A time when natural disasters are growing in frequency, most Americans are not physically or financially prepared to handle them.
According to a new Wells Fargo & Company survey, 84% of Americans live in areas that have experienced some form of natural disaster in the past three years, and 54% live in areas that have experienced severe natural disasters, specifically hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires or earthquakes. Despite these sobering statistics, 71% admit they don’t have a detailed emergency plan and 16% haven’t thought about emergency planning at all. Even those with some kind of plan seem anxious that it’s inadequate. Indeed, 40% of those surveyed described their planning style as “Barely Covered.”
According to Rullah Price, head of Public Affairs Resiliency & Enterprise Incident Communications at Wells Fargo, these survey insights can help you tighten your emergency plan:
Plans often incomplete
The 29% of Americans who do have an emergency plan prioritize having food and water supplies (78%), emergency cash (63%), access to important documents (61%) and a planned transportation/evacuation route (59%). Items of slightly lower priority include a plan for medical needs (54%), a family communication plan (52%), a shelter plan (49%) or plan for pets (44%).
“Most people’s plans are lacking detail. For example, only a quarter of respondents have outlined specific plans for members in the household of different ages. This is incredibly important for vulnerable ones like children and seniors,” says Price.
Price points out that less than a third of respondents have a go-bag packed in case of natural disaster and many of those with cars don’t keep their gas tanks filled halfway for emergency evacuation. Ensure your plan includes these details. You should also have an emergency kit containing supplies for several days.
Most not financially prepared
In addition to lacking a physical plan, most Americans are not financially prepared for disaster. Only 44% have started an emergency savings account and 39% say they have no emergency cash in the house.
“We’re evolving into a cashless society— but during an emergency, you may not have access to an ATM, and credit cards may not work if electricity is out. Be prepared for all possible events,” says Price.”
The study also found that only 43% of Americans have a consolidated file of important records and receipts safely stored digitally and in a waterproof, fireproof container. And only 55% have recently reviewed their insurance policies to ensure they have the right types and amounts of coverage.
“Contact a qualified financial counselor who can help organize your finances for an emergency,” says Price. “Less than a quarter of respondents have done this.”
Communication is key
Although most Americans are likely to be directly affected by natural disasters at some point in their lifetime, only 32% have had a conversation with family members about how they would locate each other if they were separated during such an event.
The survey revealed that only 37% of parents have discussed the possibility of disasters with their school-age children, only 36% of parents have made plans for school-age children in case they can’t get home, and just 13% have discussed disaster plans with their neighbors or community.
“Because a natural disaster can occur anywhere, any time, it’s crucial to have a detailed emergency plan and communicate with your family how you will protect one another,” says Price.