Wednesday, 25 January 2012
Public Perception and Response to Severe Weather: Lessons From the 27 April 2011 Tornado Outbreak Across N Alabama
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
The historic outbreak across north Alabama on 27 April 2011 is noteworthy in many ways, but perhaps the most tragic is the substantial loss of life (more than 200 perished in Alabama alone). This study aims to understand the public's decision making process and attempt to prevent future events from causing such catastrophic loss of life. Interviews with residents and simple questionnaires are used with a snowball sampling approach to document their perceptions of the severe weather threat, most trusted resources of weather information, and response to tornado warnings. Similar to the approach of Brown et al. (2002) in studying the 3 May 1999 outbreak in Oklahoma, responses to a mass mailing and webform from individuals that experienced an array of impacts from the event (from minimal to catastrophic loss) will be used to increase the number of subjects and broaden assessment over the area, not just along tornado paths. Objectives include: assessment of what type of information (weather radio announcing a tornado warning, audible siren, images of a tornado on television, etc) was most effective in prompting residents to seek shelter, initial evaluation of how the event may have impacted individuals' general weather awareness and preparations, and establishment of a set of recommendations for improvements to operational professionals' dissemination and the public's receptiveness and comprehension of severe weather information.