7D.1 Hurricane Irma: A Study on Evacuation Decision and Social Connectedness

Tuesday, 17 April 2018: 1:30 PM
Heritage Ballroom (Sawgrass Marriott)
Jennifer M. Collins, Univ. of South Florida, Tampa, FL; and R. Ersing, A. Polen, M. E. Saunders, and J. C. Senkbeil

Despite Hurricanes Matthew and Irma occurring within a year from each other, both reaching Category 5, the differences in perception among the population were noticeable. This work examines whether people’s social connections affect their decision to evacuate. Using both Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Irma as a case study, a survey assessing one’s social connections was conducted by examining the social dimensions of dependability, density, and diversity. This survey was administered at rest stops along evacuation routes and in communities following the hurricane which were severely impacted by the storm. Also, socioeconomic variables (age, race, class) and relied-on sources of information were considered to better define a picture for what other influences make an impact in the decision making of the public to leave when a hurricane threatens. It was concluded, through statistical analyses, that the perceived dependability of a person’s social connections played a significant role during Hurricane Matthew, with non-evacuees having more dependable (functional) connections. However, with Hurricane Irma, this observation was not significant. Instead density and diversity of connections were favored, with evacuees having higher scores in both cases. Sources of information also varied between the two storms, with Irma inspiring more dependence overall on different sources of information among evacuees. Because emergency management is an integral part of keeping casualties low during a massive storm, it is important to know how governmental agencies can put their resources to the best use to develop the most effective and economically feasible disaster plans.
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