Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Carol A. Bryant, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Moya Alfonso, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Pathak, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Graham Tobin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wayne Westhoff, Ph.D.

Keywords

Disaster, Planning, Hurricanes, Chi-Square, CHAID

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to describe the predictors of evacuation intention among coastal residents in the State of Florida and to determine if there are meaningful segments of the population who intend to evacuate when told to do so by governmental officials because of a major hurricane. In the America’s and the Caribbean, 75,000 deaths have been attributed to hurricanes in the 20 th century. A well planned evacuation can reduce injury and death, yet many people do not have an evacuation plan and do not intend to evacuate when told to do so. The study used secondary data from the Harvard School of Public Health, Hurricane in High Risk Areas study, a random sample of 5,046 non-institutionalized persons age 18 and older in coastal counties of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Surveys for the State of Florida were segregated and used in this analysis, resulting in a study sample of 1,006 surveys from 42 counties. When asked if they would evacuate in the future if told to by government officials, 59.1% of Floridians surveyed said they would leave, 35.2% said they would not leave and 5.6% said it would depend. In Florida, 65.7% of the population had been threatened or hit by a major hurricane in the last three years and 26.6% of those had left their homes because of the hurricane. Of those whose

communities were threatened by a hurricane, 83.3% of the communities were damaged and 33.8% experienced major flooding associated with the hurricane. Bivariate statistics and logistic regression were used to explore the interactions of predictors and evacuation intention. The best predictor of evacuation intention was prior evacuation from a hurricane (chi-square= 45.48, p < .01, Cramer’s V = 0.266). Significant relationships were also demonstrated between evacuation intention and worry a future hurricane would hit the community (chi-square = 22.75, p < .01, Cramer’s V = 0.11), the presence of pets (chi-square = 6.57, p < .01, Cramer’s V = 0.084), concern the home would be damaged (chi-square = 19.41, p < .01, Cramer’s V = 0.10), belief the home would withstand a major hurricane (chi-square = 19.55, p < .01, Cramer’s V = 0.10), length of time in the community (chi-square = 26.59, p < .01, Cramer’s V = 0.12), having children in the household (chi-square = 11.13, p < .01, Cramer’s V = 0.11), having a generator (chi-square = 17.12, p < .01, Cramer’s V = 0.13), age (chi-square = 24, p < .01, Cramer’s V = 0.16) and race (chi-square = 12.21, p = .02, Cramer’s V = 0.12). Logistic regression of the predictors of evacuation intention resulted in significant relationships with previous evacuation experience (OR = 4.99, p < .001), age 30 to 49 compared to age over 65 (OR = 2.776, p < .01), the presence of a generator (OR = .447, p < .01), having a home not very likely to be damaged compared to a home very likely to be damaged (OR =.444, p = .018), and experiencing poor prior government and voluntary agency response to previous hurricanes compared to excellent response (OR = .386, p < .027). Chi-squared Automatic Interaction Detection (CHAID) was used to identify segments of the

population most likely and least likely to evacuate when told to do so. Those most likely to evacuate had evacuated due to a previous hurricane. Those least likely to evacuate when told to do so had not evacuated in a previous storm, do not own a generator and are over the age of 65. Information from this study can be used in planning for evacuation response by governmental entities. Available demographic information can be used to determine numbers of persons likely to evacuate before a storm. The results of this study can be used to inform a marketing strategy by government officials to encourage evacuation among those who say they would not evacuate when told to do so. Further research is needed to determine additional characteristics of the populations who say they will and will not evacuate when told to do so.

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