7.5A Communicating Hurricane Risk with Virtual Reality: Strategies for Improving Warnings

Wednesday, 9 January 2019: 11:30 AM
North 226C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Jase Bernhardt, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

Landfalling hurricanes in the United States can inflict extreme damage and loss of life. This can be caused by a host of socioeconomic factors, including insufficient understanding of risk by individuals forecast to be impacted by the storm. In a pilot study of university students at Hofstra University on Long Island, an area occasionally susceptible to hurricane landfalls, we demonstrated that immersive technology, specifically virtual reality (VR), can enhance the communication of real-time risk from a hurricane forecast to make landfall. We expand upon this work in two ways. First, we repeat the survey with a more diverse sample in Long Beach, an area severely influenced by Sandy in 2012, and determine that those individuals already experiencing significant impacts from a hurricane are less likely to take warnings of future storms seriously, even when enhancing those messages with VR. Then, we employ the use of VR to determine individual evacuation thresholds in a hypothetical landfall scenario. Different threat level scenarios are developed, such as a VR simulation of a Category 2 hurricane with potential for storm surge flooding greater than 6 feet above ground. We again survey residents of Long Island and show participants different VR scenarios, in tandem with National Weather Service Hurricane Threats and Impacts Graphics, to reveal behavioral thresholds. Moreover, demographic factors are analyzed to determine the significant controls on individual tolerance of predicted hurricane landfall strength. The results of this work can allow meteorologists, emergency managers, and other decision makers to evaluate whether people are behaving in the way they expect them to, and if not gain insight as to why.
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