Emergency Information Management and Public Disaster Preparedness: Lessons from the 2004 Florida Hurricane Season

November 2008 (VOL. 26, NO. 3)

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A key task of emergency management is to ensure that the public is adequately prepared for impending disasters in order to minimize loss to life and property. The consecutive strikes of four major hurricanes during a six-week period in Florida in 2004 provide a unique opportunity to study how governments manage and deliver emergency information for this purpose. Based on a comprehensive survey of Florida county emergency managers (91.7 per cent response rate), this study finds that 1) 23.4 per cent of respondents perceive that residents in their jurisdictions were well-prepared, 50.0 percent state that residents were somewhat prepared, and 26.6 per cent state that residents were not well prepared, and 2) counties that use GIS systems, obtain and disseminate location specific information, provide targeted information for different population groups, maintain a website about impending disasters, and provide press conferences with three hours intervals or less report higher levels of perceived public disaster preparedness. This article concludes with lessons and recommendations for further improving public disaster preparedness.