Survey says one-third of California households unprepared for extreme weather events

In recent years, natural disasters such as wildfires, droughts, floods and hurricanes have become increasingly frequent, gradually becoming the new norm.

ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba commissioned a survey of 3,000 respondents to gauge the level of preparedness among households for coping with catastrophic weather conditions. For example, do Texans stockpile water in anticipation of droughts, Illinoisans maintain their sump pumps to withstand flooding, and Californians take precautionary measures like cleaning gutters, porches, and decks to mitigate the risks associated with wildfires?

Alarmingly, the survey revealed that a significant 31 percent of households do not take any proactive measures ahead of natural disasters.

When it came to California — a state affected by wildfires during the spring and summer months — the survey found that just over one-third of households do not take proactive steps to prepare for extreme weather events.

California is particularly prone to wildfires during the dry spring and summer seasons. Dry vegetation, low humidity, and high temperatures create ideal conditions for wildfires to ignite and spread rapidly, posing threats to lives, property and ecosystems.

This lack of preparation is particularly concerning in states like Washington, where only 44 percent of households reported taking preventive steps, despite the state’s vulnerability to several natural disasters due to its diverse geography and climate.

Washington is prone to earthquakes, floods, and wildfires, making it essential for residents to be well-prepared.

On the other hand, Idaho emerged as the state with the most prepared residents, with 80 percent of households taking steps to prepare for natural disasters. Idaho’s fire season typically extends from late spring through early fall when conditions are dry and hot. Additionally, flooding is a frequent hazard in the state, particularly during the spring when snowmelt from the mountains swells rivers and streams, and flash flooding can occur during heavy rainstorms.

The survey also shed light on the psychological impact of extreme weather events, with more than 1 in 3 (35 percent) respondents reporting that they suffer from anxiety due to these occurrences. Among households that do not take preventive measures, financial constraints were cited as the primary reason, followed by uncertainty about the necessary supplies or actions to take. Surprisingly, 13 percent of respondents said that no one had explained to them what they need to do and why.

The survey also revealed a significant knowledge gap, with less than half (48 percent) of participants stating that they fully understand the risks of natural weather events in their area.

Furthermore, only 1 in 5 respondents reported having a set plan among household members in case of a natural disaster.

Finally, when asked about their household’s ability to sustain itself with current emergency supplies after an extreme weather event, 22 percent said they could only last for a few days, while 36 percent said they could survive for one week. Only 3 percent of respondents declared that they could sustain themselves for three weeks.

“The results of our survey are a wake-up call for all Americans,” said Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, founder of ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba. “It’s alarming to see that so many households are not taking any proactive measures to prepare for natural disasters, despite the increasing frequency and severity of these events. Diligent property maintenance can mean the difference between preservation and loss – in fact, preparedness should not be considered a choice, but a necessity.”

ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba has included some basic tips on how best to prepare for extreme weather events.

Wildfires

  • Create a defensible space around your home by clearing away brush and dead vegetation.
    • Use fire-resistant materials for roofing and siding if possible.
    • Prepare a ‘wildfire action plan’ with evacuation routes and a communication plan.
    • Have an emergency kit with N95 respirator masks to protect against smoke inhalation.
    • Keep a hose connected and ready to douse small fires if safe to do so.

Droughts

  • Invest in water-efficient fixtures and appliances.
    • Landscape with drought-tolerant plants and practice water-conservation techniques.
    • Have a plan for maintaining critical water supplies for drinking, sanitation, and hygiene.
    • Stay informed about local water restrictions and conservation strategies.

Earthquakes

• Secure heavy furniture and appliances to walls to prevent tipping.
• Store breakable items in low, closed cabinets with latches.
• Prepare an emergency kit with food, water, medications, flashlights, batteries, and a first aid kit.
• Plan and practice earthquake drills with your family to quickly find safe spots away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture.
• Know how to shut off gas, water, and electricity in case the lines are damaged.

Floods
• Elevate electrical systems, appliances, and install flood vents to reduce damage.
• Keep important documents in a waterproof container and create digital copies.
• Ensure proper landscaping to direct water away from your home.
• Consider investing in sandbags and other flood-defense materials.
• Create an evacuation plan that includes a go-bag with essentials and know local flood evacuation routes.

Hurricanes and tropical storms
• Install storm shutters or board up windows to protect them from breaking.
• Trim trees and shrubs around your home to make them more wind-resistant.
• Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
• Store a supply of non-perishable food and water for several days.
• Keep a battery-powered radio and stay informed about the storm’s path and emergency instructions.

Tornadoes
• Identify a safe room or storm shelter in your home; if not available, a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor without windows is best.
• Keep helmets and heavy shoes in your shelter area to protect against flying debris.
• Conduct regular tornado drills with your family so everyone knows where to go and what to do.
• Have an emergency kit ready in your shelter area.