64% of Americans unprepared for natural disasters

November 14, 2012, 6:05 PM GMT+0

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a new YouGov Omnibus survey has shown that the number of those in the Northeast who are “very concerned” about natural disasters has nearly doubled since last May, when we took the same poll. (You can find our previous write-up here.) Despite the increased concern, a majority of Americans still remain unprepared for natural disasters.

Last year, only 17% of those in the Northeast said they were very concerned about potential natural disasters. Now 31% of those in the Northeast say they are very concerned, the highest percentage for any region in the country. Other regions do not seem to have not experienced a similar shift since last year. In fact, the percentage of those saying they were not concerned about natural disasters actually increased slightly in the Midwest.

The kind of disaster most feared nationwide remains the Tornado, with 49% of respondents citing it as a natural disaster they were afraid of. This number is down from last year when 64% said they feared tornadoes, perhaps because our original poll was taken shortly after 2011 Joplin tornado and the 2011 New England tornado outbreak.

Natural disasters most feared across the nation:

  • Tornadoes: 49%
  • Earthquakes: 43%
  • Hurricanes: 41%
  • Floods: 34%
  • Tsunami: 12%
  • Volcanic eruption: 10%

Fear of hurricanes has increased slightly across the nation, with 41% of respondents citing concern, as opposed to 33% last year. This trend was concentrated in, but not limited to, the Northeast, where the percentage of those afraid of hurricanes increased from 49% to 69%. The number of those afraid of floods also rose in the Northeast, from 38% to 52%. In contrast, the percentage of Northeasterners citing a fear of tornados declined sharply, sinking from 71% to 32%.

In comparison with last year, too, the number of people making disaster preparations increased slightly, from 31% to 36%. Again the shift was concentrated in the Northeast. Last year, only 19% there said they made preparations. 39% now say they have.

Of the 36% who said they were equipped for natural disasters, their preparations included the following:

  • Emergency supplies (for example, flashlights or first-aid kits): 89%
  • Food stocks: 74%
  • Creating an evacuation or an emergency plan: 50%
  • Disaster insurance: 22%

Of the 89% who had emergency supplies, their supplies included the following:

  • Flashlights: 97%
  • Water: 92%
  • First-aid kits or 
medicine: 92%
  • Sleeping bags or 
blankets: 83%
  • Face masks: 18%
  • Iodine pills: 15%

While overall the most noticeable change from last year seems to be concentrated in the Northeast, there was another interesting difference between this year and last. When we originally ran the poll, those who were “very concerned” with natural disasters tended to skew older. This year, the group with the highest percentage who were very concerned about natural disasters was respondents 18-29 years old. The increased concern does not seem to have led to increased action, however. Just like last year, younger respondents are still less likely than older respondents to have made disaster preparations.