13B.1 The Social Amplification of Risk during Hurricanes Florence and Michael

Thursday, 16 January 2020: 1:30 PM
151B (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Amber Silver, University at Albany, SUNY, Albany, NY; and S. Jackson and C. Ezung

In the thirty years since its publication, research guided by the Social Amplification of Risk Framework (SARF) has yielded tremendous insights about the ways that information is disseminated, filtered, interpreted, and acted upon. Research conducted within the last ten years has emphasized the usefulness of the Internet in general and social networking sites in particular to facilitate the collaborative and iterative process of SARF. However, it is still unclear why certain events achieve ‘take-off’ and successfully capture public attention, while others do not. This paper examines the social amplification of risk during Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which impacted the southeastern United States in September and October 2018, respectively. To do so, we gathered millions of tweets containing event-specific trending keywords (to assess public attention) and also examined the number of newspaper articles in national and local newspapers (to assess media attention). The results of this research suggest that information about Hurricane Michael was attenuated, relative to Hurricane Florence, a trend that was true for both tweets and newspaper coverage. There are several possible explanations for this pattern, including: short lead-time prior to landfall for Hurricane Michael; warning fatigue, owing to the timing of Michael in the hurricane season; and/or competing news stories. This paper emphasizes the importance of key stewards (e.g., emergency management agencies, first responders, and weather experts) as amplification stations, especially for events with short lead-time to encourage heightened public attention and increased protective actions.
- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner