Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hurricane preparedness: Lessons learned, or lesson lost?

Four years ago, Hurricane Katrina tore through the U.S. Gulf Coast with a fierceness that shocked the nation. It claimed the lives of 1,800 people, created about $81 billion in damage and forced thousands to evacuate the region. Katrina served as a rude awakening to the nation. We learned the hard way why it’s important to be prepared. Or did we?

Maybe not, according to a recent Mason-Dixon poll. The survey of residents of Atlantic and Gulf Coast states found that 66 percent do not have a hurricane survival kit. That’s surprising, especially considering that taking even small steps, such as throwing an emergency kit together, could make an enormous difference in time of need.

The poll also found that 83 percent of residents have not taken steps to make their homes stronger since last year’s active hurricane season, and 55 percent said they did not have a family disaster plan. Besides being unprepared, the poll found that many people are misinformed, as 62 percent said they do not feel vulnerable to a hurricane, related tornado or flooding — all of which are high risks for coastal residents.

These scary statistics show we have a ways to go to get people to become prepared for an emergency. As a Get Ready blog reader, you probably aren’t one of the unprepared. But for the rest of you out there who live in coastal areas, take our friendly advice: Put together an emergency kit and be ready to evacuate if needed.

Let’s hope we learn our lesson before another Katrina hits.

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