Severe Weather-Related Risk and Emergency Communication in Coastal Communities
Kain, Donna; Smith, Catherine
The researchers want to learn how people in eastern North Carolina receive and use information regarding hurricanes. The researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with residents, businesses, and local government officials in six eastern counties; phone surveys were used in the 20 CAMA counties. They found that residents in coastal counties were more likely to have evacuated in the past than residents of other CAMA counties. All residents seek information to know how to respond to emergencies. Almost half of people never have evacuated during a hurricane, but they do seek information on how to prepare and make that decision. Current research shows that more people are likely have a disaster plan and know the location of a nearby emergency shelter than in past studies. Coastal residents are more likely than others to know if their homes are covered by evacuation orders, and 61% of residents said they were more likely to evacuate if an evacuation order was issued. Residents get most of their information from television, but social networks and the Internet are becoming more important. Coastal residents rate the quality of information high for television and low for newspapers and social networks. In interviews and focus groups, the researchers heard skepticism about television in terms of sensationalizing a storm. Future work will identify opportunities for using technologies already in residents’ hands, such as cell phones and the Internet. They also are looking at watch and warning text messages, but they need to confront the problem that people don’t understand the difference between a watch and a warning and they don’t understand the cone of uncertainty in hurricane forecasting.