Explaining Tornado Sheltering Intentions of Manufactured Home Residents: Experiences, Perceptions, and Expectations

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 8:45 AM
226AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Kevin D. Ash, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

In the United States, residents of manufactured homes are more likely to suffer harm from tornadoes relative to residents living in more permanent structures. Tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service often instruct persons to abandon mobile homes for shelter in a nearby sturdy building, or alternatively to lie flat in a ditch. Thus far, little research has investigated how manufactured home residents think through the decision to temporarily evacuate their home during a tornado warning. There are many potential complicating factors including personal and household characteristics, beliefs, past experiences, transportation geographies and logistics, social ties, and time of day, among others. To understand tornado sheltering decisions of manufactured home residents, the relationships between these factors, and how they influence sheltering intentions, need to be clarified.

This study investigates the factors listed above, drawing from 130 responses to a mail questionnaire about tornado sheltering in central South Carolina. While SC experiences tornadoes with moderate frequency by US standards, it provides an interesting study region due to its high concentration of manufactured housing and sparse number of tornado shelters. Results indicate about 70% of respondents are favorably disposed to the idea of evacuating their manufactured homes during a tornado warning. Only 30%, however, report actually doing so at least once before. When responding to several hypothetical warning situations, the amount of lead time, the time of day, previous weather-related experiences, travel time to shelter, and protective quality of the sheltering place each have a significant effect on the willingness to evacuate. Results also suggest that the home of a friend or family member is the most preferred sheltering destination; this preference, however, appears to be less prevalent in more densely populated areas. Results will be presented in greater detail, and potential theoretical and practical implications will be discussed.