More than three-quarters of Americans agree that their local electric provider efficiently restores power after storm, other weather occurrence, but 39% say their electric provider does not communicate information about power restoration, poll finds

NEW YORK , October 17, 2011 (press release) – Most Americans are not prepared for electric outages

It's something so many of us take for granted until it goes out: our electricity. The switch gets flipped, the lights go on and everything is good. With the trend of bad weather around the country this year, utilities are on the front line as tornadoes, hurricanes, and ice storms hit people who may have not prepared to be in the dark for a few days. In fact, when asked if they lost electricity in the past 30 days because of a storm or a weather emergency, one-quarter (24%) of Americans said they had.

Despite recent events, overall people are pretty happy with their electric providers. Over three-quarters of Americans (77%) agree that their local electric provider efficiently restores power after a storm or other weather occurrence and three in five (59%) agree that after a storm, the order in which residential and business power is restored is done in a fair way for all customers.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,462 adults surveyed online between September 12 and 19, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

There is a high level of satisfaction as well as three quarters of U.S. adults (73%) say they are satisfied with their local electric provider's restoration of power after a storm or emergency. Breaking this down by region, over three-quarters of those in the South (78%) and Midwest (77%) are satisfied with restoration, followed by seven in ten (69%) of those in the West. Probably based on the recent hurricane, the East is the least satisfied—almost two-thirds say they are satisfied (64%) while one in five (19%) Easterners are not satisfied.

One area where electric providers might be able to do a little better is with communication. Two in five Americans (39%) say their local electric provider does not communicate information regularly during or after a storm so they know about restoration of power while two in five disagree with that statement (40%).

Besides taking care of power restoration after storms, there are other aspects of being a good electric provider. Over half of Americans agree that their local electric provider has systems that are easy to use and you can reach the department needed quickly (56%) and that they do a good job of letting the community know about specific energy issues such as supply and distribution (53%). There are two areas where utilities may be doing very well, but their customers just don't know. Almost half (47%) say they are not at all sure if their utility company contributes to the community through philanthropy and community causes and over half (51%) are not at all sure if their local utility provider uses social media and interactive systems online to communicate effectively.

Storm preparations

Americans are divided on whether they are prepared for storms. Just over two in five U.S. adults (43%) say they have an emergency supply kit while 57% say they do not. For those who have a kit, almost everyone has a flashlight (96%) and a first aid kit (92%) while just under four in five have candle or lamps (79%), canned or packaged food that can be prepared without cooking or refrigeration (79%), matches (79%) and several days' supply of drinking water (77%). Seven in ten Americans who have an emergency kit have a portable radio with fresh batteries (70%) while over half have several days' supply of medicine (59%) and cash (54%).

But looking at other emergency preparations, Americans are not as prepared. Just one-third (34%) have checked outside their home for trees or shrubs that need to be trimmed or appeared weak and only one in five have reviewed their evacuation plan (20%). Smaller numbers have reviewed their insurance policy (17%), put copies of important paperwork in an emergency supply kit (17%) or planned to move someone who relies on life support equipment to a facility outside the storm's path (5%). Half of Americans (51%), however, have done none of these items.

So What?

Weather woes will continue and Americans need to prepare themselves. The hurricane season is winding down, but that leads to the blizzard and ice storm season. All of these types of storms, among other unforeseen emergencies, bring the potential for losing power. Utilities are mostly seen in a positive light for their handling of getting the lights turned back on quickly. Granted, while the lights are out there may be a lot of grumbling because of the inconvenience, but the satisfaction seems high once there is some distance from the event.

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 12 and 19, 2011 among 2,462 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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