5.3 False Alarm Understanding and Perception

Tuesday, 8 January 2013: 2:00 PM
Room 19A (Austin Convention Center)
Danielle Nagele, NOAA, Silver Spring, MD; and J. E. Trainor and B. Scott

Meteorologists diligently pursue the most innovative and advanced technologies in order to deliver the most accurate forecasts possible. Even so the current state-of-the-art remains imperfect and despite significant advances in technology, discrepancies still remain between what is predicted and what actually happens. Meteorologists, emergency managers, and the public have to cope with uncertainty in weather predictions. As a result, false alarms are simply an inevitability that must be addressed. While much work has been done on explaining the concept of false alarm and reducing false alarm rates across the country, there is still a need for further empirical work on the understanding and perception of false alarm by the public.

Using a Random Digit Dial Sample and a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) system, data were collected focusing on public perception and protective action decision-making in counties that were affected by a severe storm or tornado warning. Over a thousand interviews were conducted following 17 weather events across several different states. The following study utilizes this data to provide a sociological analysis of false alarms. This research provides insights into: 1) what the public thinks the concept false alarm means; 2) what factors drive perception of false alarms; and 3) how do false alarm rates influence trust and protective action decisions during tornadoes. These insights provide not only strong scientific advances to our knowledge of false alarms, but also the basis for valuable suggestions to meteorologists and emergency managers about how those insights matter for warning systems.

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