Thursday, May 31, 2007

Evacuation Schmevacuation

Just a brief comment on this story in the LA Times, wherein we learn that only half of LA County residents would evacuate if ordered to do so in the aftermath of a terrorist attack:

Just half of Los Angeles County residents would immediately follow local government officials' instructions to evacuate if terrorists attacked, according to a report by the Department of Health Services to be released today.

One-third of those surveyed said they would want more information before they complied with government orders to relocate to a nearby school during a terrorist attack.

Ten percent would wait until it was convenient or wouldn't follow the directive at all, the report showed.

People with higher incomes and more education were more likely to want more information from government officials before following emergency orders.
The implication as I see it: If you can raise the percentage of compliance from 50 percent to as much as 83 percent by providing reliable and timely information, then it will be a very good idea to work on your information plan, ensuring that it is coordinated and includes multiple and redundant modes of delivery.

Respondents to the survey, unsurprisingly, think they're pretty well prepared:
A majority of county residents surveyed reported that they were at least somewhat prepared for a major disaster.

The county classifies preparedness as having a three- to seven-day supply of food and water for each family member, a flashlight, first aid kit, batteries and a battery-powered radio.

One-third of respondents said they were hardly prepared for a catastrophe.
Given the vulnerabilities of the LA area (e.g., earthquakes, fires, terrorist attacks), everyone there should ideally be prepared. The fact that many aren't is to some extent an inevitable consideration in disaster preparedness.

And in related news: The majority of Gulf Coast residents are not adequately prepared for a hurricane, a new poll says.
Most people along the eastern and southern U.S. coasts still lack a hurricane survival plan and don't feel vulnerable to storms

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed in 18 Atlantic and Gulf Coast states say they don't feel that they are vulnerable to a hurricane, or to related tornadoes and flooding, according to the Mason-Dixon poll.

Eighty-eight percent said they had not taken any steps to fortify their homes, and 45 percent still believed the old wives' tale that masking tape helps keeps windows from shattering during hurricanes.

But only a small amount of people, 16 percent, said they would defy orders to evacuate and ride out a hurricane in their homes.

Sixty-one percent of poll respondents had no hurricane survival kit. Of those who did, 82 percent packed a fire hazard - candles or kerosene lamps. Missing from most of those kits were axes, which emergency officials recommended after many residents were trapped in their attics after Katrina.
There's a certain percentage of people you just can't do anything about or for. There's another percentage who have the smarts and resources to take care of themselves. It's the folks in the middle - the "sorta but not really" prepared group - that makes the difference. Providing resources that allow them to quickly get up to an adequate level of protection will make a big difference.

I like the way this Florida county has created public-private partnerships to quickly pool and distribute resources. That's good local initiative.

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