Understanding Public Responses to Hurricane Risk Messages

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Monday, 3 February 2014: 11:30 AM
Room C108 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Rebecca E. Morss, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and J. L. Demuth, J. K. Lazo, K. Dickinson, H. Lazrus, and B. H. Morrow

As recent events such as Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy illustrate, meteorologists and public officials still face significant challenges in conveying the risks of an approaching hurricane. This project seeks to improve hurricane risk communication by investigating 1) how different members of the public perceive and respond to hurricane forecast and warning messages; and 2) which types of hurricane risk messages help motivate people to take protective action. We address these issues using data gathered from a survey of residents of coastal south Florida that are at risk from hurricanes and storm surge. The survey was designed using concepts from risk theories (Cultural Theory of Risk, Extended Parallel Process Model, Risk Information Seeking and Processing Model) to help understand the findings. The survey included a hypothetical hurricane situation, in which different respondents were provided with different hurricane risk messages. The messages were based on modifications of the National Hurricane Center's track forecast cone product and were intended to differently convey the threat likelihood, threat severity (including storm surge impacts), and effectiveness of evacuation as a protective response. Respondents were then asked about their intentions to evacuate and take different protective actions as well as about their perceptions of the risk and the risk message. The survey also included questions on respondents' sociodemographics, worldviews, past hurricane experiences, and perceived barriers to evacuation. The data were analyzed to examine how respondents' intended protective responses were influenced by their characteristics, their experiences and perceptions, and the different message elements tested. We will discuss results from the analysis, as well as ideas for future work to further test and expand upon these initial findings.