TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There’s a flip side to the recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions: Far fewer Floridians say they are prepared for hurricane season than a year ago – yet significantly fewer are concerned about the storm season that officially begins Tuesday, despite projections that it will be another very active six-month storm period. These are among the key findings of a “pre-season” survey by the “Get Ready, Florida!” public education initiative.
One year ago, amid widespread restrictions in the early months of the pandemic, more than 9 in 10 Floridians expressed concerns about at least one aspect of hurricane season – including a large majority (62%) who worried that storms could pile additional strains on first responders. Twelve months later, respondents with at least one concern have fallen from 91% to 73%, and worries about first responders were cut in half, from 62% to 31%.
At the same time, however, the portion of Floridians who say they are better prepared for hurricane season this year has dropped by more than half. A year ago, 51% said they were more prepared than in the past, but now that number has fallen to just 21%. And it’s likely the pandemic had a lot to do with it, as Floridians stocked-up and stored supplies in the early months of the shutdown.
“A year ago, everyone was already hunkered down at home, with as many emergency supplies as they could stock up as a safeguard against COVID-19 shortages,” said Craig Fugate, former FEMA administrator and a consultant to the Get Ready, Florida! Initiative. “With so much reopening now, people seem more interested in getting life back to normal and less focused on hurricane preparation – and that will be a major problem if and when a powerful storm hits.”
The survey of 1,000 Florida voters was conducted May 5-17 for “Get Ready, Florida!,” a long-running statewide public education initiative produced by Sachs Media in cooperation with the nonprofit FAIR Foundation. The initiative serves to help Floridians plan, prepare, and respond to the threat of the annual six-month-long official season of hurricanes and tropical storms.
Among the survey findings:
- Almost three-quarters (73%) of Floridians report being concerned about at least one aspect of the upcoming hurricane season, down from 91% a year earlier.
- Despite this increased level of confidence, the portion saying they are more prepared fell significantly, to 21% this year after more than half (51%) said they were prepared one year ago.
- Asked to identify one or more concerns from a list, respondents voiced concerns over
- More strains on first responders – 31%, down from 62% last year
- Business closures or more hits to the economy – 41%, down from 58%
- Fewer shelters open due to social distancing – 20%, down from 43%
- Uncertainty over where to safely evacuate – 20%, down from 30%
- Caring for elderly or special needs relatives – 21%, down from 35%
- Being able to afford supplies – 25%, down from 30%
- Fewer Floridians say they are concerned overall about hurricane season. One year ago, 73% said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned, but now that figure stands at 62%.
- The number of Floridians saying they are not concerned about this year’s hurricane season grew to 37%, up from 28% last year. The number saying they are “not at all concerned,” though relatively small, doubled from 4% to 8% in one year.
- Identical portions as last year expressed confidence in the state’s emergency preparedness and response (78%) and knowledge regarding unsafe locations to run a generator (73%).
- A slightly smaller portion of Floridians said they have put off necessary home repairs due to COVID-19 – 22% this year, down from 25% last year.
“Floridians are excited about the progress against COVID and ready to get back to normal activities, but this is no time to ignore the very real threat that hurricanes pose to our state,” said Jay Neal, CEO of FAIR. “People should be updating their hurricane plans, stock up on supplies, and do everything they can to get ready.”
As Florida is America’s most hurricane-vulnerable state, residents and governments are advised to plan for expected storms, and also for their aftermath. Leaders in Tallahassee have started to focus on ways to make the state more resilient to the impacts of storms, but the state’s recent history with major storms has underscored the need for local communities and residents to have their own plans for post-disaster recovery. Experts say families should have enough supplies – including food, water, medicine, shelter – to survive on their own for at least three days.