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 Sept. 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.

TABLE 1

SATISFIED WITH RESTORATION OF ELECTRICITY

"Overall, how satisfied are you with your local electric provider's restoration of your electricity after a storm or an emergency?"

Base: All adults


Total

Region

East

Midwest

South

West

%

%

%

%

%

Satisfied (NET)

73

64

77

78

69

Very satisfied

30

28

30

31

29

Satisfied

43

37

47

47

40

Not satisfied (NET)

13

19

15

11

9

Not that satisfied

9

13

9

8

7

Not at all satisfied

4

6

5

2

3

NA – I do not remember ever losing electricity

14

17

9

11

21

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding



TABLE 2A

STATEMENTS ABOUT ELECTRIC PROVIDERS

"How strongly so you agree or disagree with the following statements?"

Base: All adults


Agree (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

Disagree (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

My local electric provider efficiently restores power after a storm or other weather occurrence.

77

41

36

10

6

4

13

After a storm, the order in which residential and business power is restored is done in a fair way for all customers.

59

27

31

11

7

4

30

My local electric provider does not communicate information regularly during or after a storm so I know about restoration of power in the community.

39

13

25

40

23

17

22

My local electric provider is left out of the local, state and federal emergency management teams.

12

2

9

30

16

15

58

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding



TABLE 2B

STATEMENTS ABOUT ELECTRIC PROVIDERS

"How strongly so you agree or disagree with the following statements?"

Summary of those saying "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree"

Base: All adults


Total

Region

East

Midwest

South

West

%

%

%

%

%

My local electric provider efficiently restores power after a storm or other weather occurrence.

77

76

80

78

73

After a storm, the order in which residential and business power is restored is done in a fair way for all customers.

59

59

60

62

53

My local electric provider does not communicate information regularly during or after a storm so I know about restoration of power in the community.

39

37

43

39

34

My local electric provider is left out of the local, state and federal emergency management teams.

12

14

12

12

9

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding



TABLE 3

EMERGENCY SUPPLY KIT

"Do you have an emergency supply kit?"

Base: All adults


Total

Generation

Echo Boomers (18-34)

Gen X (35-46)

Baby Boomers (47-65)

Matures (66+)

%

%

%

%

%

Yes

43

37

46

45

45

No

57

63

54

55

55

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding



TABLE 4

CONTENTS OF EMERGENCY SUPPLY KIT

"Which of the following are in your emergency supply kit?"

Base: All adults who have an emergency supply kit


Total

Generation

Echo Boomers (18-34)

Gen X (35-46)

Baby Boomers (47-65)

Matures (66+)

%

%

%

%

%

Flashlight

96

87

98

98

100

First aid kit

92

89

92

92

94

Candle or lamps

79

59

84

85

91

Canned or packaged food that can be prepared without cooking or refrigeration

79

62

77

88

90

Matches

79

62

81

87

84

Several days' supply of drinking water

77

62

70

87

90

Portable radio with fresh batteries

70

56

68

74

83

Several days' supply of medicine

59

44

49

64

84

Cash

54

42

44

61

74

Non-cordless landline phone

43

29

39

47

60

Something else

29

20

29

34

34

None of these

*

-

-

-

*

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding



TABLE 5

PREPARATION FOR AN ELECTRIC OUTAGE

"Have you done any of the following to prepare for an electric outage due to a storm or other emergency?"

Base: All adults


Total

Generation

Echo Boomers (18-34)

Gen X (35-46)

Baby Boomers (47-65)

Matures (66+)

%

%

%

%

%

Checked outside my home for trees or shrubs that need to be trimmed or appear weak

34

25

32

37

44

Reviewed my evacuation plan and decided where I will stay if I need to leave my home, including pets since many shelters don't accept animals

20

17

19

21

25

Reviewed my insurance policy

17

14

21

17

19

Put copies of important paperwork in an emergency supply kit

17

13

16

18

20

Planned to move someone who relies on electric powered life support equipment to a facility outside the storm's projected path

5

8

4

5

3

None of these

51

57

53

50

43

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding



TABLE 6A

STATEMENTS ABOUT ELECTRIC PROVIDERS

"Thinking of your local electric provider, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?"

Base: All adults


Agree (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

Disagree (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Their systems are easy to use and I can reach the department I need quickly.

56

20

37

19

13

7

24

They do a good job of letting the community know about specific energy issues such as power supply and distribution.

53

18

36

20

13

7

26

They contribute to the community through philanthropy and community causes.

39

13

27

13

8

5

47

They use social media and interactive systems on-line to communicate effectively.

31

10

21

18

10

8

51

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding



TABLE 6B

STATEMENTS ABOUT ELECTRIC PROVIDERS

"Thinking of your local electric provider, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?"

Summary of those saying "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree"

Base: All adults


Total

Region

East

Midwest

South

West

%

%

%

%

%

Their systems are easy to use and I can reach the department I need quickly.

56

59

57

58

51

They do a good job of letting the community know about specific energy issues such as power supply and distribution.

53

58

52

53

52

They contribute to the community through philanthropy and community causes.

39

34

40

44

38

They use social media and interactive systems on-line to communicate effectively.

31

34

28

31

32

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding



TABLE 7

LOST POWER IN LAST MONTH

"In the past 30 days, have you lost electricity because of a storm or other weather emergency?"

Base: All adults


Total

Region

Satisfied with restoration after storm

East

Midwest

South

West

Satisfied

Not satisfied

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Yes

24

44

17

23

14

24

43

No

76

56

83

77

86

76

57

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding



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.