Both Military and Civilian Families Unprepared for Disasters

American citizens are unprepared for a terrorist attack or natural disaster, and there are no significant differences among military, retired military and civilian families regarding preparedness for disasters, according to a new survey released during the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) in New Orleans.

Drs. Richard Dagrosa and John McManus, both emergency physicians in the military, surveyed people in San Antonio, Texas, including patients in two military hospital emergency departments. The survey results show no significant differences among military, retired military and civilian families in regard to having a disaster plan, designating a meeting place or having a disaster kit. Only half the families in the survey had prepared any kind of disaster plan, and only one-third possessed a disaster kit.

According to the study authors, all the groups indicated disaster plans were important and reported feeling less prepared after completing the survey.

"After all the attention focused on disaster preparedness since 9/11, it is surprising to find families lacking plans or supplies for a terrorist attack or natural disaster," said Dagrosa, an Air Force captain stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. "It's scary to think about preparing for the worst case scenario, but the alternative is doing nothing." He points out that local emergency departments will be there in a disaster, but so will all of the people who didn't prepare their families for a large-scale disaster.

"The best possible thing families can do to prepare themselves for a terrorist attack or a natural disaster is to be as self-sufficient as possible," Dagrosa continued. "And that goes for families in the military as well as civilians."

The disaster kit portion of the survey was based on recommendations of the Department of Homeland Security and the American Red Cross. The study authors said information on family readiness and recommendations for creating a household disaster kit are readily available, but an overall lack of personal preparedness is evident. Dagrosa and McManus concluded that more education and perhaps government subsidized disaster kits may be possible solutions to the preparedness problem.

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