A researcher from Texas Tech University's Wind Science Research Center looks at mobile home tie-downs to help develop safer structures.

Preparedness Research

FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division (ICPD) supports the FEMA Mission by connecting individuals, organizations, and communities with research and tools to build and sustain capabilities to prepare for any disaster or emergency. The Division conducts research to better understand effective preparedness actions and ways to motivate the public to take those actions. ICPD develops and shares preparedness resources and coordinates comprehensive disaster preparedness initiatives that empower communities to prepare for, protect against, respond to, and recover from a disaster. This mission is achieved through close coordination with the FEMA Regions and working relationships with federal, state, local, and tribal agencies. This includes working with nongovernmental partners from all sectors both nationally through neighborhood-based community groups.

Below are examples of the research FEMA ICPD has conducted:

Protective Action Research

ICPD conducts research to help individuals and communities prepare for, protect against, and respond to disaster by providing current, validated guidance for decision-making. FEMA has completed an assessment of more than 380 protective actions based on 275 research studies and articles by dozens of subject-matter experts covering 12 natural hazards. The results of the assessment informed the hazard guidance on the Disasters and Emergencies pages.

National Household Survey

FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division (ICPD) conducts the annual National Household Survey (NHS) to track progress in personal disaster preparedness. ICPD uses the research findings to support the growth and improvement of national preparedness programs and initiatives. Further, the survey:

  • Measures the public’s degree of preparedness hazards they are likely to face;

  • Measures the public’s awareness, attitudes, and experiences that can motivate actions to prepare; and

  • Identifies successful mechanisms for enhancing preparedness as well as areas that need improvement.

Learn more about the annual findings from the National Household Surveys:

Citizen Preparedness Surveys Database (2005-2014)

The Citizen Preparedness Survey Database is the result of a multi-year environmental scan documenting disaster preparedness-related research studies. The database includes key search terms and surveys made available online. Studies included in the database met the following criteria:

  • Be a survey of the general public at the national, regional, or city level (and may also sample special populations, e.g., Katrina evacuees, businesses, or schools);
  • Examine individual or organizational concerns about, or preparedness for, a disaster or terrorist attack;
  • Be a survey of U.S. residents; and
  • Be conducted after September 11, 2001.

The database is not actively maintained. It was last updated in 2014.

Citizen Corps Survey Database Description, Methodology, and Inventory Update (5-page PDF; 202.37 KB)

Disaster Preparedness Surveys Database: Public, Businesses, and Schools (69-page PDF; 945.56 KB)

Preparedness in America: September 2013

FEMA recognizes that widespread cultural change is a long-term process, and while the national statistics on basic preparedness actions have remained largely constant, findings documented in Preparedness in America offer valuable insights for adapting education efforts to increase preparedness. Key findings from the research focus on the public’s behaviors, knowledge, and attitudes related to preparing for a range of hazards.

Preparedness in America Report

Awareness to Action:  A Workshop on Motivating the Public to Prepare (2012)

On June 27–28, 2012 FEMA and the American Red Cross (Red Cross) hosted a workshop to discuss how to improve preparedness messaging to encourage the public to prepare themselves and their families for a disaster. After two days of intensive discussions, participants, including academics and researchers, practitioners, and private sector partners, came to an important conclusion—while this is not easy and there is no silver bullet, the potential exists to significantly improve our preparedness messaging strategies.

Summary Report on Awareness to Action (69-page PDF, 5 MB)

Personal Preparedness Survey:  2012 Findings

“Personal Preparedness in America: Findings from the 2012 FEMA National Survey” provides information on the status of the public’s knowledge of, attitudes about, and behaviors related to preparing for a range of hazards. The data can be used to improve collaborative planning, outreach, education, and training to engage all Americans so that they become active participants in creating communities and a Nation resilient to disasters.

Personal Preparedness in America: Findings From the 2012 FEMA National Survey