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Understanding Public Hurricane Evacuation Decisions and Responses to Forecast and Warning Messages

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  • 1 Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 2 Research Applications Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 3 Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 4 SocResearch Miami, Miami, Florida
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Abstract

This study uses data from a survey of coastal Miami-Dade County, Florida, residents to explore how different types of forecast and warning messages influence evacuation decisions, in conjunction with other factors. The survey presented different members of the public with different test messages about the same hypothetical hurricane approaching Miami. Participants’ responses to the information were evaluated using questions about their likelihood of evacuating and their perceptions of the information and the information source. Recipients of the test message about storm surge height and the message about extreme impacts from storm surge had higher evacuation intentions, compared to nonrecipients. However, recipients of the extreme-impacts message also rated the information as more overblown and the information source as less reliable. The probabilistic message about landfall location interacted with the other textual messages in unexpected ways, reducing the other messages’ effects on evacuation intentions. These results illustrate the importance of considering trade-offs, unintended effects, and information interactions when deciding how to convey weather information. Recipients of the test message that described the effectiveness of evacuation had lower perceptions that the information was overblown, suggesting the potential value of efficacy messaging. In addition, respondents with stronger individualist worldviews rated the information as significantly more overblown and had significantly lower evacuation intentions. This illustrates the importance of understanding how and why responses to weather messages vary across subpopulations. Overall, the analysis demonstrates the potential value of systematically investigating how different people respond to different types of weather risk messages.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/WAF-D-15-0066.1.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Rebecca E. Morss, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. E-mail: morss@ucar.edu

Abstract

This study uses data from a survey of coastal Miami-Dade County, Florida, residents to explore how different types of forecast and warning messages influence evacuation decisions, in conjunction with other factors. The survey presented different members of the public with different test messages about the same hypothetical hurricane approaching Miami. Participants’ responses to the information were evaluated using questions about their likelihood of evacuating and their perceptions of the information and the information source. Recipients of the test message about storm surge height and the message about extreme impacts from storm surge had higher evacuation intentions, compared to nonrecipients. However, recipients of the extreme-impacts message also rated the information as more overblown and the information source as less reliable. The probabilistic message about landfall location interacted with the other textual messages in unexpected ways, reducing the other messages’ effects on evacuation intentions. These results illustrate the importance of considering trade-offs, unintended effects, and information interactions when deciding how to convey weather information. Recipients of the test message that described the effectiveness of evacuation had lower perceptions that the information was overblown, suggesting the potential value of efficacy messaging. In addition, respondents with stronger individualist worldviews rated the information as significantly more overblown and had significantly lower evacuation intentions. This illustrates the importance of understanding how and why responses to weather messages vary across subpopulations. Overall, the analysis demonstrates the potential value of systematically investigating how different people respond to different types of weather risk messages.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/WAF-D-15-0066.1.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Rebecca E. Morss, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. E-mail: morss@ucar.edu

Supplementary Materials

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