Most African Americans living in Houston are concerned about emergency disaster plans. Four out of five are not very confident in the city’s ability to handle a disaster related emergency. Houston Public Radio’s Rod Rice reports on a first of its kind poll of the city’s black community.
The poll was conducted by the Political Science Department at Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordon/Mikey Leeland School of Public Affairs. Eighty-three percent of those surveyed rated the city either “somewhat’ or “poorly” prepared to handle an emergency. Political Science professor Dr. Franklin Jones says that attitude stems from what people saw in New Orleans last year.
“The aftermath of Katrina left a very negative feeling among African Americans about how the government would respond to situations they would be in if there were disasters. And that coupled with what happened with Rita, in terms of the evacuation problems they had was something that caused a lot of people concern, and they expressed that concern by saying they did not trust that the government was ready to respond to a disaster like Katrina if that occurred in the Houston area.”
If African Americans can’t trust the government, they do know who they can trust; nine out of ten said they would trust God to take care of them. Dr. Jones says that does not mean they are going to do nothing and expect God to save them.
“It’s much more a response to what happened in New Orleans with Katrina. Because there was this very obvious feeling that the government was not going to respond and the government did not respond in New Orleans because of the people who were living in New Orleans. That fear and anxiety of mistreatment by the government over the years was being expressed in that vein, not the kind of, I’m just going to pray and hope the rain stops, kind of attitude.”
About half also believe that emergency information is too technical or confusing for the average person. For example, Dr. Jones says information about evacuating and routes to take and destinations to go to are fine for people with cars and cash and experience traveling. But for those who rely on public transportation, who have little cash and who rarely leave their city, standard evacuation information may not be helpful.
“If you’re going to put together information packages, you have to be mindful of who all is in the universe you are trying to serve, and make certain you give a multiplicity of messages that would get to the people who actually need information.”
The poll also covered topics such as Race Relations, Schools and Neighborhoods, Public Safety, Immigration and Politics. For more information on the study’s results you’ll find a link at kuhf.org.
Dr. Jones says the School of Public Affairs will be conducting this poll annually and it has plans for other non-partisan polls. He says he hopes it will add to the discourse of public policy in Houston and Texas.
“This kind of a broader debate can occur in the adoption of all our public policies. Everyone in the city has a right to be heard and we want to reflect some of those voices who have not traditionally been heard in these public policy discussions.”