But more than half of those polled said they didn’t have an emergency preparedness plan in place and 40 percent couldn’t list all their prescription medication details, including dosage or prescribing doctor.
In the Fourth Annual Healthcare Ready national survey on the emergency preparedness of Americans, a larger number of respondents indicated a concern that they are vulnerable to a disaster, and yet 51 percent said they didn’t have a plan for a disaster.
Of the 1,245 adults surveyed, 54 percent said they are aware that they or their families could be affected by a disaster within the next five years. That was in increase from last year’s 51 percent. The survey results were released last week.
The survey also found that 37 percent of Americans can go a week or less without their medications or medical devices before facing a medical crisis. And just 40 percent of Americans could list all their prescription details, such as dosage, or prescribing doctor, if they were forced to evacuate their homes.
The slight uptick in people who are concerned about being vulnerable to a disaster could be good news, but still, the percentage of people who are unprepared is disappointing.
Healthcare Ready Executive Director Nicolette Louissaint said the last two years of disasters might have provided a wake-up call to some, or it could be the threats provided by climate change. “It can be good news,” Louissaint said. “In an ideal world, the hope is that they would be more receptive to preparedness messages or start to think about how to prepare and plan.”
The combination of the number of people who are unprepared and those who think that their state and local government is well-resourced for disasters (31 percent) and prepared to support them suggests that since all disasters are local, local governments should be better funded for disasters.
“That’s the beauty of saying that all disasters are local,” Louissant said. “We know for sure that the local jurisdictions are going to be able to identify what they need most.”
The local governments need money for assessments, training, and to hire a stable, qualified and well-trained workforce. “Those are the things that cost a lot of money and they are the first things to go,” she said. “They tend to minimize the workforce and then they try to go instead of multiple exercises, just the required exercises and not much more.”
She said she’s seen an increase in the number of communitywide exercises, but that overall trainings are down, even as the number and intensity of disasters increase. “They need to do more exercising and do it for multiple hazards with multiple partners,” she said.
Emergency managers looking to increase preparedness find partners in the community, and both community leaders like city council and prominent residents are viable options. “Be able to leverage your VOAD [Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster] partners and other anchor institutions that are willing to serve as partners because they recognize the importance, and often they do it for free, but it still requires time.”
It’s critical for emergency managers to build relationships in the community prior to disaster. One way to do it is through social media.
“There are a lot of spaces on social media to be able to ask those questions, share messages and touch people you might not otherwise be able to touch because you don’t have the budget for the types of campaigns and communication outreach you might want to do,” Louissaint said.
Here are some tips from Healthcare Ready for facilitating preparedness in the community:
• Bookmark resources to know the status of pharmacies and other health-care resources during a crisis.
• Discuss evacuation plans, meeting points and support for family members and neighbors, especially the medically fragile, who may need help.
• Talk to your health-care provider about specific preparedness actions you should take to manage health conditions during a disaster.
• Keep a written list of prescriptions during a disaster.
• Prepare an emergency kit with food, water, flashlights, batteries, blankets, clothing and medical supplies for either sheltering in place or evacuation.