By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY, Posted 3/31/2004
WASHINGTON Most Americans have not followed the government's
advice to prepare for terrorism by stocking food and water,
making a plan to contact family members and identifying a "safe
room" in their homes, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows.
A year after the Department of Homeland Security launched a
multimillion-dollar public relations campaign to encourage
people to prepare for an attack, the percentage doing so is
Four in 10 people say they have a stockpile of food and water
at home, down from six in 10 a year ago. Fewer than four in 10
have a designated contact person to help their families
coordinate actions. And one-quarter of those polled have a
designated "safe room."
"Americans are asleep at the switch when it comes to their own
safety," says American Red Cross President and CEO Marsha
The level of preparedness has declined despite the government's
warning early last year that people should prepare for a
possible attack involving biological, chemical or radiological
weapons. That led to a run on emergency items such as duct tape
and plastic sheeting used to seal windows and doors.
"The further away that we get from Sept. 11 and the more time
that lapses without a terrorist attack or major disaster, the
more challenging it is to get people to take these types of
actions," says Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian
Pat Mann, 44, of Bay Village, Ohio, says his family stocked
some food and other supplies a year ago. But like many people,
they ate the dry cereal and canned fruit they had stored in the
basement as the expiration dates approached, and they haven't
"We have let our guard down," Mann says. "It's not that I feel
there's any less risk. I just haven't thought about it as
Another poll out today shows that more than three-quarters of
Americans are unaware of, or unfamiliar with, their state or
local government emergency plans.
That poll, commissioned by the Council for Excellence in
Government, found that 27% were aware of school emergency
plans; 36% were aware of plans at the office.
"We're talking about a nation that is largely unprepared," the
council's Patricia McGinnis says.
"I don't think Americans are ignoring the issue," he says.
"They're putting it in perspective relative to all the other
things going on in their lives."
Other findings by the council:
Nearly half of those polled say they believe the United
States is safer than it was on Sept. 11, up from
38% a year after the attacks.
One in three say a major attack against Americans at home or
abroad is very likely in the next few months. That's down from
55% in October 2002.