Most Coastal Residents Not Ready For a Hurricane

Despite the destruction caused by all the hurricanes that have hit Texas in recent years, a survey indicates a majority of people on the Gulf Coast say they're still NOT well prepared for a hurricane. Jim Bell reports.

The survey was done for the electricity provider Direct Energy, and it shows only 38 percent of those surveyed think they are well prepared for a storm.  Spokeswoman Lisa Dornan defines "well prepared".

"Looking at things like 'do you have more than three days supply of non-perishable food? Do you have water to hold you out for at least three days?'

Dornan says the survey found only one fourth of respondents have extra non-perishable food or a first aid kit on hand, and only one in five have extra water. Only a quarter of those over 65 have a two-week's supply of prescription medications.

It gets worse. Less than a third have a written family disaster plan. Less than half of that 38 percent who think they're well prepared have a plan, and less than a quarter of those moderately prepared or not prepared at all have a plan. 

Dornan says it's clear that most people procrastinate till the last minute.  It's human nature.  She doesn't want to say they're "blase" about hurricanes, but they don't see a sense of urgency, even in people who've been through recent hurricanes and gone without power.

"What they don't really have is that kind of longer term view of once the storm hits, even if you do evacuate.  As we saw last year when Hurricane Ike hit, some people were without power for 2 weeks, and so you really do need to have those supplies on hand." 

The survey was done in April, in the off-season, when people don't think much about hurricanes, if at all, but Dornan says she doesn't think it would be very different if they did the survey again in August at the height of the storm season.

"Unfortunately, having seen the lines at the stores and the gas stations when Ike finally made his turn toward Houston last year, I'm not sure that they would be drastically different." 

The Texas Gulf Coast Hurricane Preparedness Survey was conducted in four coastal zones ranging from Houston to Brownsville. It has an overall margin for error of plus or minus five and a half percent.  Hurricane season begins officially June 1st. 

Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.