S220 Social Connectedness and Demographic Factors of Pinellas County Evacuation Cohorts during Hurricane Irma

Sunday, 6 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Tierney Latham, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY

As hurricanes continue to strike the United States with greater intensity and destructive power, the need for proper evacuation planning becomes increasingly imperative. In August 2017, Hurricane Irma struck the Southeastern US and caused one of the largest evacuations in recorded history. However, this mass evacuation was largely inefficient, with many residents refusing to evacuate in situations of vulnerability, and an estimated 2 million people evacuating unnecessarily. In order to properly enhance and streamline the evacuation process, a thorough understanding of the variables that affect evacuation behavior and decision-making must be achieved. In this study, social connections and demographic factors among non-shelter evacuees, shelter evacuees, and non-evacuees were investigated. 234 residents of Pinellas County were surveyed about their evacuation experiences during Hurricane Irma. It was found that income, education, gender, and social connectedness were significant to evacuation decision-making. In addition, significant differences in future evacuation projections were present among the three evacuation cohorts. Results from this study may increase an understanding of evacuations, enabling programs and policies to be tailored to each cohort. Further research may be conducted, particularly about shelter evacuation, to gain a greater understanding of the public’s perception of and experience with hurricane shelters in the area.
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