2006-12-15 / Community

Red Cross Warns On Emergency Preparedness

Many local residents have taken steps to be prepared for an emergency, but few have completely stocked supply kits or have practiced their preparedness plans, according to a new report by the American Red Cross  and New York University’s Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response (CCPR).

Based on the key findings of this report, several groups have come together to announce expanded efforts to help residents of Long Island prepare for emergencies: the American Red Cross and the Offices of Emergency Management (OEM) in both Nassau and Suffolk counties; the American Red Cross in Greater New York (ARC/GNY); and New York University’s CCPR.

The survey found that 37 percent of local residents are more prepared than they were a year ago. But only one-third have the emergency supplies they need to stay in their homes, and most do not have “go bags” of supplies that can be taken with them in an evacuation.

“In this survey, only 14 percent of people polled said individuals should be responsible for preparing for and responding to a disaster. Clearly, we need to do more to help residents realize that everyone has a role in emergency preparedness,” says Diane Amarosa, CEO, Suffolk County Chapter of the American Red Cross. “People can do very simple things to be prepared, such as having enough food, water and other supplies on hand for an emergency.”

A previous survey last spring by the American Red Cross in Greater New York and NYU found similar results among other New York City residents. Based on those findings, ARC/GNY and NYU expanded efforts to help New York City residents prepare for emergencies. A subsequent report about New York City small and mid-size businesses reported that many companies must do more to prepare for emergencies and disasters, and that they also need to do more to help prepare and train their employees.

“These initiatives exemplify the important contributions that can be made when academia, the nonprofit sector and public safety agencies collaborate on important issues such as citizen preparedness,” said Brad Penuel, director of NYU’s CCPR.

The current report includes comprehensive survey data concerning Long Islanders’ perception of their own preparedness as well as the specific steps they claim to have taken to better prepare themselves and their households. These findings include:

Residents say they are best prepared to ride out a disaster by staying in their homes. A majority (77 percent) say that in an emergency, they are prepared to stay at home, without electricity or phone service, for three days.

Sixty-one percent of the residents polled have emergency supply kits, but only half of those kits contain enough food and water to last through an emergency

Most residents polled, 64 percent, have an emergency plan, but 68 percent of those have never practiced it. The American Red Cross recommends practicing plans twice a year.

A majority (65 percent) of respondents say they are prepared for an evacuation, but 66 percent do not have the supplies they would need to take, including important identification documents, food and water

The findings also include:

A majority of the residents polled are likely to follow government instructions in a catastrophe: 80 percent are likely to follow evacuation orders from local government, while 93 percent would follow orders to stay in their homes.

Residents surveyed are far less prepared if an emergency happens while they are at work. More than half said they are unprepared to evacuate their workplace without returning home for three days.

In the event of an evacuation, the majority of respondents (77 percent) are most likely to rely on cars or taxis to evacuate, rather than public transportation. The report indicates that this is a problem because of heavy traffic congestion.

Residents surveyed say they lack the information to prepare for emergencies. Twenty-nine percent said they didn’t have enough information, and 22 percent said they have received unclear or conflicting information.

In order to reach as many residents as possible with meaningful safety information before, during and after a disaster or major emergency, preparedness agencies will work together on this joint communication initiative. Preparedness information will focus on empowering residents to take personal action in emergency preparedness. Key elements of this initiative include efforts to enhance community connections to help all residents be better prepared as well as the promotion of the personal readiness concept. With only 14 percent of those surveyed believing that individual citizens should be most responsible for preparing for and responding to a disaster, the Red Cross and OEM encourage residents to take three simple action steps that can protect or even save lives in a disaster: Make a kit. Form a plan. Be informed.

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