10.2 How Various Modes of Communication Impacted Sheltering Decisions of Lee County, Alabama, Tornado Survivors

Wednesday, 15 January 2020: 3:15 PM
151B (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Elizabeth F. Leslie, Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and D. LaDue, L. Mayeux, and J. Bryant

On 03 March 2019 an EF4 tornado struck Lee County, Alabama killing 23 people. Shortly thereafter a team of social scientists and engineers traveled to the damage path to pilot a protocol for an upcoming two-year study to combine interviews of direct survivors with the engineering assessment and larger wind context of residential structures. In the United States, 70% of all tornado fatalities occur in a residential structure; the Southeast United States sees a higher rate than the national average. Known factors that affect vulnerability include a higher proportion of mobile and manufactured homes, higher population density throughout rural areas, and lower or non-personalized perception of the risk of violent tornadoes. This presentation focuses on survivors’ knowledge and the communications they received prior to making sheltering decisions. Over the span of two separate trips, 38 participants were interviewed at 27 homesites on 12 March, 13 March, 31 May, and 01 June. These interviews were transcribed and inductively coded. The resulting major codes were the chance of tornadoes, TV coverage, a friend or relative, phone alerts, outdoor warning device, and weather radio. Of these 27 homesites, it was found that people at 24 homesites had more than one type of communication mode before they took action. At 23 of the 27 homesites people saw, heard, or felt the tornado before seeking shelter. All of the interviewees sheltered in place. These results confirm the importance of empirically identifying the best sheltering options in various home types in the larger two-year study. Analysis is continuing to further analyze patterns of decision making, such as with differing amounts of lead times and after the tornado emergency was issued.
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