Most Northwest residents believe the big one is coming, but many aren’t ready

Renters are among the least prepared for a natural disaster



​A majority of Northwest residents believe a major earthquake will rattle the region during their lifetime, but many admit they haven't taken simple steps to fully prepare for a natural disaster.

The latest PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll reveals that three-quarters (77 percent) of Washington and Oregon residents expect they'll experience a big-time earthquake here, but despite that fear, only half (52 percent) say they're at least somewhat prepared, and two out of five (39 percent) admit they aren't prepared at all.

According to the poll, renters are among the least prepared for an emergency. About half of Northwest renters (55 percent) admit they haven't taken steps to prepare for a natural disaster, compared to just one-third (30 percent) of homeowners who said the same. Owning an emergency kit is one step in prepping for disasters, and PEMCO's poll finds renters are far less likely than homeowners to have one (35 percent vs. 58 percent).

"We can only speculate, but renters might be underprepared because they tend to be younger and more nomadic," said PEMCO spokesperson Derek Wing. "It can be hard to plan ahead for an emergency when you're moving more frequently or focused on more immediate needs."

But the poll shows that all Northwest residents –renters and homeowners alike – can go further to prep for an unexpected emergency. Only half of all respondents say they have an emergency kit assembled with basic items – such as food, water, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight and a first-aid kit – and of them, most (87 percent) created a DIY-style kit.

Setting a designated emergency meeting place is another way to prepare for a worst-case scenario, but the poll reports that just one in three households (35 percent) have one established. In Oregon, renters, again, are the least likely to have an emergency meeting location – just 24 percent of Oregon renters have one compared to 42 percent of homeowners.

"It can be unsettling to plan for the worst, but with so many expecting a big earthquake, we were surprised to learn more people haven't gone further to prepare. Having basic provisions ready and establishing a plan with your family can make all the difference when disaster strikes,"  Wing added.

The poll found, however, that a majority of residents (65 percent) think they could find and retrieve their most prized possessions in a flash, in the midst of an emergency.

"Quickly collecting your most valuable or sentimental items, like jewelry, photos or important documents, is definitely one part of being prepared, but the most important part, and the one people should be focusing on, is safety planning," Wing said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees that planning and preparing are critical to surviving natural disasters and emergencies, and reducing the risk of injuries. For earthquakes in particular, the CDC recommends:

  • Practice what you'd do if an earthquake strikes: drop down, cover your head and neck and hold on to whatever is sheltering you.
  • Plan an evacuation route and designate an outdoor meeting location for your family.
  • Make sure important possessions are accessible and be aware of their location.
  • Make a list of important information, such as phone numbers and addresses, and keep it in a safe place. If your phone battery dies, you may not remember important contact information.
  • Gather supplies and assemble or purchase an emergency kit.

For a complete summary of PEMCO's poll results, visit, where you'll find the responses collected by FBK Research of Seattle in November 2015.