After hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research to investigate the broad impacts of these disasters. A year later, some of the researchers funded by awards from the agency’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate are reporting results produced to date. This is the sixth article in the series. Roxane Cohen Silver, professor of psychological science, medicine, and public health at the University of California, Irvine studies the details of why people chose to evacuate or stay put as Hurricane Irma approached.
We surveyed more than 1,600 Floridians in the 60 hours before Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida, and again four to six weeks later. Having a sample that were surveyed both before an impending disaster and after its occurrence allowed us to answer important questions about who evacuates ahead of a hurricane, who doesn’t, and why.
Our initial analyses suggest that individual risk perception is the strongest predictor of who will evacuate before and during a hurricane. But it appears that some individuals’ self-reports of their evacuation risk did not agree with what emergency response agencies decided were the highest risk areas. That is, preliminary analysis of perceived and actual evacuation orders suggests misinformation or misunderstanding by respondents in our sample.
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