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The Vulnerability of Mobile Home Residents in Tornado Disasters: The 2008 Super Tuesday Tornado in Macon County, Tennessee

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  • 1 Department of Geology and Geography, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
  • | 2 Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
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Abstract

Mobile home residents are known to be highly vulnerable to tornadoes and account for a considerable portion of tornado-related fatalities. The problem is partially related to the limited protection provided by the structure; however, shortcomings in preparedness and response to warnings may also play a role. This study investigated mobile home resident preparedness and responses to warnings for identifying areas where they might be more vulnerable than permanent home residents (brick and wood-frame houses). The study site was Macon County, Tennessee, which reported the highest number of fatalities during the 2008 Super Tuesday tornado outbreak. A post-disaster survey was conducted within days of the disaster, and the study group included 127 local residents: 35% mobile home (MH) residents, 61% permanent home (PH) residents, and 4% other. An unconditional exact test was used to test for statistical significance (0.05 level) because the sample was nonrandom. The MH residents were less prepared than the PH residents in all six categories evaluated. The difference was significant in having participated in a tornado drill, having a tornado-resistant shelter on the premises, and having an emergency response plan for seeking shelter. The MH residents were also less likely to follow the plan, and the difference was significant. Furthermore, the MH residents were much less likely to take shelter in a safe location. Preparedness factors that promoted higher evacuation rates among MH residents included having participated in a tornado drill, understanding the definition of a tornado warning, and having a plan for seeking shelter.

Corresponding author address: Philip L. Chaney, 2046 Haley Center, Department of Geology and Geography, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849. Email: chanepl@auburn.edu

This article is included in the Tornado Warning, Preparedness, and Impacts Special Collection.

Abstract

Mobile home residents are known to be highly vulnerable to tornadoes and account for a considerable portion of tornado-related fatalities. The problem is partially related to the limited protection provided by the structure; however, shortcomings in preparedness and response to warnings may also play a role. This study investigated mobile home resident preparedness and responses to warnings for identifying areas where they might be more vulnerable than permanent home residents (brick and wood-frame houses). The study site was Macon County, Tennessee, which reported the highest number of fatalities during the 2008 Super Tuesday tornado outbreak. A post-disaster survey was conducted within days of the disaster, and the study group included 127 local residents: 35% mobile home (MH) residents, 61% permanent home (PH) residents, and 4% other. An unconditional exact test was used to test for statistical significance (0.05 level) because the sample was nonrandom. The MH residents were less prepared than the PH residents in all six categories evaluated. The difference was significant in having participated in a tornado drill, having a tornado-resistant shelter on the premises, and having an emergency response plan for seeking shelter. The MH residents were also less likely to follow the plan, and the difference was significant. Furthermore, the MH residents were much less likely to take shelter in a safe location. Preparedness factors that promoted higher evacuation rates among MH residents included having participated in a tornado drill, understanding the definition of a tornado warning, and having a plan for seeking shelter.

Corresponding author address: Philip L. Chaney, 2046 Haley Center, Department of Geology and Geography, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849. Email: chanepl@auburn.edu

This article is included in the Tornado Warning, Preparedness, and Impacts Special Collection.

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