Disaster Zone

Portland, Ore., Emergency Preparedness Survey Results

What percentage of your citizens are prepared? What percentage of your staff are prepared?

by Eric Holdeman / June 13, 2017

Portland, Ore., recently completed a survey to assess the level of disaster preparedness for their community. See Preparedness Research.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Portlanders are largely aware that a disaster could happen; 74 percent believe a natural disaster is somewhat or very likely to occur in Portland in the next 10 years. However, this awareness may not be enough to drive them to prepare.
  • About half of Portlanders (52 percent) have made an emergency kit for their household. This tracks almost exactly with national survey numbers; Portlanders are not more prepared than people in other parts of the country.
  • Portlanders believe knowing their neighbors is a first step in neighborhood preparedness. Those who are more connected to their neighbors also feel more prepared for emergencies. However, only 13 percent of Portlanders have actually made a plan with their neighbors.
  • Portlanders expect to rely on themselves, people in their households, and family or friends first in an emergency situation. When asked who will provide assistance in the days following a disaster, people were "very confident" of others in their household (66 percent), family and friends (58 percent), neighbors (42 percent), and then local emergency responders (37 percent).

I'm not a professional poll taker, though we used one to try to help frame our messaging around "Three Days, Three Ways" 12 years ago when that messaging was more appropriate to the times. 

I continue to question the 52 percent of people who claim to be prepared for disasters. The reason this number seems unreasonably high is what I know to be the general lack of disaster preparedness among emergency managers themselves. 

In general, I think people overestimate their readiness and underestimate the scope and duration of a regional disaster like an earthquake, which is the major natural disaster threat for the Pacific Northwest. 

Moving the needle from "awareness" to "preparedness" is our challenge. A first step is to be sure that our internal staff are "walking the talk" in their personal lives. 

And I scanned the report, especially the phone survey. I think questions like, "How many people are in your household and how much water do you currently have stored?" might be a good way to assess the level of preparedness.