Study Finds Americans Largely Unaware of Local Emergency Communications (6/19/12)
Tuesday, June 19, 2012 | Comments

Many Americans lack basic awareness of their local emergency communications systems, according to a Federal Signal survey. Federal Signal announced the findings of the 2012 Public Safety Survey, which takes a look at how knowledgeable and prepared Americans are for emergencies.

While the survey found that more than 56 percent of Americans believe they are aware of the steps they need to take should disaster strike, the results uncover a lack of knowledge, and even indifference, surrounding emergency alerts and notifications.

Conducted for the third consecutive year by Zogby International, the survey found that 71 percent of Americans are unsure if they have a personal alerting and notification system (ANS) in their area, which includes a combination of options for calls, text and email message notifications. Yet, respondents said they would be more motivated to take action in an emergency by ANS alerts than any other communications, ahead of traditional warning sirens, radio and TV public services announcements, and word-of-mouth communication from friends and family.

The survey also showed that the public is largely unaware of their local warning sirens. More than half (57 percent) of those surveyed don’t know when sirens in their area are tested, and 70 percent are unaware of the sounds and sirens associated with various warnings. More than one in four respondents didn’t know if their community has a warning siren system at all.

Less than one half (47 percent) of survey respondents would take action based on a potential severe weather warning and one-third (33 percent) of respondents would require actual property damage or injury in order to care strongly about public-safety awareness. Further, one in four respondents (28 percent) would require confirmation of severe weather, such as an actual tornado sighting, flood waters or a visible fire in order to take immediate action. One in 12 people said that nothing would cause them to care.

Survey findings show that the public continues to rely on community officials to ensure public safety. More than half of respondents (58 percent) trust local and regional governments to ensure sufficient public-safety standards, communications and planning in their area. Yet, only 29 percent feel that their community officials currently are investing in, or giving government attention to, their public safety. In terms of potential contributing factors, more than one-third said that the economy has had a negative impact on the level of investment in their community.

For more information on the 2012 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey, visit

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