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Natural Disasters a Growing Concern for Consumers, Utility Executives

Tamara E. Holmes
Natural Disasters a Growing Concern for Consumers, Utility Executives

Anyone who has watched cable news likely knows how devastating a natural disaster can be. However, a growing number of consumers are more worried that a disaster may impact them.

Itron, a utility service provider, surveyed 512 consumers and 303 utility executives to find out their thoughts about natural disasters and how prepared they were if one were to strike.

For most respondents, natural disasters weren’t just a possibility. An overwhelming 87% of consumers said they have been impacted by some type of disaster in the past five years. The most common disasters were extreme wind and extreme temperatures.

Many said they are experiencing the effects of extreme weather, which could help to explain why concerns about disasters are growing. In fact, 69% of utility executives and 55% of consumers admitted to being more concerned about a looming disaster today than they were five years ago.

According to the survey, 68% of consumers said they see a link between climate change and the increase in weather-related disasters.

However, expecting disaster to strike and being prepared for disaster to strike are different. Most consumers have little confidence that they would be ready to face a disaster, as only 26% said they felt extremely prepared or very prepared. Consumers also have little confidence in their utility providers to handle a disaster, with only 35% saying they felt extremely or very confident in their utilities’ ability to respond to a natural disaster.

Some consumers would even consider spending money to help their utility providers prepare. Fifty percent said they would be willing to pay more on their utility bills if it would serve as an investment in disaster preparedness.

Utility providers, however, appear to be more self-assured in their ability to respond effectively to a natural disaster. A majority (71%) said they are extremely or very equipped to not only prepare for disaster but to respond to and recover from one. Also, 83% of the utility executives said they had unveiled educational programming to give consumers the information they need to prepare. Nearly half (47%) said their programs have done an effective job. However, consumers may not agree, as a sizable portion (42%) said they have not received any educational notices to help them prepare for or respond to a disaster.

Part of financial planning is coming up with a strategy to handle unexpected events like natural disasters. One way to minimize the financial impact of a disaster could be to purchase natural disaster insurance. It could also be helpful to find out if your state is among those that are most prone to experiencing a natural disaster. If you do live in a state where the odds are higher that you’ll experience a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, you may want to take special precautions. For example, if you live in Florida, you may want to consider buying insurance from an insurer that is known for its hurricane expertise.