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A man helps a woman in floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston, Texas. The remnants of Hurricane Harvey sent devastating floods pouring into Houston Sunday as rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground.
David J. Phillip/AP
Environment

Less Than Half of Americans Are Ready for the Next Disaster

By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK, April 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Less than half of Americans have basic emergency information to hand should calamity strike, an Ipsos survey revealed on Wednesday, yet 83 percent are confident technology will play "an important role" in their preparation for the next disaster.

The findings highlight the need to develop well-defined lines of communication ranging from social media channels to text messages, said Marko Bourne of Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm that commissioned the survey.

"The communities that will achieve better recovery outcomes will be those that consider multi-channel communication tactics," Bourne said in a statement.

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The polling of 1,750 people in all U.S. states except Alaska and Hawaii found just four in ten people know who to contact for information during an emergency, while only a quarter know the location of their nearest emergency shelter.

Just one in three had information about preferred planned evacuation routes.

The nationally representative survey was conducted to assess how resilient communities are after a spike in natural disasters last year, the U.S.-based company said.

The United States was hit by 16 weather and climate disasters in 2017 leading to a record $300 billion in losses, according to data compiled by the U.S. government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Across the country, the number of disasters has been on the rise, according to NOAA data going back to 1980. During that time, only 2011 saw as many extreme disaster events as 2017 - including severe storms, cyclones and wildfires.

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Last year was the second-costliest year on record worldwide for natural-disaster insured losses, reinsurance broker Aon Benfield said earlier this year.

Aon counted 330 natural catastrophes in 2017. They ranged from hurricanes hitting the United States and the Caribbean to earthquakes in Mexico, floods and Typhoon Hato in China, and drought in southern Europe.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Robert Carmichael.)