Cover: Citizen Preparedness for Disasters

Citizen Preparedness for Disasters

Are Current Assumptions Valid?

Published in: Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, v. 6, no. 2, June 2012, p. 170-173

Posted on Jun 1, 2012

by Lori Uscher-Pines, Anita Chandra, Joie D. Acosta, Arthur L. Kellermann

Research Questions

  1. Why are many Americans ignoring public health messages to prepare for disasters?
  2. How can citizen preparedness be promoted?

U.S. government programs and communications regarding citizen preparedness for disasters rest on several untested, and therefore unverified, assumptions. We explore the assumptions related to citizen preparedness promotion and argue that in spite of extensive messaging about the importance of citizen preparedness and countless household surveys purporting to track the preparedness activities of individuals and households, the role individual Americans are being asked to play is largely based on conventional wisdom. Recommendations for conceptualizing and measuring citizen preparedness are discussed.

Key Findings

  • The role individual Americans are being asked to play in preparedness is largely based on conventional wisdom.
  • Evidence and measurement, combined with a critical examination of long-held assumptions, offer the surest path to preparedness.


We need:

  • actual data to inform recommendations for citizen preparedness
  • meaningful, consistent measures to monitor preparedness on an ongoing basis
  • data about which aspects of bystander response are most helpful and which may be counterproductive.

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