Less than half of Americans have info needed for disaster preparedness, says Booz Allen

31 May 2018 Consulting.us 4 min. read

A Booz Allen and Ipsos survey found that less than half of Americans surveyed have the information needed to be prepared for a disaster. The consulting firm recommends a multi-channel approach to communicating disaster information, as well as collaboration between government levels to create official and non-conflicting source of information.

Natural disasters are a part of life in the geographically vast United States. From earthquakes and wildfires on the western seaboard, to tornadoes in the Midwest, to hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and blizzards in the north – the US has an all-you-can eat buffet of natural disasters. Nature’s destructive might is a touchpoint in Hollywood cinema in all its variety, with films like San Andreas, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and Twister portraying mostly-CGI destruction for audience delight.

Natural disasters, however, are very real. And with the International Monetary Fund reporting that climate change will cause more frequent natural disasters, things will not get any easier. While the US can’t control the weather (yet), its government can do more to make sure that its disaster services are more prepared and capable to deal with hurricanes, floods, and wildfires – or at least in a more competent way than, say, Hurricane Katrina.Less than half of Americans have info needed for disaster preparedness, says Booz AllenBut in the great spirit of American individualism, citizens also feel responsibility to prepare for impending disaster on their own – be it natural or economic, as seen in the growing popularity of the ‘prepper’ movement. And though most Americans aren’t stockpiling water, beans, rice, and ammunition, most still want to feel prepared for the disasters to come.

According to a survey from Ipsos and Booz Allen Hamilton, the general population feels most prepared for blizzards (51%), floods (47%), and hurricanes (33%), but feels least prepared for shootings (15%).  Respondents feel more prepared about the disasters most typical to their state, with Californians feeling most prepared for earthquakes (62%) and wildfire (44%), and Floridians feeling most prepared for hurricanes (89%).

A key finding of the survey, however, is that fewer than half of respondents have obtained basic information to prepare for a disaster – like emergency response contact info, evacuation routes, and shelter locations. The survey also found that during a disaster, people are more likely to rely on traditional communications channels like websites, TV, and radio rather than social media. 76% of respondents preferred websites and online resources, with 63% picking radio, and 55% picking television. A lesser 51% said that they would rely on social media during a disaster event.

Despite some ‘innovative’ features like Facebook’s ‘safe check-in’ and live-tweeting from the center of some disaster, people still prefer the more traditional comms channels. The most important disaster prep info, according to respondents, would pertain to shelters, contacts, disaster locations, and what to pack. Survey respondents also said that they would prefer a text messaging services providing updates – though it seems paramount that the service be competently administered, as seen in the fallout from the Hawaii false missile alert earlier this year.

“While intuitive in nature, these findings illustrate what Booz Allen has learned after working with partners like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – most Americans want to be the architects of their own recovery,” remarked Booz Allen Principal Marko Bourne. “While preferred communication tools vary given the stages of crisis and response, the communities that will achieve better recovery outcomes will be those that consider multi-channel communication tactics and collaborate early across government.”

As such, the consulting firm – which boasts a long and storied history of supporting the government and military – recommends a multi-channel approach to communicating with public in an emergency. Even though a tweet is easy, the public clearly wants SMS, TV, radio, and website alerts. Furthermore, people want official channels of info (rather than broken telephone-style hearsay), so Booz Allen recommends that different levels of government work together to maintain official and non-conflicting channels of information.

In related news, the firm announced the launch of the Booz Allen Foundation, which will focus on global health, support of veterans and their families, and STEM youth and education programs. It will also consider opportunities to assist in the recovery from declared disasters.