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FEMA Releases the 2019 National Household Survey Data on OpenFEMA for Use by Community Partners

May 2021

In April 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released the full data for the 2019 National Household Survey (NHS) on OpenFEMA. There are now complete datasets available for 2017-2019 NHS iterations on OpenFEMA. FEMA encourages researchers, academics, emergency management personnel, and all members of the public to download and use the NHS.

Two Years of Financial Resilience Surveying

Both 2018 and 2019 NHS iterations contained questions to the public on financial resilience. This presents stakeholders and researchers with an opportunity to analyze trends through time and gather patterns of emergency financial savings in the U.S. A summary of findings from 2019 is reported below:

In 2019, the percent of people who have set aside some money for an emergency, hold property insurance, and/or have a flood insurance policy increased by about 2% each. However, still about half of adults have saved no more than $700 and flood insurance policies were held by less than 1/4 of the population.

FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) advises that every property is vulnerable to flooding, and that most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Just 1 inch of water can cause more than $25,000 in damage to a home. In these events, flood insurance can be the difference between recovery and financial devastation.

General Findings

Since 2013, FEMA has used the NHS to track progress in personal disaster preparedness by studying the American public's preparedness actions, attitudes, and motivations. FEMA conducts the survey in English and Spanish via landline and cellphone to a random sample of more than 5,000 adults. The survey includes a national sample as well as hazard-specific oversamples. These include earthquakes, extreme heat, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, winter storms, or urban events (such as a nuclear explosion or terrorist attack).

The NHS datasets from 2017 through 2019 tell us the culture of preparedness in America is improving. There is a positive upward trend of survey respondents who intend to prepare for a disaster.

The data contains fields for hazard type, demographics, and location so that you may dig deeper into these findings and understand the trends that are most important to you. For example:

  • Emergency managers can use the NHS to assess the culture of preparedness in their community. Targeted analysis of the data can uncover meaningful trends in specific regions. For example, people living in hurricane zones tend to have emergency plans more often than those living in flood, wildfire, or earthquake zones.
  • Did you know that although 70% of the U.S. population live in areas with snowy winters, just 13% of the public believes winter weather will have a big impact on where they live? The NHS data tells us this and can help you dive deeper into location- and hazard-specific trends.
  • For non-profits and other agencies that specialize in educating the public in preparedness, the NHS data can help you understand how people obtain preparedness information in the communities you serve.
  • If you are a professor or researcher, you can use the raw data to support your own research. You can even share it with your students who want to develop new analysis or investigate specific disaster topics.
  • Agencies who provide critical services during or after disaster events can use the NHS findings to support expanding their preparedness activities and promote community resilience efforts.

The NHS datasets on OpenFEMA are meant to be used by our community stakeholders for analysis and creation of metrics and other materials to better assist them in preparing individuals and communities for disasters. Datasets include the raw, unedited data. As such, users should plan to clean the data as needed prior to analysis. The datasets also include an executive summary, the survey instrument, raw weighted and unweighted data, aggregated data analysis, and a codebook with weighting overviews.

NHS datasets from 2017 to 2019 can be found at OpenFEMA. You may also find a summary of the 2019 data and a link to two recorded webinars on the 2019 NHS Story Article.

Let us know how you used the data!

Email us at FEMA-prepare@fema.dhs.gov . We want to hear about any new research findings that you have. We also welcome opportunities to collaborate in preparedness research.

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