When I first saw this story, I thought it was an attempt by FEMA to lay blame at the feet of residents for FEMA's past failures and their own unpreparedness in advance of the upcoming hurricane season.
But then I saw it was from a survey conducted by the NOAA National Hurricane Center and director Max Mayfield, whose credibility is pretty much beyond reproach and whose only motivation is to save lives. (You may recall there was video of him warning President "No one could have anticipated" Bush that Katrina's storm surge would top the levees.)
Here are some findings from the survey:
- 56% don't feel vulnerable to a hurricane or related tornado or flooding,
- 60% have no family disaster plan,
- 68% have no hurricane survival kit,
- 83% have taken no steps to make their homes stronger,
- 13% said they might not or would not evacuate even if ordered to leave - leaving tens of thousands of residents at grave risk.
NOAA's Mayfield, along with the National Emergency Management Association, the Salvation Army and the Florida State Emergency Response Team have launched the National Hurricane Survival Initiative to raise awareness and educate coastal residents.
Commenting on the survey results, Mayfield says:
"Katrina was quite a national wake-up call, yet it seems too many residents are still asleep," said Max Mayfield, National Hurricane Center Director. "We're facing another active and potentially deadly season in just a few weeks. It's vital that residents of hurricane-vulnerable states take the threat seriously and get prepared."
Another finding was that one in three of the 13% of residents responsible for an elderly or disabled person have no disaster plan in place for them.
The survey also found that "68% did not know storm surge represents the greatest potential for loss of life from a hurricane - even after witnessing the destructive force of storm surge during Hurricane Katrina," and that as many as one-third do not have adequate insurance. You can read more findings from the survey here.
Their message is, be prepared, and don't depend on FEMA. In light of FEMA's performance, that's good advice. If you have an internet connection, there is plenty of great information on the National Hurricane Survival Initiative website on how to prepare. The information assumes you have the means and can afford all the necessary insurance, home improvements, supplies, and transportation.
The report and the website do not, however, address social issues such as poverty, lack of mobility, or lack of communications and outreach that plagued Katrina preparations and recovery, or what those without means are supposed to do.
At any rate, Max Mayfield is doing what he can to keep FEMA, state and local emergency planning officials, and coastal residents informed. He has sounded the alarm for the 2006 hurricane season, which is only weeks away. Will anyone listen?