While the federal government shutdown may be over for now, it turns out that in the event of a major catastrophe, most Americans won't be looking to the government for help anyway. According to a new survey released today by National Geographic Channel and Kelton Research, Americans feel that friends and family are more likely to be of help in the face of a cataclysm than the government or official agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The survey comes as NGC premieres its two-hour movie event, American Blackout (Sunday, October 27, at 9 p.m. ET/PT), which imagines the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyberattack — told in real time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones. The thriller is being released during national cybersecurity awareness month and ahead of a large-scale emergency practice drill, called the GridEx II, which simulates a knockout blow to the power grid.
Overall, the survey results show that nearly 9 in 10 (88%) Americans think it's likely that the world will experience a major catastrophe, with close to one-third (32%) of these folks believing it will occur less than a year from now. And even though they might have a bad rap on Capitol Hill, more Americans (53%) feel that the Republican Party would have more survivors over Democrats if the country experienced a major catastrophe.
“The survey results should inspire discussion on what a large-scale catastrophic shutdown of our country might really look like and how we could prepare for or even prevent it,” said Brad Dancer, SVP Program Planning and Research for NGC. “Hacking into urban infrastructures isn't science fiction anymore; cyberthreats and the weaknesses of the grid are in the news every day and people are sensing the danger. My advice: pray in a blackout, but perhaps pray while prepared with food, water, flashlights and batteries.”
When it comes to gauging Americans' mind-set related to broader, large-scale catastrophes that could cripple the country — specifically such emergencies as blackouts and cyberattacks — the results are about as encouraging as waiting for the next Congressional standoff!
Key findings include:
- More than three in four (77%) Americans believe the U.S. is likely to be hit by a catastrophic cyberattack during their lifetime.
- More than one-third (34%) thinks a catastrophic cyberattack could impact the nation by 2038.
- Most American would point their fingers first at China as the culprit (36%), followed by North Korea (27%).
- More than half of the nation (55%) thinks the U.S. is ill-equipped to defend against a potentially disastrous cyberattack.
If the lights do go out, praying will be more top of mind than sex:
- Almost one-third (32%) of Americans think the U.S. is likely to experience a significant blackout within the next 25 years.
- When it happens, most (46%) would first search for a flashlight, but a quarter (25%) would immediately pray. Only 5 percent would have sex!
- Sixty-eight percent would prefer to be home during a catastrophic blackout, rather than somewhere possibly safer like a bomb shelter (5%) or police station (1%).
- More Americans would most want to have a radio (25%) or a flashlight (25%) over a charged cell phone (20%), gun (20%) or can opener (10%) during a blackout.
- Electric heat or air conditioner (25%) and Internet (24%) top the list of appliances or technology Americans would miss most during a catastrophic blackout. Far fewer say this about a phone (13%) or TV (13%).
On General Catastrophes:
- Far more Americans (57%) would most rely on their family, friends or neighbors for help over FEMA or a government agency (14%) in a catastrophe.
- Slightly more respondents (53%) said that the Republican Party would have more survivors over Democrats (47%) if the country experienced a major catastrophe.
- Those in the Northeast (28%) cite Hurricane Sandy as the top event since 9/11 spurring thoughts about emergency preparedness, when compared to the rest of the country (15%).
- Ten percent of Americans would choose a bottle or can opener to have on hand in a blackout over a flashlight, radio, fully charged cell phone or gun.
The survey of more than 1,100 American men and women ages 18 and over was conducted online from September 27 to October 2, 2013 with a 2.9 percent margin of error. About American Blackout
National Geographic Channel's two-hour, edge-of-your-seat movie event, American Blackout, imagines the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyberattack — told in real time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones. No cell phone service, no ATM withdrawals, no working street lights, no available gasoline … no escape. The film premieres on Sunday, October 27, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Click here to see the movie trailer.
Click here to see a panel discussion on the topic with experts including Jane Holl Lute, Former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security; and General Michael Hayden, Former NSA and CIA Director.