4B.3 Moving beyond “Have you experienced a tornado?”: Improving how we measure people's past tornado experiences

Monday, 3 November 2014: 5:00 PM
University (Madison Concourse Hotel)
Julie L. Demuth, NCAR, Boulder, CO

People's perceptions of and responses to severe weather, including tornadoes, is influenced by many factors other than the weather forecast and warning information they receive. One key factor that has not been systematically investigated is the influence of individuals' past tornado experiences. Severe weather is common enough that it offers people opportunities to build reservoirs of experiences about the forecasts, conditions, and impacts of the event. Such experiences can be acquired directly by one's personal participation in an event or indirectly by learning about others' experiences. Although past experience has been examined in many studies of weather hazards, researchers have measured it in wide-ranging, inconsistent, and simplistic ways. Thus, key dimensions of past hazard experiences are not known, nor is it reliably known how one's experiences relate to their assessment of future risks. This presentation will discuss an effort to develop a scale to validly measure past experience in the context of tornado risks. Initial items were developed to measure past tornado experience, and they were evaluated through a mixed-mode survey of the public who live throughout the tornado-prone central United States. Open-ended survey questions also were included to elicit aspects of people's past tornado experiences in their own words. This presentation will discuss the exploratory factor analysis of the close-ended items and the qualitative data analysis of the open-ended questions. Combined, these analyses help begin to understand the nature and dimensions of people's past experiences. Then, the relationship between people's past experiences and their tornado risk perceptions will be discussed. Findings from this research have the potential to inform tornado warning risk communication, which could enhance people's future decision-making and protective responses.
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