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Survey: Natural Disasters, Terrorist Threats Top Americans’ Public Safety Concerns

Three in five Americans are most concerned about emergencies involving a natural disaster or terrorist attack, with a health pandemic closely following as a top concern among 46 percent of respondents, according to Federals Signal’s 2010 Public Safety survey.

The survey of 2,020 adults was conducted to uncover Americans’ chief concerns and most likely behaviors in emergencies. Federal Signal released the survey results Dec. 1 at a Safe America Foundation (SAF) meeting of public safety leaders and government officials. Safe America leaders also outlined plans to mobilize 1million people to be involved in disaster training programs leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

“We conducted this research with Safe America to survey Americans’ attitudes towards public safety and various emergency situations,” said Joe Wilson, vice president and general manager of Federal Signal. “Successful preparedness efforts must widely reflect current public attitudes, behaviors and preferences – the human factor. And effective notification means overcoming today’s complicated communication realities by delivering action-oriented information using multiple methods.”

Among the findings, the 2010 American Public Safety survey revealed that almost half of respondents (47 percent) do not have an emergency plan. Americans who live in the West and/or those living in rural areas are more likely to have family/household emergency plans in place versus those who live in the East and/or those that live in large cities.

The research also shows that Americans are most fearful of an emergency taking place in an airport (60 percent), followed closely by some form of mass transit (52 percent). About two in five respondents are most fearful of an emergency taking place at a school, a stadium or arena, a roadway or shopping mall.

“We need more emphasis put on the importance of emergency preparedness,” said Former United States Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, an honorary chairman of the Drill Down for Safety Program. “By doing so, more Americans will feel confident in their abilities to react to an emergency.”

Notification and Communications

When citing notification preferences, one in four Americans would prefer to be notified about an emergency by a telephone call (26 percent) or by television (25 percent). Another 18 percent say they would like to be notified by text message, while 15 percent would like the announcement by outdoor loud speakers. One in 10 prefers to be notified by radio. These responses were similar among all age groups, with the exception of those aged 18-29, who most prefer to receive notification on television (33 percent) or by text message (29 percent).

“Commissioning this research with Federal Signal and Zogby International has not only given us a realistic view of how Americans feel about certain emergencies, but also provides us with deeper insights into how to better communicate emergencies,” said Len Pagano, president of Safe America Foundation. “Technology is a large part of our culture and these results assist us in finding out how different types of Americans prefer to be notified about emergencies. “

“While almost half of Americans have an emergency plan should a natural disaster or terrorist attack take place, more than half do not have an emergency kit readily available,” added John Zogby, chairman and chief insights officer for Zogby International. “The majority of those with an emergency plan in place live in rural areas or the West while a lesser percentage of people in the East and urban areas have a plan. Of those Americans with an emergency plan, 65 percent have taken into consideration their pets or other animals. And over 60 percent are confident in their knowledge of their areas emergency procedures, for example, evacuation routes.”

Additional key findings include:

  • Fewer than half of American households or families have an emergency plan.
  • More than half of Americans do not have an emergency kit available.
  • Americans prefer technology for emergency notification.
  • Americans want public safety officers equipped with technology.
  • Only half of the population knows about local alerting.
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