S218 Reliance on Information Sources during Hurricane Irma: a Survey of Pinellas County, Florida

Sunday, 6 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Robert van der Drift, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; and J. Collins and R. Ersing

With the advent of online news sources and social media, the way in which members of the public interact with meteorological information is becoming increasingly complex. A proper understanding of how hurricane evacuation decisions are made is critical for meteorologists and emergency managers to comprehensively and effectively utilize various platforms and information sources. More specifically, distributed information should help develop informed evacuation decisions among residents, where over-evacuation is minimized and preparations are made based on accurate perceptions of storm threats. To explore this, a face-to-face survey was distributed to 234 residents of Pinellas County, Florida that gauged factors influencing evacuation decisions during Hurricane Irma. In particular, this project looked at how reliance on different types of information sources, from local and national TV media to friends and family, influenced evacuation decision making. Furthermore, this study looked at how storm perceptions- that is, concern regarding certain risks such as strong winds or rainfall- were influenced by particular information sources. Government officials and electronic media sources were found to highly influence evacuation decisions among residents. The impact of information sources on storm perceptions were varied, but generally concern regarding strong winds were highly correlated with increased usage of various information sources, while storm surge was poorly correlated with increased usage. A future qualitative investigation into specific communication tactics and descriptions of Irma by common electronic media would provide a varied understanding of how residents formed perceptions and made evacuation decisions based on the information they were presented with.
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