Hurricane preparedness low in Southeastern states, Elon University Poll finds

A new Elon University Poll shows more than half of people in five Southeastern states have done nothing to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season, despite the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and other storms in 2005. Details…

The poll also found that half of those surveyed have little or no confidence in the federal government’s ability to manage events after a hurricane.

The poll, conducted Feb. 20-23 and Feb. 26-March 2 by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs, surveyed 1,277 residents in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent. This is the first regional poll conducted by the Elon University Poll after more than 30 statewide polls since 2000.

When asked if they had done anything to prepare for the next hurricane season, 57 percent of respondents said they had not done anything, compared with 42 percent who said they had. Eighteen percent of survey participants have done basic things to prepare for a hurricane, such as purchasing bottled water, canned food or batteries, or preparing a hurricane kit. Seven percent have prepared their home for a hurricane by making upgrades or installing safety shutters or doors.

Citizens living on or near the coast appear to have taken more steps to prepare for hurricane season than those living in non-coastal areas. Fifty-seven percent of those living in coastal areas say they have done something to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season, compared with 27 percent in non-coastal areas. Seventy-seven percent of those living near the coast said the were somewhat prepared or very prepared for the hurricane season, compared with 51 percent in non-coastal areas.

‘Despite the aftermath of Katrina and a history of hurricane damage to all parts of the states we surveyed, over half the people surveyed have not done anything to prepare for the next hurricane season, which is only a few months away,’ said Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll. ‘We know that damage in these states is not confined to coastal areas, so these results are a bit unsettling, considering the intensity and frequency of storms during last year’s record-setting hurricane season.’

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed said they have had direct experience with a hurricane in the last 5 years. Thirty-five percent have suffered home or property damage; of those, 45 percent described the damage as ‘minimal’ and 47 percent described it as ‘moderate.’

‘Because the majority of the damage experienced by people was not severe, they seem to be desensitized to the power of these storms, despite being only six months removed from Katrina,’ Bacot said.

The poll found citizens would be more likely to evacuate their homes if a category 3, 4, or 5 hurricane were approaching. Slightly more than half of those surveyed, 54 percent, said they would evacuate if a category 3, 4, or 5 hurricane were approaching their state, compared to 17 percent who said they would evacuate for a category 1 or 2 storm. Only 14 percent said they would try to ride out a category 3, 4, or 5 hurricane, while 36 percent said they would ride out at category 1 or 2 hurricane.

‘Since people see evacuation as their primary plan for hurricanes, particularly for the more powerful storms, government officials would be wise to review their plans to ensure they can move people in these threatened areas quickly,’ said Bacot. ‘They should also be prepared for the number of people likely to evacuate.”

Citizens demonstrated the most confidence in local and state governments to manage events after a hurricane. Thirty-seven percent said they had confidence in local governments and 37 percent said they had confidence in state governments, while 15 percent expressed confidence in the federal government’s ability to manage post-hurricane events. But 40 percent of those polled said the federal government should pay most of the costs not covered by insurance for rebuilding areas damaged by hurricanes.

‘With the recent debacle surrounding Hurricane Katrina, it is understandable that people do not have substantial confidence in the federal government,’ said Bacot.’ Yet it is interesting that they believe the federal government should pay most of the costs for rebuilding. They want the federal government to ‘send money,’ but they don’t want them to come with it.’

The Elon University Poll has conducted several polls annually since 2000. The non-partisan Elon University Poll conducts frequent scientific telephone polls on issues of importance citizens. The poll results are shared with media, citizens and researchers to facilitate representative democracy and public policy making through the better understanding of the opinions and needs of citizens in the state and region.