Survey: Americans oblivious to emergency alerts

According to the results of the 2012 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey conducted by Zogby International on behalf of life safety and security systems manufacturer Federal Signal, many Americans are oblivious when it comes to emergency communications capabilities in their local communities.

The online nationwide survey, which included responses from 2,059 adults, found that while 56 percent of Americans believe they are knowledgeable about the steps they should take when disasters strike, 71 percent said that they were unsure if a personal alerting and notification system (ANS) existed in their area.

If an ANS solution was available in an area, slightly more than 36 percent of respondents said that they would be motivated to take action on those alerts, which was higher than those willing to act on emergency messages from traditional communication mediums including radio/TV public service announcements (30.6 percent), community warning sirens (20.9 percent), communication from friends and family (7.7 percent), and reading news online (2.6 percent). Nearly two percent of respondents said that no notification would have an impact on them.

In addition to the awareness of a presence of ANS alerts in their community, many Americans (27 percent) do not even know if their community has a warning siren system at all and more than half of respondents (56.6 percent) do not know when their local sirens are tested.

A more disturbing trend noted in the survey than Americans’ lack of knowledge about the presence of emergency communication systems is their apathy towards taking action once they’ve received an alert of some kind. Less half of the survey respondents (47 percent) said they would be motivated to take action during a warning of potential severe weather and 33 percent said that they would require actual property damage or injury to care strongly about public safety awareness. In fact, one in 12 people said that nothing would cause them to care.

"Not only is it necessary to create a thorough preparedness and response plan for an emergency or disaster, it’s critical that people are as educated as possible about the emergency communications systems in place within their communities—which can prove lifesaving," said Len Pagano, president and CEO, Safe America Foundation in a statement. "We were surprised to see just how many people remain unaware of the alerting systems in their area, and even more disconcerting, how many are apathetic in their response to emergency scenarios and communications."  

More than a quarter of respondents (28 percent) said that they would need confirmation of severe weather, such as a tornado sighting, flood waters or visible fire to take immediate action.        

"We were shocked to see that the public could be so complacent when it comes to awareness and response to emergency communication," said Joe Wilson, president of the Industrial Systems Division, Safety and Security Group at Federal Signal. "The fact that people could receive a warning that wouldn’t motivate them to action is extremely concerning, particularly with 99 FEMA major disaster declarations issued last year alone."

The survey also found that 58 percent of Americans rely on their public officials to ensure sufficient public safety standards, communication and planning in their communities. However, only 29 percent of respondents said that they believed their local officials are investing or giving government attention to public safety.  More than 40 percent of respondents believe that the economy has had a negative impact on the level of public safety investment in their community.

For more information about the survey, visit