668 Assessing the Hazard Knowledge of University Students toward the Flash Flood and Hurricane Hazards in Texas

Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Washington State Convention Center
Kelly Boysen, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX

Flash floods and hurricanes are some of the most destructive and dangerous hazards known to humans. Second only to heat-related fatalities, more deaths result from floods than from any other weather-related hazard in the United States. Almost every year, the state of Texas leads the nation in deaths from floods. While flash floods account for most lives, hurricanes are noted for causing the most damage to properties in monetary value.

Of the “Billion Dollar Weather Disasters” categorized by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) from 1980 to 2009, hurricanes and tropical storms comprise the highest damage percentage at 51 percent, accounting for $367 billion of the total $719 billion. Of this total, 15 percent of the total damage from tropical storms and hurricanes occurred in Texas. Because of Texas' frequent occurrence of flash floods and hurricanes, it is critical that the public be aware of the threat posed by these hazards. According to Tobin and Montz (1997), an assessment of the public's awareness of hazards is important because people will not properly prepare for a certain hazard if they do not understand it or know that it exists.

Specifically, college students represent a portion of the population vulnerable to these hazards. While they signify an educated population, these individuals often move to a new location to attend college. This move is likely accompanied by different and/or unknown environment threats than those that were experienced at home. Thus, the purpose of this study is to assess the knowledge and awareness levels of college students in central Texas as well as in the Houston/Galveston area regarding flash floods and hurricanes. Further, this study will evaluate how location, proximity to a hazard, and experience might affect one's knowledge of the potential hazard.

Additionally, it is important to determine how one's prior experiences as well as proximity to the hazard affects their knowledge and awareness levels of local hazards. Evaluating how these factors might influence knowledge will help identify the extent to which this vulnerable population is at risk to the threat of flash floods and hurricanes. This study will answer the following questions:

1.) To what extent are college students knowledgeable and aware of the hazards in close proximity to their university location?

2.) Does proximity to a specific hazard increase a college student's knowledge and awareness of that hazard?

3.) To what extent does prior experience with a specific hazard affect a college student's knowledge, awareness, and perception of a potential hazard occurrence?

To answer the questions of the study, this research will utilize a survey methodology. A survey questionnaire will be employed for a sample of college students in central Texas and in the Houston/Galveston area. The questionnaire includes standard demographic questions, followed by general knowledge questions about flash floods and hurricanes. These general knowledge questions will be used to assess college students' levels of knowledge and awareness of these hazards. The questionnaire concludes with questions regarding flash flood/hurricane experience as well as perception in order to determine how proximity to the hazard and experience influence knowledge and awareness. Further, statistical tests will be used to analyze these relationships.

The findings will not only, help identify the extent to which college students represent a vulnerable population, but also will provide insight to emergency managers, as well as city and university officials concerning public knowledge of hazards.

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