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Evacuation Decision Making Processes on Long Island, NY in Superstorm Sandy: Lessons for the role of authority and language in storm warnings

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1 Evacuation Decision Making Processes on Long Island, NY in Superstorm Sandy: Lessons for the role of authority and language in storm warnings E. Christa Farmer, PhD The Hurricane Conference March 24,
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1 Evacuation Decision Making Processes on Long Island, NY in Superstorm Sandy: Lessons for the role of authority and language in storm warnings E. Christa Farmer, PhD The Hurricane Conference March 24, 2016 Orlando, FL 2 Hofstra University Investigators: E. Christa Farmer Associate Professor, Geology, Environment, & Sustainability Mary Anne Trasciatti Associate Professor, Rhetoric Elisabeth Ploran Assistant Professor, Psychology Project webpage: Long Beach, NY as a case study: 3 Repetitive Loss properties (red stars): 4 (From Coastal Planning & Engineering, 2009) 5 Long Beach, NY as a case study: Approximately 35,000 in population (15,000 households) Including 4,000 school-age children Population increases by at least a third during the summer months Large proportion of residents in rental property One of only two self-governing incorporated cities on Long Island Implications for emergency management Superstorm Sandy, 29 October 2012: 6 Courtesy of Hofstra University Library Special Collections. Photographs by Amy D. Karofsky Long Beach Sandy An oral history project: 7 Interviews began in December 2012 Residents were recruited on a volunteer basis by word of mouth, posters, and a project website Structured interview style with open-ended questions Participants are encouraged to elaborate ~65 interviews conducted to date 52% female, 12.5% African-American Ages of participants range from children to 70+ 8 Linguistic analysis: Hand-coding for themes News sources (television, online, radio) Formal authority sources (city manager, governor) Informal sources (family, friends, neighbors) Previous history (Hurricane Irene) Potential obstacles (pets, finances, health) 9 Linguistic analysis (example 1): I actually work at Long Beach Public Library and I was there that Sunday, we were open 1-5, and everything was closing and we were told by the police that we should close at about 3:30 and we ended up closing early also but again, you know, because I thought it wasn t going to be bad. 10 Linguistic analysis (example 2): No, we didn t evacuate we thought that the, what do you call it, we thought that the -- the warnings were all hype, okay. We -- I grew up in Rockaway Beach, I ve seen a lot of hurricanes, I saw Hurricane Irene which kinda -- really wasn t what everyone thought it would be, and ; we just thought it was sensationalism, especially with the media and stuff like that. 11 Linguistic analysis (example 3): our neighbors were saying that that there s no water on the street in like decades, like people who d lived here for thirty years, We never get water on Barnes Street, we re all staying, you know; so. 12 Linguistic analysis (example 4): I watched a ten minute news report about how severe the tidal surge was going to be and what time the tidal surge was coming it was coming at eight o clock which is bedtime and I didn t want to be fighting off the water and trying to put my kids to bed at the same time so. 13 Brief look at the results: 39% mentioned news sources, particularly TV news Only 8% mentioned a specific authority figure 44% commented on Hurricane Irene as a comparison 17% who learned about it from someone else! 14 Survey data collection: 12 undergraduate students recruited 225 adult participants at coffee shops, public libraries, fitness centers, etc. in Long Beach, Island Park, Oceanside, and Baldwin, NY goal: test what kinds of messages urged people to make an evacuation decision while imagining an oncoming hurricane 15 34 survey questions, including: 4 exact transcriptions of City of Long Beach robo-calls before Sandy 6 specific paired statements about storm magnitude (storm surge height and wind speed) 4 general statements from traditional authority figures (governor, members of local fire department, county executive) 5 general statements from (fictional) NON-traditional authority figures ( avid local fisherman, professor of atmospheric sciences at Stonybrook University, superintendents of local school districts Sample survey question: 16 17 What are the lessons? 1) We confirm that some people will likely never evacuate. Of 152 survey respondents, 31 (20.4%) said either they would never leave or are unlikely to leave in the event of an evacuation. 2) Conflict between two parts of the study: a) Interview data suggest nontraditional authority figures might be more persuasive. b) Survey data confirm the importance of traditional authority figures. 3) Actions speak louder than words: firefighters going door-todoor, police officers evacuating their own families are influential. 4) Explicit references to loss of utilities, especially sewer service, might motivate more evacuations. 18 Acknowledgements: Coastal Storm Awareness Program (NOAA awards NA13OAR NJ Sea Grant, NA13OAR CT Sea Grant, NA13OAR NY Sea Grant) from the National Sea Grant College Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce Hofstra undergraduate students: Anthony Armao, Malcolm Barreiro, Ivan Bermejo, Emily Dorward, Doug Fabian, Vanessa Fernandes, Douglas Ferraiolo, Eileen Follano, Janel Mayo, Jeannine Molleda, Ciaran Quinn, Annicia Surujballi The City of Long Beach Nassau County Office of Emergency Management 19 Thanks very much! E. Christa Farmer Mary Anne Trasciatti Elisabeth Ploran Project webpage:
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