One Year After Superstorm Sandy, Americans’ Concern About Disasters Remains High, But Preparedness Is Low

Even though more than half of Americans have been impacted by a natural disaster and understand the risks they face, many have not taken basic precautions to protect themselves and their property from danger and damage. A new study released today by MetLife Auto & Home® reveals Americans’ lack of preparedness and their misunderstanding about how to prepare for and recover from disasters.

Among those who say they are unprepared for a natural disaster, 62 percent felt immunity to looming danger and did not think one would happen to them. Further, 20 percent of consumers in high risk areas 1 admit taking no precautions in the last year to prepare for a disaster. And, even in high risk areas, many people who say they are concerned about a natural disaster still do not take action to prepare.
  • In states at high risk for earthquakes2, two-thirds (67 percent) say they are concerned about the issue, but just half (53 percent) say they are prepared;
  • In states at high risk for wildfires3, 42 percent say they are concerned about impact from a fire, yet just 30 percent are prepared;
  • In high risk states for hurricanes4, 55 percent say they are concerned about a storm, and 49 percent say they are prepared.

“Awareness and preparation are key components of mastering disaster, and it’s clear that even those who reside in disaster-prone areas – some of whom have recently been through significant events -- admit they’re still not prepared,” said Mike Convery, chief claims officer, MetLife Auto & Home. “Investing time in preparing can be the single most effective measure people can take to protect their loved ones and property. Creating an emergency evacuation / supplies kit and updating it each year may help keep you and your loved ones safe during or following a disaster.”

Do Americans Prepare for Disaster?

When a natural disaster strikes, consumers cite modern conveniences as their highest concern. Americans report being more concerned by the prospect of going without electricity or internet access for a period of time (64 percent) than by a serious threat to their safety or that of a family member (56 percent).

Despite having concerns about going without power or other necessities, few Americans took basic disaster precautions such as stocking up on food and water (41 percent), storing a battery-powered radio (21 percent), or purchasing a generator (14 percent). Even among Americans who had warning of an impending disaster, just more than half (53 percent) filled their gas tanks, 42 percent got cash from an ATM and just 38 percent took care of their pets. Consumers in hurricane-prone areas are a bit more prepared: nearly three-fourths (73 percent) thought ahead to fill their car with gas and 43 percent to take care of their pets.

Recovering from Disaster: A Big Disconnect Between Perception and Reality

Most Americans have property insurance to help them recover after a loss, but many lack a clear understanding of what is covered by their policies. When it comes to homeowners insurance, almost one-third of homeowners do not know what is covered by a standard policy.
  • One in five Americans living in high-risk hurricane areas falsely believes a flood from a natural disaster is covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy;
  • One-third of consumers falsely believe their homeowners insurance will pay the full cost to rebuild their property in the event of a loss, irrespective of the coverage amount listed;
  • Only 39 percent of Americans correctly answered that water damage from a mechanical failure, such as a burst water hose, is covered under their policy;
  • Slightly more than half (53 percent) believe loss from a home fire is covered, even though the risk of fire is covered by virtually every policy;
  • Still, six in 10 say they have reviewed their homeowners or renter’s insurance policy in the last year.

“When it comes to knowing what insurance policies cover, this survey reveals a significant gap in what Americans believe and what is actually true,” said Kevin Shkolnik, Director, Penn Schoen Berland. “These misperceptions can put individuals in a dangerous situation for potential property loss. To help close the knowledge gap, consumers can work closely with their insurance agent or company representative to understand exactly what’s covered under their policies.”

Tips for Preparing for Disaster

As Americans prepare themselves and their families for disasters or accidents that may cause significant impact on day-to-day life, MetLife Auto & Home provides advice and steps to prepare at www.metlife.com/disasteradvice. These simple tips can help mitigate danger and risk:

1.
 

Develop an evacuation plan

Depending upon the predicted severity of the disaster and the amount of time until it strikes, you may be asked to evacuate (leave) the area. Plan a destination in advance, and several routes to get there.

2.

Prepare a disaster supplies kit

 

A disaster supplies kit should contain enough food, water, and essential supplies to sustain each family member for a minimum of three days. It should be easily portable and ready to go; perhaps stored in the trunk of your car.

3.

Plan for Pets

If you must evacuate your home, do not leave your pets behind. Plan where and how your pets will be cared for in advance.

4.

Pay attention to how quickly a storm is approaching

It is important to know the difference between a storm warning and a storm watch. A warning is more severe, and if issued by the National Weather Service, means storm conditions are expected within 24 hours or less. A watch is slightly less severe, and means conditions are possible within 36 hours or less. Even if a storm is not of the largest of its type – such as a category 4 or 5 hurricane – it can do tremendous damage, as witnessed with Sandy. Being ready is key.

5.

Prepare for water damage

Know the risk of flooding in your area and the elevation of your home above flood stage. Check your insurance coverage carefully to know exactly how your property and possessions are protected: for example, do you have sewer/sump back-up coverage in case water backs up into your home? And, as Sandy proved, even in areas not usually prone to flooding, it can be wise to consider purchasing a flood insurance policy.

6.

Review your policy coverage with your insurance agent

Schedule a meeting with your insurance agent specifically for the purpose of finding out how best to minimize your financial loss from natural disasters. You don't want to find out your homeowners insurance is inadequate after the roof has blown off of your house.

 

NOTE TO MEDIA: Regional/demographic information is available from this survey. Regional information available includes Northeast, Midwest, South and West.

Methodology

The MetLife Disaster Preparedness survey was conducted during August 2013 by Penn Schoen Berland. The poll surveyed 2,507 Americans via online interviews. General population n=1003. Interviews were oversampled in New Jersey, Texas and Southern California.

About MetLife

The MetLife Auto & Home companies, subsidiaries of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE:MET), are collectively one of the nation’s leading personal lines property and casualty insurance providers, insuring over 3.8 million autos and homes. Their affiliate, MetLife, is a leading provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the U.S. and Latin America, Europe, and Asia’s Pacific regions. For more information, please visit www.metlife.com.

About Penn Schoen Berland

Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), a member of Young & Rubicam Brands and of the WPP Group, is a global research-based consultancy that specializes in messaging and communications strategy for blue-chip political, corporate and entertainment clients. Since being founded over 35 years ago by Mark Penn and Doug Schoen, the firm brings together lessons from the campaign trail and the boardroom to create innovative strategies to handle complex situations.

MetLife Auto & Home is a brand of Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company and its affiliates, Warwick, RI.

1 High risk states as determined by the National Weather Service 2 High risk states for wildfires include California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho 3 High risk states for earthquakes include Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Oregon 4 High risk states for hurricanes include Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine

Copyright Business Wire 2010

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