Georgians not ready for disaster, survey finds

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A possible tornado moved through an area near Woodstock, Ga., last fall about 100 homes were damaged in surrounding Cherokee County north of Atlanta..
Tuesday, July 10, 2012 5:26 PM
Last updated 7:48 PM
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ATLANTA -- Nearly three of every four Georgians feels prepared for a large-scale disaster or emergency, but few have taken the basic steps experts advise, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The survey conducted in April for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s Ready Georgia program found that 72 percent of those polled feel prepared. That’s a 28 percent increase from the responses given in 2007 before the program began, possibly a sign of growing complacency.

“Complacency is our biggest enemy,” said spokeswoman Lisa Janak.

While nearly everyone aware of the public-relations program claims to have preparedness measures in place, that’s just 16 percent of the population.

“We hope that more residents will embrace the Ready Georgia message and take action to serve as their own first responders,” said Charley English, director of GEMA/Homeland Security.

After asking people to give their initial impression of their own preparedness, interviewers asked them about specific steps they’ve taken. While 79 percent have a first-aid kit and a flashlight with extra batteries, just 29 percent have a radio tuned to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather service or have a plan for their family to meet up after an emergency. Fewer than half have given important phone numbers to family members.

“The purpose for creating the Ready Georgia campaign almost five years ago was to get more Georgians prepared for emergencies,” English said.

GEMA’s website www.ready.ga.gov has a questionnaire to help families prepare a disaster plan and know how much food and water they need on hand. It also has a smartphone app that nearly 30,000 people have already downloaded and 20 other states are copying for their citizens.

This year’s survey asked for the first time about handicaps. One-quarter of Georgia households have a disabled family member, but barely half of them have emergency resources available in a disaster.

Those results surprised GEMA officials and will present a challenge for local rescue agencies as they recognize how large their evacuation plans need to be, Janak said.


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