Most people unprepared for disaster

Most Americans haven't taken steps to prepare for a natural disaster, terrorist attack or other emergency, according to a new study on preparedness, and only about a third have made plans with family members about how they would communicate with each other during a crisis.

More than five years after the September 11 attacks and more than a year after the devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes highlighted the need for people to take disaster preparedness seriously, emergency management officials say they are frustrated that so many people remain complacent.

"People have this attitude of 'it's not going to affect me' or 'I'll have time to prepare,'"
says Robert Palestrant, acting director of emergency preparedness and homeland security for Miami-Dade County.

He says the message about preparedness from the city, county and state in Florida has been "consistent and constant" but too many people still don't listen.

The non-profit Council for Excellence in Government developed a Public Readiness Index as part of its report, rating people's preparedness on a one-to-10 scale based on answers to 10 questions. The questions range from whether people know about their community's disaster plan and how to find the emergency broadcasting channel on the radio to whether they've prepared a home disaster kit and established a meeting place for family members.

The average score on the index was 3.31.

The council also developed an online "RQ (Readiness Quotient) Test" to allow people to test their own preparedness at www.whatsyourrq.org.

The report also found:

�People 65 and older were less likely to be prepared than younger people.

�People with higher education and income levels were likely to be better prepared than others.

�Hispanics are less prepared than whites and African-Americans.

� Parents of schoolchildren who know about their school's emergency plans are likely to be much better prepared, but most parents didn't know details of the school emergency plans.

�Full-time employees who know about and have practiced company disaster plans are better prepared.

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