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Equally Unprepared: Assessing the Hurricane Vulnerability of Undergraduate Students

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  • 1 Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida
  • 2 University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida
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Abstract

Students have been described as being both particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and highly resilient in recovery. In addition, they often have been treated as a distinct, homogeneous group sharing similar characteristics. This research tests these ideas through an examination of hurricane-related perceptions and preparations of students in a hurricane-prone area. A survey of over 500 undergraduate students (15% on-campus residents, 85% off campus) was conducted at the University of South Florida, a large, metropolitan-based university located in Tampa Bay, Florida, near the Gulf Coast. Following Mann–Whitney and Kruskal–Wallis tests, results showed that students were ill prepared for hurricanes and lacked specific knowledge of the risk. There were small but statistically significant differences in mean responses with respect to gender, age, and ethnicity on specific questions, while ethnicity most strongly warrants future research. Whether the magnitude of statistical differences results in behavioral differences is unclear. Using discriminant function analysis, attempts to identify heterogeneous subgroups based on gender, ethnicity, and age likewise found weak to moderate significant differences, supporting the contention that students are largely homogeneous with regard to certain aspects of hurricane perceptions and preparedness, though again ethnicity demands closer attention in subsequent studies.

Corresponding author address: Jason L. Simms, Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., SOC 107, Tampa, FL 33620. E-mail: jlsimms@gmail.com

Abstract

Students have been described as being both particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and highly resilient in recovery. In addition, they often have been treated as a distinct, homogeneous group sharing similar characteristics. This research tests these ideas through an examination of hurricane-related perceptions and preparations of students in a hurricane-prone area. A survey of over 500 undergraduate students (15% on-campus residents, 85% off campus) was conducted at the University of South Florida, a large, metropolitan-based university located in Tampa Bay, Florida, near the Gulf Coast. Following Mann–Whitney and Kruskal–Wallis tests, results showed that students were ill prepared for hurricanes and lacked specific knowledge of the risk. There were small but statistically significant differences in mean responses with respect to gender, age, and ethnicity on specific questions, while ethnicity most strongly warrants future research. Whether the magnitude of statistical differences results in behavioral differences is unclear. Using discriminant function analysis, attempts to identify heterogeneous subgroups based on gender, ethnicity, and age likewise found weak to moderate significant differences, supporting the contention that students are largely homogeneous with regard to certain aspects of hurricane perceptions and preparedness, though again ethnicity demands closer attention in subsequent studies.

Corresponding author address: Jason L. Simms, Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., SOC 107, Tampa, FL 33620. E-mail: jlsimms@gmail.com
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