A national survey of more than 1,127 adults found that slightly more than half (51 percent) believed it was very likely or somewhat likely that a disaster could impact them in the next five years, but most (53 percent) indicated they don’t have emergency plans in place and couldn’t go more than just a few days without medication.
The survey was the third annual for Healthcare Ready, which was established after Hurricane Katrina by trade associations composed of the bio-pharmaceutical supply chain and the American Red Cross.
“It shocked me that we saw half of the respondents say that they thought a catastrophe could impact their community in the next five years,” said Healthcare Ready Executive Director Nicolette Louissaint. “But the preparedness numbers have not shifted significantly in the last three years since we’ve been doing the poll.”
She said that although 51 percent of respondents felt a disaster was imminent, the fact that 53 percent indicated that they don’t have a plan speaks to a lack of time, ability and resources.
“If we continue to be in that environment where we treat preparedness as optional or don’t give people the resources they need in ways that are not burdensome, we are always going to be in this position,” she said.
Louissaint said the way individuals prepare has a lot to do with income, age, the region they are in, and whether they have a family. Lower income individuals tend to be less prepared and those in regions that are hit continually by natural disasters tend to be better prepared.
“Being able to balance what we call daily disasters that some parts of our society have to deal with, like poverty, health crises or other things that are happening, makes preparedness challenging at the individual level.”
She said progress has been made when it comes to partnerships between governments, businesses and other entities, and that is a key to developing community resilience in the future.
“When you look at the public sector and the way the private sector and those parts considered to be critical infrastructure have been preparing and establishing partnerships and testing their ability to work together to provide service in crisis, I think that has improved,” Louissaint said.
She said she’s seen partnerships formed between private-sector entities that used to be competitors. “Even within the public sector there has been improvement in thinking how we prepare and that preparedness is a function of energy policy, housing policy, health policy as much as it is emergency management policy,” she said.
She said last year’s hurricane response would have been far worse if not for the gains in partnerships and preparedness that have happened during the last 10 years, but that more needs to happen.
“I don’t think there’s a single fix; it takes a lot of collective action,” she said. “It takes really looking at emergency management and disaster preparedness not a ‘nice to have’ but a need to have.” She said it will take thinking about disaster preparedness from the perspective of housing, urban planning, sustainability, public health and integrating it throughout, “so that it doesn’t become an add-on but a consideration of what we do.”
Here are some Healthcare Ready recommendations:
• Keep a written list of prescriptions, including dosage information, in a safe space. Healthcare Ready has a free printable card.
• Prepare an emergency kit with food, water, flashlights, batteries, blankets, clothing and medical supplies for either sheltering-in-place or evacuation.
• Map the locations of hospitals, urgent clinics and pharmacies.
• Discuss evacuation plans, meeting points, and support for family members and neighbors who may need extra help.
• Talk to your health-care provider about specific preparedness actions you should take to manage health conditions during a disaster.
Steps first responders take to stay safe in extreme weather