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Most people don’t have any idea of how to handle a disaster

Technology has made getting vital information easier and faster, but many Americans aren’t taking advantage of it — even as their lives depend on it.

A survey from market research company Ipsos found that 51 percent of Americans are less likely to rely on social media to prepare for a natural disaster or to help in the aftermath of one. A similar survey from Esurance found that most families aren’t aware of smarthome technology to help them in the event of a natural disaster.

The Ipsos survey says the level of preparedness varies depending on the state and the level of severity.

“Respondents generally feel most prepared for disasters more typical to their state,” Ipsos says. “California residents feel most prepared for earthquakes (62 percent) and wildfires (44 percent); Florida feels most prepared for hurricanes (89 percent), and Texas respondents feel most prepared for floods (57 percent).”

The Esurance survey says basic preparation is common — 76 percent of respondents have food, water, and first-aid kits. But only 25 percent have generators, hurricane shutters, or storm panels.

“It’s also important for people to make use of tools that can help them prepare for weather events,” says Eric Brandt, chief claims officer at Esurance. “And they need to have the right tools in place to get back to normal as soon as possible.”

While 80 percent of respondents admit that they’re worried about the increase in storms and other natural disasters, only 25 percent of them are preparing their homes and families for potentially damaging impacts. About 17 percent admit they are “well prepared” if a natural disaster strikes.

Among other findings:

  • Less than half of respondents have a cell phone backup.
  • About one-quarter have weather apps on their phones.
  • Nearly half don’t know how to use smart home technology, like smoke alarms and water sensors.
  • Two-thirds say property damage is their biggest fear for potential storm impacts.
  • Less than 3 percent of respondents plan to invest in high-tech tools to prepare for future storms, even though 80 percent want their communities to.

How to prepare for a natural disaster

If you’re having trouble making a plan, both Ipsos and Esurance have ways to start, like:

  1. Digitize your records. This is critical for insurance purposes, especially if severe damage occurs and there’s no way to prove identities and ownership. Consider birth certificates, marriage licenses, and insurance information.
  2. Set up security systems. If you don’t have them already, make sure your security cameras are angled to monitor activity around your home. This will come in handy when reviewing footage later to see what property looked like before a storm and to assess the damage.
  3. Make sure Wi-Fi is available. Cell towers tend to go down after storms, so you’ll need to rely on Wi-Fi through cable.
  4. Consider smart technology. Smoke alarms and water sensors can alert you through your phone about a flood or fire.
  5. Stay open to various communication channels. Alerting your friends and family online that you’re alright is helpful, but to make sure you know how your community is keeping up with recovery efforts, it’s important to follow other communication outlets. Keep a radio with batteries, basic TV channels, and texting at the ready.

Storms don’t discriminate, so make sure you’re ready for when they hit.

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Meet the Author

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn


Zinn is a freelance journalist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


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