92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012: 4:45 PM
Communicating Hurricane Information to Vulnerable Populations
Room 243 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Heather Lazrus, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and B. Morrow, J. K. Lazo, R. E. Morss, and J. Demuth

Hurricanes are natural hazards that can bring about death and injury and result in billions of dollars of property loss each year. Populations in hurricane-prone areas continue to be at risk and, in some cases, are becoming more vulnerable due to social processes and demographic trends. There is a driving research need to better understand how hurricane information is received, interpreted, and used by members of the public, especially vulnerable populations. Vulnerability arises from a complex combination of political, social, communicative, and ecological factors. Members of the population with special needs may be particularly vulnerable to hurricane threats. We identified three special needs groups (new residents, elderly residents, and people with disabilities) and conducted focus groups on the hurricane warning system with people from each group in Miami, FL in July 2011.

Focus groups offer a venue to discuss the needs, priorities and constraints people have when receiving, understanding and using information about hurricane threats. Guiding questions for the discussion probed people's previous experiences with hurricanes, their perception of likelihood and magnitude of future hurricane threats, the channels through which they receive information about hurricanes including those they find most accessible and trustworthy, their responses in a warning situation, and the elements and format of information they consider the most important to help make decisions and take action. Our results highlight the importance of the context in which hazard information is received, indicating that communication and decision making are complex processes in which cultural background, personal and collective response efficacy and specific special needs come into play and influence outcomes. In this paper we focus on the technological mediums that people use to attain information. These results are part of the larger Communicating Hurricane Information project at the National Center for Atmospheric Research which engages multiple methodological strategies to examine the communication of hurricane information.

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