J2.6 An Investigative Study of Public Response to Severe Weather Warnings

Wednesday, 9 January 2013: 5:15 PM
Room 19A (Austin Convention Center)
Jordan L. Sparks, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence, AL; and R. A. Aycock, A. Barrett, M. Tyra, J. K. Wimberly, and G. Carrasco

Severe weather warning systems have been developed and set into place to help individuals respond to dangerous weather situations. Experts in the weather community anticipate that individuals in the general public (i.e., non-experts) will heed these warnings and take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their property during these severe weather situations and yet it seems the general public does not heed these warnings. The purpose of this study is to investigate non-experts' perceptions of risk and decision making during a simulated severe weather situation. In particular, this study will examine risk perceptions, information-seeking behaviors during severe weather, and warning habituation through the use of a modified behavioral economics investment game. Prior to participating in the investment game, each participant will be randomly assigned to either a low risk (30%) or a high risk (70%) tornado scenario, this low/high risk reflects the likelihood of tornado damage to the participant's property in a later phase of the game. Participant will be asked to take on the role of a property owner of an unspecified amount of land in county X. During the first phase of the game participants will be given several chances to invest in their property, these investments will be subject to a return rate of y=x+2(sqrt(x)), effectively allowing the participant to increase their property value. After a timed invest/return interval a tornado warning will be issued for county X, the county in which the participants' property exists. In the second phase of the game, participants will be given an opportunity to purchase weather related information. Participants will be notified that this information may be helpful in making a decision about their property during the impending severe weather. Information available to participants will include watching the local meteorologists on television, going outside and examining the weather first hand, getting information from a loved one, and listening to NOAA weather radio. Participants will be allowed to purchase only one of these pieces of information and each piece of information will reflect the low or high risk situation determined prior to the beginning of the game. By making this type of information available researchers hope to examine what information participants consider most valuable during a severe weather situation; moreover, by charging participants for this information the researchers hope to determine how valuable the information is to participants. In the final phase participants will be given the option to insure their property, this “insurance” option will be used to verify that the participants understand the low/high risk situation. The experimenter will use a random number generator to determine whether the participants' property is damaged. If the property is damaged and no insurance was purchased, the participant will lose points/money; however, if the property was not damaged or the individual purchased insurance and a tornado does hit the area the participant will not lose points/money. Participants are expected to cycle through the three phases in 5-10 minutes and each participant will be given an opportunity to cycle through as many phases as possible for 30 minutes; as such the number of cycles that a participant plays will depend on how quickly they play the game. We expect to see participants attempt to maximize the number of cycles in order to increase their wins, in doing so we the researchers hope to examine whether participants become habituated to the severe weather warnings. It is hypothesized that the method of information selected will be related to participants' investment decision. In particular, the manner in which the “game” is set up will allow the researchers to examine: • whether investment style may influence risk taking behavior • whether individuals prefer an information delivery method • to what degree do individuals prefer supplemental weather information in making decisions • to what degree individuals will safeguard their investments • whether individuals will habituate to severe weather warnings The results from this study may help researchers understand why people heed or do not heed tornado warnings. More importantly, the results may be useful in helping broadcast severe weather in a more efficient manner.
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