • What have you done to prepare for a disaster in the last year? (See Table 1 for specifics.)
  • In the past year, what information have you read, seen, or heard about how to get better prepared for a disaster? (See Table 2 for specifics.)

NHS survey respondents answered the following questions. Their responses informed Key Message #2:

  • What have you done to prepare for a disaster in the last year? (See Table 3 for specifics.)
  • Which of the following actions have you taken to prepare? (See Table 4 for specifics.)

NHS survey respondents answered the following questions. Their responses informed Key Message #3.

  • What have you done to prepare for a disaster in the last year? (See Table 5 for specifics.)
  • Which of the following actions have you taken to prepare? (See Table 6 for specifics.)

NHS survey respondents answered the following questions. Their responses informed Key Message #4.

  • What have you done to prepare for a disaster in the last year? (See Table 7 for specifics.)
  • Which of the following actions have you taken to prepare? (See Table 8 for specifics.)

NHS Data Tables

Preparedness Actions

Table 1: Preparedness Actions – Disaster

Question

Response

2021

What have you done to prepare for a disaster or emergency in the last year?

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Assemble or update supplies

45%

Document and insure property

27%

Get involved in community

16%

Know evacuation routes

28%

Make a plan

43%

Make your home safer

45%

Plan with neighbors

15%

Practice emergency drills or habits

22%

Safeguard documents

34%

Save for a rainy day

44%

Sign up for alerts and warnings

40%

Test family communication plan

25%

None

11%

Table 2: Awareness

Question

Response

2021

A “disaster” is an event that could threaten lives, disrupt public or emergency services like water and power, or damage property. In the past year, what information have you read, seen, or heard about how to get better prepared for a disaster?

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Assemble or update supplies

45%

Document and insure property

35%

Get involved in community

18%

Know evacuation routes

46%

Make a plan

56%

Make your home safer

49%

Plan with neighbors

20%

Practice emergency drills or habits

31%

Safeguard documents

41%

Save for a rainy day

50%

Sign up for alerts and warnings

52%

Test family communication plan

28%

None

8%

Table 3: Preparedness Actions by Socioeconomic Status

Question

Response

People who were socioeconomically disadvantaged

People who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged

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

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Assemble or update supplies

39%

47%

Document and insure property

20%

29%

Get involved in community

14%

16%

Know evacuation routes

29%

29%

Make a plan

44%

44%

Make your home safer

45%

47%

Plan with neighbors

14%

15%

Practice emergency drills or habits

24%

22%

Safeguard documents

29%

35%

Save for a rainy day

38%

46%

Sign up for alerts and warnings

37%

42%

Test family communication plan

28%

25%

None

14%

10%

Table 4: Financial Actions Taken to Prepare by Socioeconomic Status

Question

Response

People who were socioeconomically disadvantaged

People who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged

Which of the following actions have you taken to prepare?

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Contact a qualified financial counselor

11%

16%

Create a budget

34%

35%

Create and update emergency plan for financial emergencies

28%

29%

Document property via photo or video

18%

28%

Invest in an emergency savings account

18%

31%

Keep cash in a secure place

39%

48%

Keep important records and receipts safe

35%

49%

Learn how to claim financial disaster assistance/aid

20%

19%

Review credit score

20%

30%

Secure finances in cyberspace by avoiding scams and hacking

20%

24%

Review insurance coverage

24%

40%

None

22%

14%

Table 5: Preparedness Actions by Age

Question

Response

Ages 18 to 59

Ages 60 and older

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

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Assemble or update supplies

41%

54%

Document and insure property

24%

35%

Get involved in community

18%

11%

Know evacuation routes

29%

27%

Make a plan

47%

33%

Make your home safer

45%

47%

Plan with neighbors

17%

11%

Practice emergency drills or habits

25%

14%

Safeguard documents

31%

39%

Save for a rainy day

44%

43%

Sign up for alerts and warnings

41%

38%

Test family communication plan

28%

19%

None

10%

14%

Table 6: Financial Actions Taken to Prepare by Age

Question

Response

Ages 18 to 59

Ages 60 and older

Which of the following actions have you taken to prepare? (Respondents could select all that apply.)

Contact a qualified financial counselor

17%

9%

Create a budget

38%

25%

Create and update emergency plan for financial emergencies

32%

21%

Document property via photo or video

26%

25%

Invest in an emergency savings account

29%

27%

Keep cash in a secure place

44%

50%

Keep important records and receipts safe

40%

60%

Learn how to claim financial disaster assistance/aid

21%

15%

Review credit score

27%

30%

Secure finances in cyberspace by avoiding scams and hacking

24%

20%

Review insurance coverage

31%

51%

None

15%

18%

Table 7: Preparedness Actions by Primary Language Household

Question

Response

Primarily English speaking

Not primarily English speaking

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

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Assemble or update supplies

45%

39%

Document and insure property

27%

25%

Get involved in community

15%

22%

Know evacuation routes

28%

32%

Make a plan

43%

49%

Make your home safer

45%

48%

Plan with neighbors

15%

17%

Practice emergency drills or habits

21%

32%

Safeguard documents

33%

41%

Save for a rainy day

44%

49%

Sign up for alerts and warnings

41%

37%

Test family communication plan

25%

30%

None

12%

5%

Table 8: Financial Actions Taken to Prepare by Primary Language Household

Question

Response

Primarily English speaking

Not primarily English speaking

Which of the following actions have you taken to prepare? (Respondents could select all that apply.)

Contact a qualified financial counselor

15%

15%

Create a budget

34%

47%

Create and update emergency plan for financial emergencies

29%

33%

Document property via photo or video

26%

28%

Invest in an emergency savings account

28%

33%

Keep cash in a secure place

46%

44%

Keep important records and receipts safe

47%

38%

Learn how to claim financial disaster assistance/aid

19%

26%

Review credit score

29%

20%

Secure finances in cyberspace by avoiding scams and hacking

23%

20%

Review insurance coverage

37%

25%

None

16%

8%

Preparedness Influencers

Table 9: Preparedness Influencers – Disaster

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 disaster

92%

Disaster experience

Have personal or familial experience with the impacts of a disaster

54%

High preparedness efficacy

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

40%

Risk perception

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

76%

The following questions were asked of NHS respondents:

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

Stages of Change

Table 10: Stages of Change – Disaster

Stage

Description

2021

Precontemplation

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

14%

Contemplation

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

20%

Preparation

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

23%

Action

I have been prepared for the last year

24%

Maintenance

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

20%

Helpful Links

  •   FEMA Preparedness Research

        o   2021 National Household Survey

        o   2020 National Household Survey

        o   National Household Survey Datasets on OpenFEMA            (raw data)

        o   Protective Actions Research

  •   Previous Data Digests

        o   Tsunami

        o   Winter Weather

        o   Power Outage

        o   2021 NHS Results

        o   Wildfire

        o   Hurricane Safety (2020 NHS)

        o   Tornado

        o   Flood

        o   Financial Resilience

        o   Earthquake

        o   2020 NHS Results

        o   Hurricane Preparedness (2019 NHS)

  •   General Preparedness Resources

  •   FEMA’s COVID-19 Response