The Cost of Taking Cover: Variations in Time Spent Taking Protective Actions During Tornado Warnings

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Monday, 3 February 2014: 1:45 PM
Georgia Ballroom 2 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Carol Silva, Center for Risk and Crisis Management, Norman, OK; and H. Jenkins-Smith, J. T. Ripberger, and D. Carlson

When tornado warnings are issued, affected populations must make a series of decisions: is the warning (or those who produce it) trustworthy and accurate? How much risk is implied? And how costly – in terms of interruptions to work, leisure or rest – will it be to take alternative kinds of protective actions? When the costs of taking protective action are low and the perceived risks are high, a reasonable person would take protective action. This paper focuses on the cost, in terms of time taken from normal activities, of taking protective action when a tornado warning has been issued. Using survey data in which respondents from the most tornado-prone regions of the US recount their actions in the most recent tornado warning, we develop and analyze a measure of the time taken to respond to tornado threats – conceived of as the opportunity costs of protective action. We analyze the determinants of the time taken, including the kind protective action taken; household characteristics; time of day of the warning, and individual-level characteristics. We also look at the role of social capital – the degree and extent of the local social networks in which individuals are engaged – in shaping the costs of taking protective actions. Our intent is to contribute to a better understanding of the bases of protective behavior under threat of tornadoes.