MIAMI — Most residents along the East and Gulf coasts don’t plan to take even simple steps to protect themselves and their homes from hurricanes, despite the devastation caused by five hurricanes that struck the United States last year, according to a new poll.
Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said they felt “not too” vulnerable or “not at all” vulnerable, according to a Mason-Dixon poll released Monday. And one in four would do nothing to prepare for a storm, even after a watch or warning was issued.
Last year four hurricanes struck Florida within six weeks. They were among six tropical storms and nine hurricanes that formed during the unprecedented 2004 season. Hurricane Alex also struck North Carolina.
Overall, the hurricanes and tropical storms cost 117 lives in Florida and damaged or destroyed one in five Florida homes. Property losses were estimated at $42 billion.
Yet 47 percent of those surveyed had no disaster plan for the hurricane season that begins June 1 and runs through November, the poll found.
“As we look forward, we have to look back,” Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings said. “People need to prepare now and they don’t have their plans ready and we know it.”
Jennings said the most troubling finding was the misconceptions about the steps needed to prepare.
Birth of a hurricaneA majority of those surveyed — 54 percent — thought masking tape could help stop windows from shattering, which is a myth. And 96 percent didn’t know that garage doors were the structural element most likely to fail first in a hurricane.
The poll also found that one in four residents believed they could evacuate flood-prone areas 30 minutes to an hour before a hurricane made landfall.
“That is dangerous folly,” said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center. Flood-prone roads will likely become impassable, he said. Gridlock also could prevent a last-minute evacuation.
The telephone poll surveyed 1,100 adults from April 20-26 in 12 coastal states from Maine to Texas. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The pollsters asked a 20-question test about hurricane related issues. Eighty-nine percent failed the test, and only 2 percent got the equivalent of a C or better by answering at least 14 questions correctly.
“We hope this poll sends up a flare,” said Salvation Army Maj. Steve Hedgren.
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