updated 8/25/2004 1:00:58 PM ET 2004-08-25T17:00:58

Most Americans are not confident in the health care system’s ability to respond to a biological, chemical or nuclear attack, according to a survey released Tuesday.

  1. Don't miss these Health stories
    1. Splash News
      More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?

      Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.

    2. Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
    3. Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
    4. CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
    5. What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says

The Columbia University poll found that 39 percent of Americans trust the public health system in the event of a major terrorist attack. The number is down from 46 percent in 2003 and 53 percent in 2002.

“The health care system is decidedly not ready to cope with a major crisis of the type that might include these very aggressive weapons,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the university’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness.

Calls to the federal Department of Health and Human Services were not immediately returned.

The survey, co-sponsored by the Children’s Health Fund, was conducted July 19 through July 26 — before this month’s terror warnings. It consisted of 1,234 interviews and had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Trust in police, firefighters
The poll found that the public has slightly more faith in the federal government than the health care system. Just over half those surveyed, or 53 percent, felt confident in the government’s ability to protect against and respond to a terror attack. That’s down from 62 percent in 2003.

“The stage we’re in now would have been OK six months after 9/11,” Redlener said. “It’s very much not OK at this point.”

Despite sinking confidence in authorities, the poll found that 63 percent of families do not have a basic emergency plan in case of disaster.

Police officers and firefighters scored highest on the poll’s questions of trust. Roughly 77 percent of people said they were confident in their local fire department’s ability to respond to a terror attack; 66 percent were confident in police.

In New York, the numbers were similar, with 76 percent confident in the FDNY and 67 percent confident in the NYPD.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments