Startling Facts You Should Know About Disaster Preparedness

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emergency kit and checklistBy Regina Quadir

A recent national poll by Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation  surveyed 1,000 Americans about their personal preparedness behaviors and the results show that we’re not ready:

More than half of Americans have not prepared copies of crucial documents.

important documentsThink of all your important documents, from the title to your house, to Social Security cards, passports and birth certificates.  What would you do if you lost all these documents from a wildfire that burned your house down or a tornado that swept through town? Make copies of your documents and keep in a sealed, waterproof pouch in your emergency kit so you can easily take them with you if you need to evacuate. It’s a good idea to also scan copies of your documents and save them electronically, incase anything happens to your home before you’re able to evacuate. Have original copies saved in your safety deposit box at a bank.

During Hurricane Katrina, some immigrant survivors lost identification and work authorization documents necessary to prove lawful status, falling at risk for losing legal immigration status.  Getting your life back to normal after a disaster will be even more stressful if important documents are destroyed, so take time now to make copies.

48% of Americans lack emergency supplies for use in the event of a disaster.

emergency suppliesRecent storms in the mid-Atlantic region resulted in 3 million people without power during a heat wave.  In these circumstances, those individuals and families who had matches, flashlights, and non-perishable foods and water stored in their emergency kit  had an easier time.  Trying to get supplies after a disaster hits often isn’t feasible. Big or small, if something happens in your area like flooding, winter storms, or black outs you may not be able to access road ways, grocery stores may be closed, and ATMs may not even be working. Responding to an emergency starts with you.   Local, state, and federal help may not be available right away so it’s important that you’re able to provide for yourself and your family following an event.

More than half of parents do not have a designated meeting place in case of a disaster.

earthquake in HaitiFollowing a major disaster, telephone lines will likely be down or jammed, making it hard to find your loved ones.  After the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, many children and families became separated and had no way of contacting loved ones or knowing if their family members were alright.

Pick one meeting place right outside your home for sudden emergencies that require evacuations like fires and one place outside of your neighborhood in case you are unable to return home right away.  Make sure you discuss the disaster plan with your family so everyone knows where to go.  Hurricanes, flooding and other emergencies require an evacuation plan that involves leaving your home, so if you live in an area prone to these types of emergencies, identify where you will go ahead of time.  If phone lines are down and you are separated from your family during an evacuation, you’ll know where the planned meeting place is and have an easier time reuniting.

42% of cell phone owners do not know all their immediate family members phone numbers.

smart phoneDon’t count on using your cell phone during a disaster or using it as storage for emergency contact numbers.  You never know when a disaster will hit and you may be without your cell. In addition to writing down family members phone numbers, write down other emergency contact numbers like the fire and police departments, poison control, your family practitioner, a trusted neighbor, and an out of town friend or relative. Put a copy of this list in your emergency kit and post another copy on your fridge.  Have your child carry a list of important phone numbers in their backpack to use in case they are at school when disaster strikes.  It’s helpful to write down numbers in case you’re injured and someone needs to know who to call.

If you’d like to know more about this poll, please contact

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5 comments on “Startling Facts You Should Know About Disaster Preparedness”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    I just saw the movie “contagion” and that movie is
    Not only scared , it’s an eye opener . Could that type
    Of thing happen? No one in the movie was prepared
    For the conditions caused by a virus like the one in
    1918. And we are now so much more dependent on
    Technology than we were a hundred years ago.
    I’m betting things would be MUCH worse now than
    Back in 1918. We’re 1 % of the World population

    Do you have this information in Spanish? The majority of my clients undestand Spanish. Thank you

    This is great information. May we use it in a blog post, giving you credit of course? Our Pensacola, Fl customers could benefit from this info.
    Thanks for your response.

    @Billie: Yes you may use the info in a blog post. The poll was conducted by Adelphi University, Center for Health Innovation. Thanks!

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Page last reviewed: March 20, 2015
Page last updated: March 20, 2015