Researchers with the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs have released results from a statewide survey that measures the preparedness of Floridians for disasters and the impact of COVID-19 on their household readiness.
Among the key findings:
Most Floridians are concerned about this year’s hurricane season and consider themselves prepared to face a storm. Among Floridians, a large majority (81%) are very or somewhat concerned about this year’s hurricane season, with 81.2% stating that their household would be severely or somewhat affected by a category 3 or higher storm. More than 3/4 consider their household very (18.3%) or somewhat (59.8%) prepared for this hurricane season.
Despite concerns about the hurricane season, more than half of Floridians do not have an evacuation plan or hurricane-specific preparedness items. Although most survey respondents (72.6%) said they would be very or somewhat likely to leave if an evacuation order was issued, more than half (58%) do not have an evacuation plan. Over half do not have hurricane-specific preparedness items like a NOAA weather radio (56.8%) or a stocked emergency kit (51%).
Fears over the safety of property left behind and the inability to return home after a storm top the list of reasons that Floridians would choose not to evacuate. In the event of a category 3 or higher hurricane, Floridians listed safety of property (76.2%) and concerns over being able to return quickly after the storm (78%) as reasons why they would not evacuate or go to a shelter. Other reasons include owning pets (50.5%) and concerns over personal comfort (72%) as factors impacting their evacuation decisions.
A majority of Floridians do not trust the safety of public shelters. In the event of a hurricane, 67.7% of Floridians do not trust the safety of public shelters, citing this concern as a factor for deciding not to evacuate if threatened by a category 3 or higher storm.
Half of Floridians report a lack of financial resources as a reason for not evacuating. Over half of Floridians said that finances would impact their decision to evacuate a lot (20%) or a little (30.5%) if a category 3 or higher storm threatened their community. In addition, 42.8% reported having less than $1,000 to cover unexpected emergency expenses.
Nearly a third of Floridians would not evacuate or go to a shelter due to caring for children or other dependents. Nearly a third (29.3%) of respondents said that caring for children or other dependents, such as elderly family members or those with special needs, would impact their decision to not evacuate or go to a shelter if threatened by a category 3 or higher storm.
Floridians are split on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic response on their confidence in government. The government response to the COVID-19 pandemic had mixed impacts on Floridians’ trust and confidence in the government. Less than a quarter (22.3%) of respondents said they had more confidence, while 29% had less confidence and 48.7% reported that their confidence was unchanged.
For many Floridians, COVID-19 remains a main factor in deciding whether to go to a shelter. Despite a decrease in COVID-19 rates statewide, over half of Floridians (52.3%) cite concerns about contracting the illness at a public shelter, listing these fears as a reason for not evacuating if their community was threatened by a hurricane.
In an emergency, the majority of Floridians prefer text message alerts over social media and other traditional means of communication. Despite a rise in social media usage by government officials, most Floridians (61.2%) prefer text message alerts, listing it as the preferred method for receiving emergency updates. The second most preferred method was television (23.5%), followed by radio (8.5%) and social media (3.8%).
The survey included a representative sample of 600 Floridians, fielded June 3-14, 2021. Results are reported with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error +/-4 %.
The complete survey results can be found here.