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Household preparedness for tornado hazards: The 2011 disaster in DeKalb County, Alabama

Author

Chaney, Philip L.
Weaver, Greg S.
Youngblood, Susan A.
Pitts, Kristin

Publisher

American Meteorological Association

Abstract

This paper contributes to existing knowledge on factors that influence adoption of hazards adjustments for tornadoes. The Protective Action Decision Model provides the theoretical basis for the study, which was conducted after the 2011 disaster in DeKalb County, Alabama. Most of the 124 survey participants had received public safety information on how to prepare for a tornado, understood the definition of a tornado warning, had participated in a tornado drill, and had a plan for seeking shelter. Few owned a NOAA weather radio or had a tornado-resistant shelter on the premises. Demographic analysis found that older residents (60+ yr) and households without children were significantly less likely to have participated in a tornado drill, lower income residents were significantly less likely to have a tornado-resistant shelter on the premises or a plan for seeking shelter, and mobile home residents were significantly less likely to have a plan for seeking shelter. Locus of control and past experience were not significantly associated with adoption of hazards adjustments, but suspected reasons for these results are discussed. Many plans that involved evacuating to another location included excessively long travel distances, and several mobile home residents planned to seek shelter inside their residence. Failure to adopt effective preparedness actions in each of these areas could serve as a situational impediment to making an appropriate protective action decision when a tornado threatens the household. The results identify aspects of household preparedness where there is opportunity for improvement, which would reduce vulnerability and enhance community resilience.

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