Understanding Public Hurricane Evacuation Decisions and Responses to Forecast and Warning Messages

Tuesday, 19 April 2016
Plaza Grand Ballroom (The Condado Hilton Plaza)
Rebecca E. Morss, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and J. L. Demuth, J. K. Lazo, H. Lazrus, K. Dickinson, B. H. Morrow, and C. W. Trumbo

Handout (2.3 MB)

People's protective decisions when hazardous weather threatens are influenced by the forecast and warning messages they receive, in conjunction with multiple other factors. To help improve hurricane risk communication, this project investigates: 1) which types of hurricane risk messages help motivate people to take protective action (or not); and 2) how past hurricane experience and cultural worldviews influence people's responses to hurricane forecast and warning information. We address these issues using data gathered from a survey of residents of coastal south Florida who are at risk from hurricanes and storm surge. The survey was designed to address current issues in hurricane forecasting and warning, utilizing concepts and knowledge from risk theories (such as Cultural Theory of Risk and the Extended Parallel Process Model).

The survey presented different respondents with different messages about the same hurricane scenario, and then asked about their intentions to evacuate. Respondents were then asked about their perceptions of the risk posed by the hurricane, beliefs about responding to the threat, and perceptions of the information provided. The test messages were based on modifications of forecast products generated by the National Weather Service for a hypothetical hurricane threatening landfall near Miami, FL. The messages included two versions of the National Hurricane Center's graphical track forecast cone product (with and without a track line), a probabilistic message about landfall location, messages conveying storm surge depth and impacts, and a message about effectiveness of evacuation as a protective response. The survey also included questions about respondents' sociodemographic characteristics, perceived barriers to evacuation, past hurricane experiences, and cultural worldviews.

The data were analyzed to examine how respondents' evacuation intentions in the hurricane scenario and their perceptions of the information were influenced by their hurricane experiences, worldviews, and the messages received, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and other factors. Along with the messages, past experience and worldviews emerged from these analyses as influential variables. Thus, we performed further analysis to investigate how respondents' evacuation intentions, risk perceptions, and efficacy beliefs were influenced by cultural worldviews and different aspects of their past hurricane experience. We will present findings from the analyses, which illustrate the importance of considering tradeoffs, unintended effects, and audience differences when deciding how to convey hazardous weather information. Based on the results, we also identify potential implications for hurricane risk communication, as well as areas for additional research with a broader population.

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