863 Understanding Psychological Factors that Influence Perceptions of Safe Shelter and Decisions to Shelter after a Tornado Warning

Wednesday, 13 January 2016
Marita A. O'Brien, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Steubenville, OH

Handout (297.7 kB)

Numerous post-event studies of severe weather events across the U.S. have described examples in which individuals received sufficient warning but did not take appropriate protective action. In their Protective Action Decision Model, Lindell and Perry (2012) proposed that non-compliance was influenced by situational facilitators and impediments to the desired response. They describe examples of these facilitators and impediments that are primarily based on physical factors such as the availability of specific resources and facilities. More recent research suggests that psychological aspects of shelters and situational decision-making may also significantly influence appropriate response. This study was designed to identify those factors that lead to perceptions of shelter safety and the benefits of taking protective action among residents in a tornado-prone region of the U.S.

This study examined 60 participants, 30 college students and 30 community residents between the ages of 60 and 75, who had lived in the Southeastern U.S. for at least four years. During individual interviews participants were asked to describe the place in which they would take shelter from a tornado warning in their current home. Then, they described the most appropriate protective actions for a similarly-aged individual new to the area who encountered a tornado warning in several different situations. They also described their own experiences with tornadoes and tornado warnings, particularly their experience during the historic tornado outbreak in the Southeastern U.S. on April 27, 2011.

The poster will present an analysis of participant responses primarily based on two theories from different social sciences. First, Appleton's (1975) prospect-refuge theory of human aesthetics from geography suggests that safe places offer individuals protection, brightness, and order. Second, Grawe's (2007) consistency-theoretical model from neuroscience proposes that the basic needs of attachment, orientation and control, pleasure attraction/pain avoidance, and self-enhancement drive humans to approach or avoid specific stimuli. Using these theories, a categorization scheme is proposed that indicates how protective action responses are facilitated or impeded by participant perceptions. Recommendations for adjusting warning communications and shelter design to influence these perceptions will be discussed.

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